ISLAMABAD - The construction of $10 billion TAPI gas pipeline stretching from Central to South Asia is set to begin in December, the government said on Monday.

Terming TAPI gas pipeline project vital for meeting the energy needs of the region, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stressed the need for launching and completion of the project in record time.

The prime minister will likely to attend the ground-breaking ceremony of the project in coming December for which invitation was extended to him by Deputy Prime Minister of Turkmenistan who called on him here at the Prime Minister House.

Deputy Prime Minister for Oil and Gas of Turkmenistan and Special Envoy of the President of Turkmenistan Baymurat Hojamuhamedov informed the prime minister that ground-breaking ceremony of TAPI gas pipeline project would be held in December this year and communicated the invitation of President of Turkmenistan to the prime minister to attend this ceremony. The prime minister thanked for the invitation and said that Pakistan strongly supports the project and its early completion.

Prime Minister Sharif said that realising the TAPI project would meet the energy requirements of the region and will benefit all countries of the region. The prime minister discussed the regional connectivity initiative with the deputy prime minister and said that rail/road links between Gawadar and Central Asia would increase the economic activity in the region.

The prime minister said that Pakistan would facilitate the Turkmenistan and Central Asian countries to develop rail/road links up to Gawadar.

Chairman State Agency for Management and Use for Hydrocarbon Resources, Yagshygeldy Kakaev Ambassador for Turkmenistan, Aladjan Movlamov, Federal Minister for Petroleum, Shahid Khaqan Abbassi,  Advisor to PM on National Security, Sartaz Aziz and Minister of State for Petroleum, Jam Kamal attended the meeting.

According to AFP, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have long planned the ambitious project to meet growing energy needs in the three South Asian countries but administrative issues and unrest in Afghanistan have so far delayed its realisation.

The project is politically complex, requiring cooperation between at least four governments, and logistically challenging, as the pipeline would pass through areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan plagued by Taliban and separatist insurgents.

France’s Total was working to take the lead on TAPI, but Russia is also said to have expressed interest.

Pakistan, struggling to meet its ever-increasing energy demands, has already renewed efforts to finish its under-construction pipeline from Iran after the landmark deal on Iran’s nuclear programme because sanctions on the oil and gas rich country had jeopardised this project.

The South Asian state is desperate for solutions to a long-running power crisis that has sapped economic growth and left its 200 million inhabitants fuming over incessant electricity cuts.

The $7.5-billion Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline was inaugurated with great fanfare in March 2013 — but the project immediately hit quicksand in the form of international sanctions on Tehran, which meant cash-strapped Pakistan struggled to raise the money to build its side.