Pakistan offers road, rail routes to all regional countries: Saad

Lahore:  Federal Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said on Tuesday that Pakistan was ready to offer its road and rail routes to all regional countries including China, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Bangladesh and up to Central Asia.

He was talking to the media after addressing the “Regional Conference on Strengthening Transport Connectivity and Trade Facilitation in South and South-West Asia” jointly organized by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP) and Ministry of Commerce, Government of Pakistan, at a local hotel.

Opening up of the trade corridor, he observed, was in the best interest of Pakistan, citing, if these states used our roads and railway tracks, it would generate huge revenues, which was the lifeline of the economy of a country. He said “We have to watch our interests, as we have to eradicate poverty, terrorism and extremism for which an improved and vibrant economy is of vital importance.”

Saad Rafique added that Pakistan needed to exploit two main and significant resources i.e. its unique geographical position and human resource of 180 million.

He said that opening up of the trade route for India was also in favour of Pakistan, asserting that nations, which had buried their centuries-old feud and differences, had met a definite success and developed a lot.

“But we are still lagging 200 years behind the developed world, therefore, we have to shun orthodox thinking to move forward on all fronts,” he maintained.

In his address at the conference, the Federal Minister said that South, South-West Asia (SSWA) consisted of about half of the world population and rich with huge mineral deposits besides, having importance as a bridge between the North and South but its intra-regional trade was negligible. During fiscal year 2008-9, the intra-regional trade in South Asia was mere 5 percent of the global trade, which was far below its potential, he cited.

Though China, India, Turkey and Pakistan are now emerging economies and there existed several trade agreements among them, their intra-trade (import and export) was very low, he mentioned.

Khawaja Saad Rafique stressed the need for exploring and taking optimal benefits of the regional trade potential and SAAR, ECO and UNESCAP would have to play a more effective role in this regard.

He said the PML-N government was playing an eminent role in establishment of a sub-regional transnational trade corridor and economic zone. The Pakistan government, he added, was focusing and working on national and regional connectivity to connect China, India, Central Asia, Middle East and Europe while work on Gwadar Port was in progress expeditiously.

The Federal Minister said that Torkham-Jalalabad (Afghanistan) link was of greater importance with regards to transportation of raw material, while Quetta-Taaftan would prove to a best trade corridor to access Iran, Turkey and European markets. While Khokhrapar-Monabao (India) link was also being examined for trade, he said.

He said a Pakistan Railways delegation would soon visit India to have knowledge and experiences of the Indian rail system, as they had turned their railways into a profitable entity while Pakistan was yet to achieve this goal mainly due to lack of resources. Pakistan Railways was searching a foreign partner for investment to improve the railway infrastructure, he added.