National Bank of Pakistan Closing Turkmen Branch. What Does This Mean for TAPI Gas Pipeline?

The National Bank of Pakistan’s branch in Turkmenistan is to close in the near future, has learnt from informed sources in Ashgabat. The branch was opened in 1997 to give an impetus to construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline and to strengthen economic and trade links between the two countries.

One source working in the economic sector told that the bank had taken the decision to close its branch independently without any pressure whatsoever from the Turkmen authorities. 

“Considering that the TAPI gas pipeline has not been delivered after all, the bank decided on the closure,” the source said. “Evidently the Pakistani side has given up on the project.”

On November 9, wrote to the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) branch in Ashgabat asking them to confirm or deny the information, but received no reply. On November 11, rang the bank.

“[The head of the bank branch, Sarfraz Ahmad] asked me to say that we will make an official announcement that will clarify everything,” the person taking the call said.

Asked in a follow-up question if the bank might indeed be closed down, our interlocutor replied, “If we make an official announcement, you will know then.” The source did not say when the announcement would be made.

  • In September Nadeem Babar, the Pakistani prime minister’s special assistant on energy, and Muhammetmurat Amanov, head of the TAPI Pipeline Company Ltd, discussed issues related to the pipeline project. The Turkmen side assured its partners that Pakistan’s legal and commercial concerns would be addressed in the relevant agreements.
  • Also in September, the presidents of the two countries discussed the TAPI project by phone. According to Turkmenistan’s state-run media, President Berdimuhamedov said that work on the Turkmen section of the pipeline was in the final stages and recalled that a Memorandum of Mutual Understanding had been signed with Afghanistan on the allocation of land for the Afghan section of the pipeline. The Turkmen president hoped that construction work would begin very soon in Pakistan too. In a tweet, Pakistani President Arif Alvi described the conversation as “very substantive”.
  • In early November a Turkmen delegation held talks in Qatar with representatives of the Afghan Taliban. The Turkmen diplomats said that Turkmenistan “is actively pushing forward several major international infrastructure projects”, first of all construction of the TAPI gas pipeline.
  • On November 8, at the forum of the association of economic journalists in Islamabad, the Turkmen ambassador, Atajan Movlamov, spoke again about the economic benefits for Pakistan of gas transit via the future pipeline.

The website of the NBP branch in Turkmenistan says that it provides the full range of banking services to private and corporate clients: opening bank accounts in manats and hard currency, cash transactions, loans, and so on.