QUETTA / GWADAR: Performing groundbreaking for the Quetta-Zhob highway, Balochistan health complex and new Gwadar international airport projects as part of western alignment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday vowed that locals would be encouraged to reap benefits of the development and said Gwadar would be the engine of growth for the whole country.
During his daylong visit to Quetta and Gwadar, the prime minister also announced the government’s plan for railway connectivity between Quetta and Taftan besides other schemes including a rail link between Quetta and Gwadar and a Karachi-Gwadar ferry service that would later be extended to Qatar.
While addressing the groundbreaking ceremony of the carriageway and health complex projects in Quetta, the PM termed the 305-km-long Quetta-Zhob dual carriageway a ‘real game changer for Balochistan’. Mr Khan said the N-50 road passing through Kuchlak, Muslim Bagh and Qilla Saifullah would reduce travel time between Quetta and Dera Ismail Khan from 12 to four hours. He said the road would provide basis for the development of the province as it would link many less developed areas with Quetta.
Foundation stone of Quetta-Zhob highway, new Gwadar airport, health complex projects laid
The prime minister extended gratitude to Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa for supporting the health complex project that he said would address public health issues including cardiac ailments. He said the Centre was serious about providing basic necessities to the people and announced that a cancer hospital would also be established in Quetta in collaboration with the provincial government and the armed forces. “We will Insha Allah establish a modern cancer hospital, equipped with the latest technology as people have to face problems in taking their cancer patients to Lahore for treatment,” he said.
Mr Khan also announced that Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid was working on the project to connect Quetta with Taftan through railway.
Lauding Chief Minister Jam Kamal’s dedication towards progress and prosperity of the province, the prime minister urged the provincial government to make a master plan for Quetta. He said population growth and cities’ expansion were interlinked and they needed to be administered through their master plans. He also asked the Balochistan government to adopt the local government system of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “We can uplift Balochistan by adopting the local government system like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to streamline funds distribution at the grassroots level in a proper manner,” he said, adding that village councils could bring a significant change in funds allocation mechanism.
The ceremony was also attended by Balochistan Governor retired justice Amanullah Khan Yasinzai, CM Mir Jam Kamal Khan, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, provincial ministers and senior government officials.
Later, Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of New Gwadar International Airport at Gwadar.
The event was attended by federal ministers, Balochistan chief minister, parliamentarians, the COAS, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing and a huge number of Chinese workers and government officials.
“What a pleasure it is to be in Gwadar! Insha Allah, in the coming months and years, Gwadar would become the engine of growth for Pakistan,” he said while addressing the earth-breaking ceremony of the airport.
The Chinese government will assist Pakistan for the construction of the airport under Chinese Grant Assistance, as the project had been included in the ‘Early Harvest High Priority Projects of CPEC’ more than five years back. The project is part of overall infrastructure development of Balochistan. It would be developed as a green-field facility with all modern facilities for safe operation. The new airport with a cargo terminal having initial handling capacity of 30,000 tonnes per year will accommodate large planes such as A380 aircraft.
The prime minister thanked the Chinese ambassador for the grant given by the Chinese government for the airport.
On the occasion, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was also signed for the construction of Pakistan-China Vocational Training Institute and Pak-China Friendship Hospital.
Speaking at the concluding session of the Gwadar Expo, the prime minister said a new era of development would begin in the port city soon. “Our eyes are on the future of the country, not on winning election,” he said, adding that there would be no injustice with the people of Balochistan in Naya Pakistan.
Balochistan that was ignored in the past would get its due status, he said, adding that this neglected province would be brought on a par with the other provinces. He claimed that Faisalabad division had more seats in the National Assembly than Balochistan had. He said the province remained deprived of basic facilities because resources given to Balochistan under the National Finance Commission (NFC) award did not reach the grassroots level.
He said any development would be of no use unless it benefited the local people. He assured the fishermen not to worry about their sustenance due to the construction of the highway as special bridges would be built to facilitate them. In the past, he said, the local populations had been ignored while executing development projects in Balochistan. However, in his Naya Pakistan, the locals would be encouraged to reap the benefits of the development, said Mr Khan.
He regretted that gas worth billions of rupees being extracted from Sui could not change the living standard of the locals. He said the government was working to enhance the capacity of the hospital in Gwadar, while the vocational training institute would also help create employment opportunities for locals.
The prime minister announced launch of Insaf Sehat Card to provide health insurance cover worth Rs720,000 to every family.
Besides, the prime minister said previously power supply to Gwadar was being transmitted from Iran, but the government had decided to link the area with the national grid.
Other projects he announced for the area included a desalination plant, solid waste management system and plantation of one million saplings.
He told the gathering that Gwadar and Quetta would be linked through railways but as Pakistan had been lagging behind in this sector Chinese support was being sought to upgrade the railways system. He said he was looking forward to bilateral cooperation with China during his upcoming visit in late April in various fields including train technology, agriculture and cage fishery.
Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2019