ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s prosperity is tied with the development of the Gwadar Port, which has the potential to bring peace to the troubled province of Balochistan and economic prosperity for Pakistan.

This was the conclusion drawn at the seminar titled ‘Gwadar Port Potential and Prospects’ organised by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) on Thursday.

The minister for states and frontier regions, Abdul Qadir Baloch, said that Gwadar is an important project for Pakistan. He said that Baloch people have been deprived of their basic rights in the past. If the wrongs are redressed there will be no insurgency.

“I don’t agree with the way of the insurgents but I do agree with their demands,” said the minister.

He said that Gwadar could be made into a free and special economic zone which would bring prosperity to the province. “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has taken keen interest in this project and the government is committed to completing it as soon as possible,” he said.

Speaking at the event, Naveed Jan Baloch, vice president of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, urged all stakeholders including provincial and federal governments and Chinese firms investing in Gwadar to provide maximum opportunities to the Baloch people.

“Baloch are not against development. We liberal and business minded people,” he said.

Earlier, Ahsan Iqbal, planning development and reforms minister, highlighted the geographical importance of the port. He said that the port is at the juncture of three regions-South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia-and home to close to three billion people. “This port will bring enormous business opportunities,” he said.

The minister said that the government is building a road that will connect Gwadar to the rest of Pakistan through Rattodero.

Ahsan Iqbal also talked about the unique natural landscape of Gwadar and said that the area has potential for the development of tourism, fisheries and construction industries.

Also addressing the participants of the seminar, Dr Sajjad Hussain Baloch,Gwadar Development Authority director general, said substantial investment is required to develop infrastructure in Balochistan. He said that improving road network will allow access to the area’s abundant natural resources.

Retired Vice Admiral Muhammad Haroon said that Gawadar port is the least vulnerable to attack by Indian air force and navy and in time of war it would be very difficult to block the port.

Mian Anjum Nisar, ATS group of Industries chairman, speaking at the occasion underlined the importance of Gawadar development project for the future of Pakistan. “This port is our hope and it will open new vistas of opportunities and business for the region,” he said.

He said that the Chinese are financing this project as the development of Gwadar port will decrease the distance to their trading destinations and will provide them with the opportunity to export goods to the Middle East.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2015

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