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ISLAMABAD, Aug 23: A proposal to grant Gwadar a special status on the pattern of Hong Kong was under consideration and the government was ready to amend the law for this purpose, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told a meeting on Friday.

The meeting was convened to thrash out preliminary measures for turning the idea of an economic corridor from Gwadar to Kashgar (China) into a reality.

Approval was given at the meeting to a plan for upgradation of the existing railway track between Karachi and Peshawar at a cost of $2.7 billion.

Under the two-year project, signalling, communications and locomotives would be modernised, enabling trains to run at a speed of 120km per hour.

The project will shorten the travel time between Karachi and Peshawar from 27 to 17 hours.

Railways Minister Saad Rafique told the meeting that over two-thirds of rail tracks, locomotives and signalling system were obsolete and needed modernisation.

About Gwadar, the prime minister said it had a potential like that of Dubai and Singapore, vowing that he government would do all it can to make it a world-class port that attracted substantial foreign investment.

Referring to the proposed economic corridor, Nawaz Sharif said China was taking a keen interest in the project as it would benefit the entire region.

The Gwadar port would help reduce the cost and transportation time for Chinese exports from 16 days to four, Mr Sharif added.

Mr Sharif said that during his recent to China its leaders had expressed concern over the security situation in Pakistan.

The prime minister said the economic corridor project would help open up the country’s underdeveloped areas to trade and commerce. “It will link all the provinces and benefit the entire country.”

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said the economic corridor alignment should keep in view future hydel projects like Bhasha and Dasu dams so that their designs did not need any change in future.

The chairman of the National Highway Authority said there was a proposal to build a new alignment for the Khunjrab-Gwader road to create linkages with new areas and generate economic opportunities there. He said distances would be reduced by building bridges and tunnels along the Karakoram highway.

MOTORWAYS: Mr Sharif said the government was contemplating handing over motorways to the private sector, estimating that the move would generate Rs250 billion annually and help fund construction of new roads.

The prime minister told the ministries concerned to work out ways and means to link all motorways with highways to improve connectivity.

The network could later be expanded to include the proposed motorways.

Mr Sharif reiterated his government’s resolve to revive the energy sector, improve law and order and eliminate extremism to put the country back on the road to progress.

The prime minister said the airport being constructed near Fatehjang had design faults and, therefore, a new one near Rawat was needed. It would be linked with Islamabad and Rawalpindi through train links and an expressway.

ISLAMABAD-HARIPUR TUNNEL: A proposed tunnel through the Margalla hills to link Islamabad with Haripur would provide a shorter route to commuters of Gilgit-Baltistan, Mansehra and Abbottabad, Mr Sharif told the meeting.

The Islamabad expressway would be extended up to Muzaffarabad and the Lower Topa-Havellian portion would be built soon.—APP