Pakistan ‘Blocks’ Its Own Access To ‘Energy Rich’ Central Asia; Taliban Holds The Key To Pak’s Problems

The Soviet Union exploded in 1991, and its federating units, called Central Asian Republics (CARs), declared their complete independence as sovereign states. Some neighboring Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan (Turkey to a lesser degree), imagining that a vacuum had taken place, rushed to the Central Asian region with their Islamic agenda. 

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For example, Saudis distributed millions of copies of the Quran, and Pakistan offered to open thousands of religious seminaries to bring true Islam to the people. However, Iran, due to sectarian limitations, restricted its activities to the State of Tajikistan, where it had found a sprinkling of Shia population.

But soon after understanding how ideologically and practically the CARs had been transformed into a modern, progressive, and scientific society under Soviet dispensation, they silently retracted their steps, fearing that more interaction with the Central Asian societies would spell disaster for their conservatism at home.

This was explained by a Tajik professor in a cryptic sentence. He said, “When we found that these Islamists were trying to stifle our throat, we cut their hand,”


According to the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan, Pakistan established its embassy in Dushanbe on June 6, 1992.

During the 31 years of diplomatic relations, Tajik President Emomali Rahman paid eight visits to Pakistan, and Pakistani Presidents and Prime Ministers have also visited Dushanbe to discuss bilateral relations on various subjects as a matter of routine.

CASA-1000 aims to link the energy systems of Central Asia with South Asia – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan with Afghanistan and Pakistan – and to develop mechanisms for electricity trade by international standards. The project is expected to generate some 1,000-1,300 megawatts annually for export to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In a broadcast on January 3, 2012, Radio Free Europe said that Tajik Ambassador to Pakistan Zubaidullo Zubaidov met with the head of the upper house of Pakistan’s parliament, Fahmida Mirza, in Islamabad on January 2 to discuss the CASA 1000 project.

The project is backed by the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank and aims to bring electricity from hydropower plants in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Zubaidov said Tajikistan would like to start exporting electricity to Pakistan within the framework of CASA 1000 but is trying to complete work on the Tajik part of the project.

However, the massive Roghun project has run into financial difficulties. An estimated $950 million is still required to fund the project. About 25 percent of that amount ($251 million) is needed to build power transmission lines in Tajikistan.

Hydropower is seen as having the potential to address Tajikistan’s chronic power shortages and also provide enough for export.

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While on his way to Astana to participate in the SCO summit, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif stopped over for a day in Dushanbe, where he held talks with the Tajik President on various bilateral issues, including the Roghun project. The two leaders’ discussions focused on implementing agreements reached during the Tajik President’s visit to Pakistan two years ago.

The Times of Central Asia, July 1, reports that Islamabad is evincing interest in speeding up the start of the CASA-1000 energy project and expanding cooperation in transport and security.

Pakistan is short of about 7000 MW of electric power. In exchange, Tajikistan expresses its desire to have access to the seaports of Gwadar and Karachi. In December 2022, Tajik President Emomali Rahman traveled to Islamabad, where he signed eight documents at the end of negotiations with the Pakistani Prime Minister.


Commenting on Tajik-Pak relations from a historical perspective, The Times of Central Asia of July 2, quoting Alexander Vorobyov, a researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and head of the Centre for Public Diplomacy, wrote, “The fact is that Tajikistan’s intelligence services have historically not had warm relations with Pakistan, whose intelligence services have supported various militant groups in Afghanistan. But times are changing. In addition, it should be noted that today, Pakistan is closely cooperating with China economically and politically in the same way that active cooperation between China and Dushanbe is taking place.”

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According to the same researcher, improving relations between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, whose authorities are actively promoting a project to create the Trans-Afghan Railway “Tirmiz – Mazar-i-Sharif –Kabul – Peshawar will help improve Tajikistan’s transport connectivity with the outside world and offer the possibility of access to South Asia.  The shorter route connecting Dushanbe in Tajikistan to the Indian Ocean is through Afghanistan to Karachi or Gwadar, which is approximately 2,720 kilometers, while it is 3,400 km to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas in the Strait of Hormuz.

The 350 km-long Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of territory in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province, separates Pakistan from Tajikistan. Experts believe that if Afghanistan’s stability and security can be ensured, then Pakistan has a fair chance of becoming a transport hub for Central Asian countries.

However, given Pakistan’s anti-Taliban policy and obstinacy in not diluting the Durand Line, Pakistan is likely to lose its transit centrality for Central Asia.


Pakistan’s interest in Central Asia essentially lies in energy. Islamabad is promoting several major transport projects in the region that will open access to global markets. 

However, as Hina Rabbani Khar, once Pakistan’s deputy foreign minister, said in February 2023, the situation in Afghanistan is preventing Pakistan from realizing its potential in relations with Central Asia.

She emphasized the need to complete the CASA-1000 project. The World Bank stopped financing it after the Taliban came to power in Kabul. However, the implementation of CASA-1000 was resumed in May 2024 with the financial support of the World Bank.

Pakistan—Central Asia cooperation seems to be improving. Islamabad desires to enhance trade ties, and joint economic commissions have been established. Pakistan’s trade volume with Tajikistan has seen a gradual increase. However, Pakistan is not an ideal partner for post–Soviet countries as it remains engulfed in economic and political turmoil. 

  • Prof. KN Pandita (Padma Shri) is the former director of the Center of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University.
  • This article contains the author’s personal views and does not represent EurAsian Times’ policies/views/opinions in any way. 
  • The author can be reached at knp627 (at)