The transformation has marked a host of milestones in recent years: ranging from rehabilitation of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Swat and South Waziristan Agency to building of road networks, rebuilding of the schools destroyed by the terrorists to construction of new schools, and from agricultural development initiatives to trade enhancement projects. The construction of Central Trade Corridor (CTC) is another major step, which is nothing less than a miracle and no smaller a gift by the army to the people of a conflict-torn region. It is a socio-economic project that systematically nets together Pakistan and Afghanistan by acting as a meaningful link between the Indus Highway of Pakistan and the Afghan Ring Road. Built by the Pakistan Army and Frontier Works Organization (FWO) over the last few years, it is 714 kilometres long road network. For such projects, the Army has followed an institutional approach. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the ex COAS had pushed this development work in FATA. General Raheel Sharif, COAS, has also vowed to pursue the development works vigorously. Recently, during his interaction with the officers and men at Miranshah and Wana, he expressed satisfaction over the achievements of the Army towards bringing stability in the conflict zone through development projects. He affirmed that these projects were likely to contribute in the national effort for durable peace in the conflict hit areas, and showed his resolve to go on with these initiatives at a very high pace.
The Trade Routes and Corridors
- Southern Trade Corridor: Karachi Port / Port Qasim (along RCD Highway) Khuzdar - Kalat / Gwadar Port (along N-85) Turbat - Panjgur - Kalat - Quetta Chaman - Kandhar and onward to Kabul and beyond (Kandhar: 926 km from Karachi Port and 1,150 km from Gwadar Port. Kabul: 1,423 km from Karachi Port and 1,647 km from Gwadar Port).
- Central Trade Corridor: Karachi Port / Port Qasim Sukkur (along Indus Highway) - Rajanpur - D.G. Khan D.I. Khan - Ghulam Khan / Angoor Adda - Afghan Ring Road - Kabul / Kandhar (Kabul: 1,580 km via Indus Highway in Pakistan and Kabul-Gardez Highway in Afghanistan. Kandhar: 1,898 km via Indus Highway in Pakistan and Afghan Ring Road in Afghanistan).
Afghanistan Iran and Central Asia
- Northern Trade Corridor (Afghanistan - Tajikistan): Kabul Eshkashem / Sher Khan Bandar (Eshkashem: 515 km along Saricha Road and 621 km along Asian Highway-76. Sher Khan Bandar: 410 km along Asian Highway-76) - onward to South-Eastern and South-Western Tajikistan.
- Southern Trade Corridor (Afghanistan - Iran): Kandhar Zaranj / Islam Qila (Zaranj - 456 km and Islam Qila - 682 km) - onward to Eastern Iran.
- Central Trade Corridor : - Afghanistan - Turkmenistan: Kandhar - Toraghandi / Aqina (Toraghandi: 670 km. Aqina: 1039 km) - onward to Turkmenistan.
- Afghanistan - Uzbekistan: Kabul - Hairatan (464 km) - onward to Uzbekistan.
The Significance of Waziristan Corridor
Why the Central Trade Corridor?
Violence and poverty in FATA has heretofore had a chicken-egg or democracy-economy relationship. Violence inhibited development, and lack of development cultivated an environment conducive for violence. Situation is somewhat zero-sum. Increased development is expected to decrease the degree of violence. But progress and prosperity are not pedestrian anyway. They need roads to travel on. Education, health facilities, economic opportunities and civic services travel over the roads to reach the people of such remote regions. Due to various reasons, including the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan, violence and poverty are shared attributes of the tribes inhabiting both sides of border. They are co-dependent in socio-economic spheres. Thus, transformational measures can have concurrent effect on both sides. Generally, this has been the context of construction of Central Trade Corridor. It has already started paying dividends. The people of Waziristan have hailed the project.
The Expected Benefit
- Replacing the existing non-mettled roads with international standard blacktop highways.
- Shrinking the time distance between North-Western Pakistan and South-Eastern Afghanistan.
- Reducing intra-Waziristan distance through an integral road network.
- Building a socio-economic and communicational gateway between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- Creating prospects for improved education and health facilities.
- Generating economic opportunities along the highways.
- Transforming the conflict environment so as to gradually and systematically defeat and diminish the appeal for violent extremism among the masses of Waziristan. This would reflect positively by perceptibly reducing the trail of terror.
It is often espoused by some that poverty and economic insecurity is not the reason or the core motivation for violence in FATA. True; there are other drivers and sources of motivation that far outweigh poverty or destitution as the cause of violence. However, international experience shows that Economic Opportunity Structure (EOS) does have a noteworthy effect on environment of conflict and conditions of violence. Going by this reality, the CTC is expected to reconstruct and revamp the EOS of Waziristan as well as the neighbouring Afghan provinces.
Trade is the backbone of economic security of a state or society. It is the centrepiece in the chain of economy that links the sections of production and consumption. It has remained important all through the history of mankind at all levels - macro, meso, and micro. Like other regions and sub-regions of the world, the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, too, has a lot of prospects to move forward with regional trade as a means to peace and prosperity for the people of the two countries and the region at large. Certainly, trade, whether between individuals and communities or between the states, is carried out on mutually beneficial terms. But it has to have some sort of contiguity and realization of the reality between the trading partners. Pakistan and Afghanistan have both.
A Positive Response from Afghanistan
Today, 11 out of 34 Afghan provinces adjoin three federating units of Pakistan to include Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Ethnically, Pashtun population bestrides the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Besides hundreds of cattle-and-foot-tracks, there are dozens of vehicle-worthy roads and tracks crossing over the border. Some over 50,000 people from both sides cross the border daily using these frequented and unfrequented routes. Most of these routes are smuggling prone. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan agree to counteract, and to utilize all available routes and corridors in a mutually agreed and internationally legitimized manner. This is why the CTC is also listed among the routes of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).
Conclusion The construction of Central Trade Corridor is a step in the right direction. It would not only shorten the time distance between north-western Pakistan and south-eastern Afghanistan, but would also play a momentous role in conflict transformation on both sides of Hindukush. Pakistan Army has completed about 70 % of this 714-km stretch of road system linking various towns, important valleys and the Afghan Ring Road. It is tangible entity that acts as a link between various intangible attributes of Pakistan Army's counterinsurgency strategy.
(Courtesy Hilal Magazine)