Pakistan wants rail link to Kandahar, Iran

September 18, 2006
ISLAMABAD (IANS) – Pakistan has invited foreign investors for a proposed rail link with its western neighbors Afghanistan and Iran, The News International reported on Sunday.

The proposal comes even as Pakistan and its eastern neighbor India strive to improve rail and road links to promote trade and people-to-people contacts.

The problems and terrain on Pakistan's western flank are vastly different from that on the eastern border with India.

Afghanistan is involved in a bloody battle with Taliban insurgents in its eastern and southern regions with the help of the NATO-led forces.

Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Saturday that Pakistan Railways was set to start rail operation to Afghanistan and was awaiting green signal from "the brotherly neighboring country".

He said despite resource constraint Pakistan had also been making efforts to upgrade the railway system between Iran and Pakistan.

"We can steam off to Spin Boldak as soon as we receive a green signal from Afghanistan," he said while speaking at a meeting at the Muhammad Ali Jinnah University here.

The volatile Spin Boldak in Kandahar province has seen many ambushes by the Taliban, who have killed foreign workers building roads including an Indian engineer two years ago.

The Iranian region Pakistan wants to link is also volatile, with camps housing displaced Baloch and Afghan refugees in the area.

Ahmed said work on laying down a railway line according to international standards between Quetta and Gwadar is also being considered.

Pakistan is developing the vast hinterland of Gwadar, where it has set up a deep-sea port and a military base designed and financed by China.

The development of the Gwadar port and a military base in the region have been opposed by the local tribal leaders in Balochistan, giving rise to violence and insurgency movements in the area.