ISLAMABAD-----The Afghan Taliban should be engaged to guarantee the security to the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India gas pipeline, Water and Power Minister Kh. Mohammad Asif, said on Friday.

His comments emerged as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Turkmenistan for today’s groundbreaking ceremony.

The $10 billion pipeline plan is one of Asia’s most ambitious infrastructure projects and could play a key part in easing the energy crises in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. But the prospect depends on whether its promoters can protect it from terrorist attacks.

The proposed route of the pipeline passes from Herat in South West Afghanistan, through dangerous minefields and Taliban-controlled districts to Kandahar before entering Balochistan where terrorist attacks remain a risk.

Nawaz Sharif, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, and Indian’s vice president Mohammad Hamid Ansari discuss security options, including a multi-national guard force, when they met with the Turkmenistan president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow in Ashgabat today.

But in an interview with the BBC, Water and Power minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif said security could be guaranteed by Taliban itself – the group which currently poses the greatest threat to it. Taliban fighters demonstrated their threat earlier this week when they laid siege to Kandahar airport, leaving more than 40 people dead in a 26 hour gun battle.

Mr Asif said he believes Pakistan could use its influence with Taliban leaders to ensure they do not attack an energy lifeline.

 “We will wield all our positive influence to ensure our interests..the project is also important for Afghanistan and that is why no Afghan stakeholder will oppose it,” he said

He recalled the case of American oil company Unicol whose own Afghanistan pipeline was protected by the Taliban when the group was in power between 1996 and 2001.

“We will make utmost efforts to complete the project on time and ensure concerns regarding its security due to the situation in Afghanistan are removed,” he added.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will attend international conference in Ashgabat to mark the 20th anniversary of Turkmenistan’s neutrality.

Paksitan wants to expand its trade with Turkmenistan in trade and deepen its energy and defence co-operation.