There are several road links between Pakistan and
Central Asia and Pakistan is trying to improve and upgrade these links
By Azhar J. Durani
Aug 20 - 26 , 2001
Pakistan due its geographical location, provides
the shortest routes from Central Asian Republics (CARs) to the ports
located on the Arabian Sea. With the breakup of former Soviet Union,
Central Asian Republics of Uzbekistan, Kazakhistan, Tajikistan and
Turkmenistan are facing acute problem of export and import because
they have no outlet for exporting their surplus items to the countries
of Middle East, South East, Far East and Asia Pacific Region.
During 1991, Kazakhistan, Trukmenistan, Uzbekistan
and Tajikistan exported goods of value 1.5 billion dollars and their
imports were more than 2 billion dollars. Over 90 per cent trade was
directed towards the countries, which were members of Soviet Union.
However, with the breakup of Soviet Union, the trade within the Union
has decreased and these Republics have to export goods, which were
previously consumed by Russia. Same is the case of imports, Russia due
to its poor economic condition is not in a position to export. The
result is that the CARs countries have to import from countries other
than Russia. The nearest sea ports for CARs are either in Pakistan or
in Iran. However, the routes passing through Pakistan are
comparatively shorter and thus more attractive for bulk of the transit
There are several road links between Pakistan and
Central Asia and Pakistan is trying to improve and upgrade these
links. The shortest and most appropriate route to Central Asian
Republics is through Afghanistan, but due to the present unstable
political situation in this region this route has become unsafe and
non-reliable. Therefore we have to find some other routes as soon as
possible in order to solve the transportation problems, because due to
this problem Pakistan has already suffered huge losses in trade and
business with CARs. Suggested few routes, which are as under:
1) The Karakoram Highway, which links
Pakistan with China is another link to Central Asia. Karakoram Highway
is hilly road and need improvement for use by the heavy traffic.
2) Other routes from CAR to open sea pass
through Iran. Bandar Abbas is about 5300 KM away from Almaty, a main
business and commercial city of Kazakhistan and Tashkent the capital
of Uzbekistan is over 4800 KM from Bandar Abbas. The length of routes
through Pakistan ranges between 3000 KM to 3700 KM.
3) Another route, which can be suggested is
Karachi - Quetta - Zahedan - Mashad - Ashkhabad. This route provides
the shortest link from Central Asian Republics of Kazakhistan,
Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan to Karachi Port.
Routes through Afghanistan provided the peace and
political stability is maintained in this region
The shortest and most appropriate route to Central
Asia is through Afghanistan, but as already mentioned that due to the
unstable political situation in this country this route has become
unsafe and unreliable. To solve this problem it is suggested to
Government of Pakistan the following proposal, which is as under.
The Government of Pakistan on its initiative should
organize a conference between CARs, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Objectives of Conference are:
a) All the countries must sign an accord
which states that for the economic development and prosperity of the
member states, the Government of all the states must guarantee the
safety of goods being transported through their territory.
b) All the member states must initiate a pre
feasibility study to determine the traffic potential and assess the
economic viability of the project.
c) To assess how much investment is required
for construction of Trade routes (Road & Rail) in the region, and
source of financing the project.
d) An expert delegation from member states
should visit Afghanistan to see the possibilities of constructing rail
link from Chaman (Pakistan) to Kushka (Turkmenistan) via Kandhar and
Herat in Afghanistan.
e) After signing the accord, if the
Government replaced in any of the member states then the new
government must bare the responsibility to abide the accord.
If such an agreement comes in to force then the
following routes can be suggested through Afghanistan.
i) A road link from Karachi - Lahore -
Peshawar - Torkham. Work on this route (1476 KM) was completed in June
1996 remaining length of about 1215 KM is yet to be completed. Present
Government can complete the remaining length on its initiative.
ii) Karachi - Khuzdar - Quetta Chaman,
highway provides the shortest link from Central Asian Republics of
Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan to Karachi Port.
iii) In Afghanistan, Kandahar - Herat -
Torghundi, route (800 KM) requires improvement. This road has rigid
pavement which, has developed wide cracks and needs immediate repairs.
Rail link: The shortest and most appropriate
link to Central Asia is to extend Pakistan Railway network to connect
with the rail network of Central Asian Republics by providing a Rail
Link 800 KM length from Chaman. (Pakistan) to Kushka (Turkmenistan)
via Kandhar and Herat in Afghanistan. Construction of this rail link
will provide access to Turkmenistan from the Seaport at Karachi which
is situated a distance of about 1600 KM from the existing border rail
head in Turkmenistan at Khushka / Torghundi. The. project is estimated
to cost nearly US $ 800 million.
The CARs have integrated railway network, which is
further connected to the Russian Federation and is being extended from
Kazakhistan to China. Once the proposed Rail Link is constructed it
will provide transportation facilities not only to the Central Asian
Republics but also to Russian Federation and China.
According to a recent survey, the transportation of
goods from Pakistan to Central Asian Republics is from $250 to $300
per ton. This high transportation cost is because the goods will be
taken to Central Asian Republics via Iran and the distance is approx.
5400 KM. If we utilize the Kandhar - Herat - Torghundi route, which is
approx. 2000 KM, then the cost will reduce up to 50 per cent as well
Export surplus of cotton, petroleum products,
cotton, wheat and iron ore etc. are expected to be transported by rail
from the Central Asian Republics. The annual production of cotton in
Turkmenistan is 1.4 million tonnes whereas it is about 4 million
tonnes in Uzbekistan.