Weekly Bang-e-sahar Saturday, May 31—–June 6, 2008
By Zar Alam Khan
Member National Assembly from Chitral Shahzada Mohiuddin has said his strategically-placed district offers the best short- and long-term solutions to the nation to cope with its energy-fuelled inflationary pressures amid deepening electricity crisis. Talking to this correspondent, he referred to repeated offers of Tajik Ambassador Said Saidbaig to supply Pakistan with 1,000 megawatts. He said the envoy had also hinted at adding additional power to Pakistan’s national grid after completion of the mega schemes under construction in the Central Asian country. He said the ambassador had spoken of a consortium of Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Qatar, already executing two huge hydropower projects in Tajikistan, that would help meet power needs of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mohiuddin asked Prime Minister Yousuf Raza GIlani to task Minister of Water and Power Pervez Ashraf with taking note of the addresses to the Lahore and Rawalpindi chambers of commerce and industry by the Tajik ambassador offering immediate availability of power if plans of linking the national grid via Tajikistan with Pakistan were to materialise. Tajikistan is separated from Chitral by the Afghan territory of Wakhan that is barely 20 kilometres wide making it the shortest land link with Central Asia. The neighbouring Kirgyzstan also has surplus electricity that can be linked with the same transmission line, thereby adding more megawatts to this project. Furthermore, technical studies conducted by the German GTZ have shown Chitral rivers’ capacity to produce around 6,000MW, which upon completion can be added to the same grid without any additional investments into the transmission systems. The MNA said the Amu Darya (Oxus River) flowing into Tajikistan and River Chitral started from the same location and the largely uninhibited Wakhan territory had been peaceful throughout history, largely unscathed even during the Soviet invasion and remains at least 800 kilometres away from the troubled territories south of Kabul. The Tajik ambassador had also spoken about construction work on widening the highway linking Tajik capital Dushanbe with Kirgyzstan, China and Uzbekistan. The MNA stressed that in order to realise its full potential, Pakistan needed to benefit from such opportunities by immediately linking Chitral up with these roads through construction and mostly widening of existing roads leading there. He said the Tajik ambassador had also spoken at a seminar on “National Trade Corridor” in Lahore to link the country with Pakistan, adding Chitral again offered the best solution as just across its border there was a highway connecting Wakhan to Tajikistan. Interestingly, a Turkish firm is already executing construction of highway dubbed “Afghan Silk Route” that will further link Afghanistan to China via Wakhan. Mohiuddin stressed that the Tajik energy initiative to supply power to Pakistan, Afghanistan and eventually India was fully backed by the United States and that the World Bank was also supportive of the $600 million project for which tenders would be sought in July. He stressed that only the Chitral route would ensure uninterrupted supply, free of any terrorist activity, and opening of the Lowari Tunnel in 2010 would make the project even more feasible on both cost effectiveness as well as safety point of view.The MNA also quoted US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher’s statement before a House Sub-committee on Foreign Affairs that the US was advocating for the countries of Central Asia to supply power to northern Afghanistan. He urged the policymakers to take notice of such mega development initiatives just next door and take tangible steps to be part of a regional drive towards progress and prosperity. This initiative, he stressed, offered to Pakistan a way out of its economic woes both on the short- as well as long-term basis by ensuring a strong foothold in energy rich Central Asia.