Taliban give nod to Pakistan-Afghanistan rail link

The Taliban-led government on Tuesday gave its approval for a railway link between Afghanistan and Pakistan, greenlighting rail links between the cities of Peshawar and Kabul and Peshawar and Jalalabad. Approval for a rail link with Uzbekistan was also given. The cabinet of the new government, during the meeting, also approved a rail link between Jalalabad and the capital Kabul. The cabinet meeting was presided by Afghan Prime Minister Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund. During the first phase, feasibility studies and surveys would be conducted and the findings of the first phase would be shared with higher officials during the second phase of the project. A change in police and armed forces uniforms was also approved during the cabinet meeting. The meeting of the five countries — Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan —was held last month to discuss the railway network  between the states, a senior official working on the project told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity. Russia using advanced technology would carry out survey of the project and prepare feasibility reports while other countries will construct railway tracks on their respective territories, he added Also read: PM signs letter seeking $4.8b for trilateral rail project "Pakistan during previous the Afghan government had decided to extend the railway track to Jalalabad but due to security reason it was scrapped, but now as the situation has improved we would extend the track till Mazar-e-Sharif with financial backing of donors," the senior official added. The feasibility reports of the railway routes to be completed in the next four to three months while two sites for transshipments has been allocated at Torkham border and Jalalabad, he added. "The IITMS [International Institute for Transshipment Services] to be constructed with mutual cooperation of Pakistan and Afghanistan, that would boost the trade volume between the members states and total length of the track would be 800km till Mazar-e-Sharif.” The project is not party of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) but it’s a joint initiate of the five countries aimed at strengthening economic cooperation, he added. Meanwhile, Taliban deputy spokesperson Bilal Karimi confirmed that the meeting among the five countries took place a month ago and added that they were working closely with the member states to complete the project. In December last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan signed a “Joint Appeal Letter” seeking $4.8 billion loan from various International Financial Institutions (IFIs) for a railway line project connecting Pakistan with Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and the Central Asian Republics. The official statement noted that PM Imran “supported Uzbek efforts to secure financing for the project by signing Joint Appeal Letter addressed to the Heads of various International Financial Institutions (IFIs) by Heads of State/Government of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.” With the funds raised under the joint appeal, a 573-km long railway link will be constructed. The shortest economic track would run from Peshawar to Kabul and from Kabul to Uzbekistan via Mazar-e-Sharif and the route will have “27 stations, 912 artificial constructions and 7 tunnels” to facilitate cargo movement.

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