Trans-Afghan railway promises job boom, economic growth

January 17, 2023

Syed Marwan Shah

The Trans-Afghan railway will not only benefit Pakistan but also the whole region including south and central Asia. Additionally, it will help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and assist its reconstruction. Talking to WealthPK, Sarah Javed, an economic analyst, said for transhipment of goods, Pakistan — a significant Muslim nuclear power with a prime geographic, political and strategic location in South Asia — offered central Asian countries, especially Uzbekistan, a more direct maritime access to its warm-water seaports of Karachi, Bin Qasim, and Gwadar.

She said Pakistan could play a pivotal and vibrant role in domestic and regional connectivity through its railways.‘’This railway line will give Pakistan a portal in the markets of Europe and central Asian countries, enhancing economic connectivity and regional trade integration. Additionally, it will assist the country in expanding employment opportunities and economic growth,’’ she maintained. Connecting Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan will facilitate regional and bilateral trade besides promoting people-to-people connections in the entire region, Sarah said.

According to WealthPK research, geographically Afghanistan is very important to Pakistan owing to its proximity to central Asian countries. While Pakistan does not share a direct border with any of them, the only point of entrance to Tajikistan is the Wakhan Corridor located in north-eastern Afghanistan, which connects Afghanistan to China. This section – which connects Afghanistan, China, Tajikistan, and Pakistan – holds an important and historic ancient silk route. The Trans-Afghan railway line aka Peshawar-Kabul-Mazar-i-Sharif-Termiz railway line will enhance regional connectivity, an official of Pakistan Railways told WealthPK, pleading anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

The official said the project faces some challenges because the rail gauges in the three countries vary, which delays goods transhipment. In comparison to Afghanistan's standard gauge of 1,435mm and Uzbekistan's Russian gauge of 1,520mm, Pakistan's rail track is a broad-gauge of 1,676mm, he explained. Nevertheless, compared to the other modes of transportation, it would still be quicker and more environment-friendly to tranship commodities from Pakistan to Uzbekistan., the official maintained.

According to the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation, investment in railway assets and implementation of related soft measures to enhance trade will be critical factors in making railways attractive for shippers and transport operators. Enhancing railway connectivity, promoting trade and investment across borders, and improving access to external markets will help improve the economic prospects of these countries.

Credit : Independent News Pakistan-WealthPk