A significant gathering involving officials from Pakistan, Russia, and Central Asian Republics (CARs) is set to take place on April 23-24, 2024, to discuss the funding arrangements for the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (UAP) rail project, according to reliable sources within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as reported by Business Recorder.

This development was disclosed during a session of the Afghanistan CARs/Azerbaijan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Cell (ACICC) chaired by the Foreign Affairs secretary.

With regards to the UAP rail project, the Ministry of Railways representative highlighted that a successful roadshow was conducted in Tashkent on February 6, 2024, with participation from Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Qatar to deliberate on financing matters.

Pakistan confirmed that a substantial amount of USD 1 million has already been allocated towards the pre-feasibility study, which was diligently prepared by E&Y Consultants. It was recommended to proceed with construction activities rather than initiating another feasibility assessment.

However, Qatar expressed the necessity for a fresh feasibility study citing certain missing specifics during an online meeting on February 21, 2024.

The delegate also discussed a distinct meeting held in Tashkent on February 20, 2024, which involved Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and representatives from Abu Dhabi Ports. In agreement with Uzbekistan, Abu Dhabi Ports signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support the feasibility study financially.

Pakistan and Qatar have requested access to the meeting minutes and the MoU as they were not part of the said gathering. The upcoming meeting in Tashkent on April 23-24, 2024, will bring together officials from Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Belarus, Russia, and other Central Asian Countries to discuss the financing of the project.

The Ministry of Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives representative revealed that the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) has sanctioned the 2nd Revised PC-1 with a total cost of PKR 17.140 billion on February 7, 2024. The Ministry of Communications is expected to disburse allocated funds of Rs1 billion to Frontier Works Organization (FWO) for mobilization purposes.

FWO representative outlined the fund requirements for the current fiscal year amounting to Rs2 billion and Rs8 billion for the FY 2024-25. Additionally, budgetary proposals for pending tasks, work schedule, and amendment submission to the National Highway Authority (NHA) have been advanced on March 7, 2024, for agreement finalization.

The Ministry of Communications affirmed immediate release of Rs1 billion to FWO in the current fiscal year, with the remaining Rs1 billion to follow due to financial constraints.

The chairperson instructed FWO to utilize available funds to kickstart activities promptly. Furthermore, the Ministry of Communications was urged to release Rs1 billion to FWO and reallocate an additional Rs1 billion from the current fiscal year’s budget as soon as possible.

The Ministry of Communications is also expected to submit budgetary demands for the project for the financial year 2024-25 to the Ministry of Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives.

Furthermore, it was directed that the Ministry of Communications present the agenda, two sets of dates, and composition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) while keeping ACICC informed. MoFA and the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul are tasked to collaborate and organize the proposed meetings.

The Ministry of Railways was instructed to share the MoU from February 20, 2024, and the proceedings of the upcoming meeting scheduled for April 23-24, 2024, with ACICC.

In discussions regarding the Karachi-Chaman-Spin Boldak-Kandahar Railway line, the Ministry of Railways representative highlighted the Afghan Railways Authority’s (ARA) plans for a bilateral meeting to deliberate on experts’ field visits from Chaman to Kandahar, proposed terminal design, gauge specifications, track installation, and feasibility review.

ARA mentioned that the right of way up to Spin Boldak is an internal concern to be resolved promptly.

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