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Pakistan’s ties with Taliban may fray further over Kunar River

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KABUL – In a potentially decisive turn of events, Pakistan’s longstanding relationship with the Taliban faces heightened strain, with the Minister of Information for Balochistan province, Jan Achakzai, issuing a stern warning over the Taliban’s unilateral decision to construct a dam on the Kunar River. This move, deemed a “hostile act against Pakistan,” has stirred concerns over the already delicate ties between the two entities. The Minister revealed on Sunday that the Taliban is in talks with an Indian company for the dam’s construction, raising fears of significant consequences for the water flow in the Indus River.

Achakzai noted that in 2013, Pakistan and Afghanistan collaborated on a 1,500MW hydropower project on the Kunar River. He emphasized the progress made in establishing the Kabul River Basin Management Commission, drawing parallels with the Indus Waters Commission between Pakistan and India.

The Kunar River, also known as the Chitral River, spans 480 kilometers, flowing through northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. Originating south of the Hindu Kush Mountains, it merges with the Kabul River in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province. Fed by melting glaciers and snow from the Hindu Kush, the Kunar River is a vital tributary to the Kabul River, which in turn contributes to the Indus River.

Achakzai cautioned that if the Afghan Taliban proceeds with the dam without involving Pakistan, it could lead to severe consequences, escalating tensions and potential conflict. He highlighted the Taliban’s actions in the north, citing concerns in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan over efforts to divert the Amu River water, exacerbating water shortages.

The Taliban’s Ministry of Water and Energy announced plans on December 10 to construct a dam on the Kunar River, with a capacity to generate 45 megawatts of electricity and irrigate 34,000 hectares of agricultural land. The ministry asserted that managing Afghanistan’s internal waters is a fundamental right of the Afghan people, emphasizing the need for significant financial support for effective water management.

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