Press Release

Aga Khan and Tajik and Afghan Leaders Open Bridge into Afghanistan

Tem, Tajikistan and Demogan, Afghanistan, 3rd November, 2002—Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmonov, His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims and Afghanistan’s Vice-President Hidayat Amin Arsala today inaugurated the first of a series of bridges across the Pyanj River that will consolidate permanent overland links between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

The US$400,000 project, undertaken by the Aga Khan Development Network, in collaboration with the two governments, will improve significantly the flow of aid, commerce and trade within Central Asia. It includes the construction of border posts at each end of the bridge, a link road on the Afghan side and a small marketplace on the Tajik side.

“Bridging the Pyanj River today means creating a corridor of hope and opportunity for this entire region,” said the Aga Khan. “By facilitating the flow of goods, services, knowledge and technology in both directions, this bridge will allow communities on either side of the frontier, as well as neighbouring countries, to gain from one another and to contribute to one another’s welfare.”

“Today,” said President Rahmonov, “marks an important beginning.” “This bridge demonstrates the commitment of the government and people of Tajikistan to opening communications with, and bringing development to, Afghanistan. It stands as a concrete example of how international organisations such as the Aga Khan Development Network can enhance collaborative projects between governments in the region.”

“For the people of Afghanistan, this bridge strengthens a major lifeline, both for the inward flow of assistance and the outward access to markets,” said Vice-President Arsala. “The role of the Aga Khan Development Network has been catalytic here. We see this project as a model for intergovernmental initiatives in co-operation with other credible international organisations.”

Thousands of residents on both sides of the river witnessed the historic occasion as the three leaders joined together in a ceremony at the mid-point of the bridge between the two countries.

With a length of 135 metres along a single span, the longest suspension bridge joining the two countries will carry both commercial and passenger traffic. It will also connect hitherto inaccessible parts of Afghanistan to its northern neighbours. The only existing bridge linking the two countries is at Ishkoshim to the south-east which enables access into the remote Wakhan province.