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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pakistan to Pave Way For Afghan Oil Route

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan will spend 6 billion rupees ($115 million) to repair roads in war-devastated Afghanistan to make it possible to import oil from Turkmenistan, Petroleum Minister Usman Aminuddin said Friday.

Repairs will begin later this year.

Aminuddin said Pakistan, with a $3 billion annual oil import bill, wants to buy liquefied petroleum gas from Turkmenistan.

The biggest stumbling block has been the protracted and bloody civil war in Afghanistan through which the oil would have to be transported.

Pakistan has decided to go ahead with road construction in Afghanistan, hoping that increased economic activity may be a catalyst for peace in that troubled nation, said Aminuddin. The hope is that once Afghanistan starts making money by providing a trade route, the warring factions will work for peace, he said.

Pakistan is the Taliban's biggest ally and one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban, who rule 90 percent of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul.

The Taliban's opposition rules in areas of northern Afghanistan that border Central Asia. Aminuddin said he didn't know whether the proposed trade route would pass through opposition territory.

Turkmenistan's liquefied petroleum gas will cost less than the crude oil, which Pakistan now imports and processes at its refineries, Aminuddin said.

Islamabad has also offered to let Turkmenistan use its southwestern port of Gawadar to export gas to Southeast Asia. Pakistan has already agreed to allow its territory to be used as a transit route for a gas pipeline from Iran to India.

The technical, commercial and security details of the project will be worked out once a memorandum of understanding is signed by Iran, India and Pakistan, Aminuddin said.

Later this year Pakistan's army led government will deregulate its oil imports and remove duties in an attempt to attract foreign investors to the energy sector, he said.

High on the government's agenda is the privatization of the state-run oil and gas companies, he said.