TAPI project passage via Helmand impossible without security
LASHKARGAH (Pajhwok): Tribal elders, religious scholars and common people in southern Helmand province on Saturday promised to support the government in maintaining security for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project.
Border and Tribal Affairs Minister Gulab Khan Mangal, who arrived in Lashkargah, the provincial capital, attended a gathering aimed at mustering people’s support for the TAPI project and evaluating security of areas the pipeline would pass through.
The TAPI pipeline will carry natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and then India. Afghanistan will earn nearly $400 million in transit fee. The pipeline will traverse 134 kilometres area, including Greshk and Washir districts, in Helmand.
Hundreds of people including tribal elders, influential figures, religious scholars and youth attended a gathering here. Helmand deputy provincial council head Abdul Majeed Akhunzada told the gathering that TAPI was an ambitious historic project which would not only help the government increase its revenues but would also strengthen security and people’s economy.
He said the people of Helmand fully supported the project which he said could not be executed in Helmand until the ongoing conflict in the province was brought to an end. He said the government should first strengthen security before launching work on the project.
Provincial Peace Committee head Fazl Bari Fayaz said the TAPI project offered good chance for peace. He believed once the youth found jobs on the project, it would lead to a permanent stability, calling for increased cooperation between the government and the masses to make the project a success.
Bor Agha, a tribal elder, said the people of Helmand understood the importance of TAPI project and thus they were ready to cooperate with the government in implementing the mega project.
The elder said the conflict in Helmand was controlled from Kabul and illegitimate competitions were underway in the region’s conflict, but stopped short of going into details.
A Meshrano Jirga or upper house member from Helmand, Mohammad Hashim Alokozai, said the Afghans were not cooperating with TAPI project for Pakistan and India but for their own right. He said if Helmand was being given its due right in the project, the residents were ready to cooperate and maintain security for the pipeline.
Minister Gulab Mangal said TAPI was a joint project of the government and the masses because without people’s support, the government could not implement the project. He said TAPI project by providing jobs to the youth could result in improved security and stability.
Mangal said efforts to revive the stalled peace talks were successfully underway and progress in this regard had been achieved. He said TAPI project served the interests of the partner nations and therefore there would be no big hurdles to the scheme.
He said the Taliban did not want, like the past, to serve the interests of outsiders and they would not create problems for TAPI project which served Afghanistan’s interests. The minister said there were some elements within the government fueling the conflict in order to promote their own interests.
He cited as an example the breach of agreement with local residents in Dand-i-Ghori area of northern Baghlan province, saying the breach led to the return of violence in the area. Mangal said entering agreements with local residents paved the ground for peace in villages.
Four years ago, an agreement was reached with local residents of Sangin district and as a result, the youth laid down their weapons and participated in projects executed under the National Solidarity Programme.
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