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Afghanistan -Turkmenistan Tango

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(Last Updated On: July 11, 2017)

 Afghanistan is in the process of limiting Pakistan’s veto options on transportation of goods and looking at other routes being a landlocked country.

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani visited Turkmenistan on July 3 upon invitation by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Oguzkhan Palace complex in Turkmenistan hosted the high-level talks.

Various issues from security and counter-terrorism, economy and trade, energy, education and transportation infrastructure were discussed. Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI), Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP)electricity project, and Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TUTAP) electricity transit project were discussed.

Transportation infrastructure cooperation is a way forward to make Afghanistan less dependent on Pakistan, who routinely closes checkpoints along the Durand line. President Ghani the next day told the visiting U.S. senate delegation that  Afghanistan has diversified trade and transit links and is no longer dependent on Pakistan.

These are the main routes of transit to  Afghanistan:

  1. Hairtan->Mazar e Sharif
  2. Mersin, Turkey-> Baku, Azerbaijan -> via ferry on Caspian Sea->Türkmenbaşy->Aqina->Sheberghan ->Mazar e Sharif
  3. Mersin, Turkey-> Baku, Azerbaijan -> via ferry on Caspian Sea->Türkmenbaşy-> Mary, Turkmenistan ->Torghundi->Herat-> Lashkargah ->Kandahar->Ghazni->Kabul
  4. Bandar Abbas ->Islam Qala->Herat-> Lashkargah ->Kandahar->Ghazni->Kabul
  5. Karachi->Quetta->Kandahar
  6. Karachi->Jalalabad->Kabul

Of these, the first route connects to China, the 2nd and 3rd to Europe, the 4th to Iran and the last two to Pakistan. As of now, the last two routes via Pakistan carry the most freight. When the Torkham gate was closed by Pakistan for an indefinite period following a skirmish between the respective armed forces, the other routes effectively neutralised any economic effect on Afghanistan.

Reconstruction and repairing of the Serhedabad (Azerbaijan)– Turghandi (Afghanistan) railroad and also expanding Aqina railroad were on the agenda of today’s meeting. The Asian transnational railway – Atamyrat-Ymamnzar-Akina was quoted as an example of the  developing cooperation in the transport sphere between the two nations. In view of the  transit and transportation potentials of the both countries, the presidents emphasized on Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey trade and transit corridor and Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Turkmenistan railway. The trade and transit corridor is also known as the Lapis Lazuli corridor and the nations are due to sign an agreement for transporting goods to European markets. Turkmenistan itself serves as the fourth largest export market for Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has already diversified its trade and is no more heavily dependent on Pakistan.  Trade volume between Pakistan and Afghanistan has declined from $3 billion a couple years ago to just $500 million in early 2017. That  indicates a drop of more than an 80 percent in commerce between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On the other hand, Afghan-Iran trade volume has increased 25 percent, from $1.5 billion to $2 billion, and now accounts for a quarter of Afghanistan’s total annual trade. The construction of railroad between Iran and Afghanistan and the Zaranj-Delaram Highway in Afghanistan are some factors behind the growth of Afghanistan – Iran trade. Trade with Europe and central Asia accounted for 24% of imports and exports stood at 11.6%.

Cooperation in oil & gas, chemical industry, textile, carpet weaving industry, farming and other sectors was discussed. An MoUs signed between the two nations is for cooperation In the carpet industry. It is worth noting that carpets are among the biggest exports from Afghanistan. Till now most carpets were produced to a pre-final stage and then exported to Pakistan or Iran. This was due to lack of resources like machinery for cutting and edging.

I spoke to the spokesperson of Afghan Chamber Of Commerce & Industries (ACCI)  Siamuden Pasarly, who told me, “Till 2013-14, roughly around 80% of the carpets were exported to Pakistan, Iran & final processing done there. Now have our own factories. Industrial parks are under construction in PPP model. At present, 30% of the carpet go to Pakistan and Iran for final processing. We plan to absorb it and sell them under Afghan branding to the west.”

Implemented properly, the agreements at Turkmenistan would lead both to economic prosperity and reduced economic dependency on Pakistan for Afghanistan. It’s still a long way for land-locked Afghanistan to be no longer dependent on Pakistan but it’s a welcome start.

By Aveek Sen – Aveek Sen is an independent journalist working on cyber security and the geopolitics of India’s neighbourhood, focusing on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Bangladesh. He tweets at @aveeksen

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* Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author, and it do  not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Ariana News.

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‘I am still president of Afghanistan’, Ghani says in TV interview

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2022)

Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the former president of Afghanistan, said in the first television interview since he fled the country on August 15 last year that according to the country’s constitution, he is still technically the country’s president.

In an interview with the newly established ABN channel, Ghani said: “I am the president according to the constitution and until the people of Afghanistan legally elect someone else, I am the president.”

He also stated that he fled the country because he was afraid of being killed and did not want to face the same fate as Dr. Mohammad Najibullah, ex-president of Afghanistan who was assassinated in 1996.

However, many Afghans call him shameless, adding that Ghani’s escape caused serious misery among the people in the country.

In response to the question on why he fled Afghanistan, Ghani said that he was the last person to leave Afghanistan and most of the cabinet members, including the Minister of Defense, had already fled by the time he flew out.

“I was the last person to leave the country, and this was also so that the bitter experience of Dr. Najib regarding an Afghan president would not be repeated,” he said.

In addition, Ghani stated that all politicians had a part in the downfall of the previous regime and he accuses Abdullah Abdullah, the former head of the National Reconciliation Council, for destabilizing the republic system. He also criticized Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistans who led peace talks with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and secured the Doha agreement in February 2020.

“Dr. Abdullah is responsible for not consolidating the republic, especially in the last seven years and secondly, he was in charge of the Afghanistan Peace Council, which step did he take on paper, which plan did he come up with, or in practice, when he went to Doha on a special plane and then came back on the day of Eid and said that the Taliban is not ready to make any kind of move,” Ghani added.

But Afghans at home lashed out at Ghani and said his words meant nothing and that he failed to even apologize for his actions.

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IEA commits to implementing Sharia law

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2022)

Mohammad Khalid Hanafi, acting Minister of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said Thursday that he will not give into any international pressure on the hijab issue and will implement this Islamic rule.

Hanafi said that along with the members of the vice and virtue ministry, all religious scholars, imams at mosques and elders in communities should implement Islamic rules in society.

Hanafi said in the last 20 years, the mindset of young Afghans had changed considerably.

Currently, there are 8,000 people employed by the ministry who are mostly employed to ensure individual and social reforms are carried out.

A number of religious scholars, however, said that facilities should be provided for those who are busy at this ministry.

In relation to women’s rights, he stated that once again women’s rights will be ensured according to Sharia law.

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IEA hosts one day conference to attract investors in energy sector

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2022)

A one-day conference attended by government officials, representatives of the international community and members of the private sector is being held in Kabul to attract investment in the energy and water sectors.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the acting Deputy Prime Minister, said in his opening speech the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is committed to developing the country but urged the people to be patient adding “because we have to build this country ourselves”.

Baradar also pointed out that Afghanistan is potentially a wealthy country that has great investment opportunities.

He called on traders to invest in Afghanistan and said that the Afghan government would provide full security for new businesses.

Abdul Latif Mansour, the acting Minister of Energy and Water, also addressed delegates and said the IEA is committed to managing the country’s water efficiently and to producing enough energy for the people.

Mansour said the conference is being held to map out opportunities available in the water and energy sectors for investors and that the IEA has paved the way for local and international business owners to invest in the sectors.

Shahabuddin Delavar, acting head of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum also addressed delegates and said its “now time for us to maintain our country’s independence, and utilize our natural resources”.

He also singled out a key private energy supplier in the country, Bayat Power, and said at the moment the company produces 40MW electricity but that it is hoped this will increase to 250MW.

“We welcome the company’s decision,” he said.

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