U.S. oil company Unocal reportedly has the largest stake — 36.5% — in a consortium of multinational companies just formed to build a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan.
The consortium also includes Saudi Arabia’s Delta, Russia’s Gazprom, Japan’s Itochu Corp and Inpex, Pakistan’s Crescent Group, and South Korea’s Hyundai. The consortium says it wants to start building the pipeline next year and have it completed by the year 2000. The major roadblock is the continued fighting in northern Afghanistan, through which the pipeline will run. The extremist group the Taliban, which has banned women from working and girls from going to school, is battling for control of northern Afghanistan. In the Taliban-occupied territories, women cannot leave their homes unless they are covered from head to toe and escorted by a close male relative. The Taliban recently restricted women’s medical care by prohibiting women from being treated in the same hospitals as men, or by male doctors. Women must now go to a hospital building with no running water, no operating room, and staffed by only a few women who have been permitted to work.
Robert Todor, head of Unocal’s transport projects in the ex-Soviet states, has said the pipeline construction will not start until Afghanistan has an internationally-recognized government. The Taliban, which controls 2/3 of the country, is attempting to gain international recognition and a United Nations seat. The Feminist Majority and other women’s groups are asking the United States government and the United Nations not to recognize the Taliban as long as it continues its gender apartheid.
So far the Taliban has appeared immune to international pressure regarding its treatment of women, and none of the factions fighting in Afghanistan have shown interest in a diplomatic settlement despite the efforts of the head of the U.N. special mission in Afghanistan, Norbert Holl of Germany.