NOWSHERA: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday inaugurated the newly constructed Azakhel dry port, completed at a cost of Rs510 million, in Nowshera district.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, the prime minister thanked federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid for earmarking funds for the construction of the dry port. It would not only boost trade activities but also yield employment opportunities, Mr Khan added.
He maintained that the government’s ambitious Main Line-1 project, which envisaged laying of double tracks from Karachi to Peshawar, would bring about a change in the railways sector.
He said completion of the project would shorten the Karachi-Peshawar journey to eight hours. This would greatly benefit the common man, besides cargo transportation, the prime minister said.
Mr Khan lauded the railways minister for enhancing the railways’ revenue by over Rs5 billion and cutting its deficit. Government corporations had been sustaining huge losses, which were eventually shouldered by the public, he regretted.
The prime minister expressed the hope that the Pakistan International Airlines and Pakistan Railways would compete with the private sector. “Now let me tell you why no government has ever invested money in railways ... it is because railways is the medium of travel for the poor, not the rich. Money has always been poured into projects that benefit the rich,” he said.
Mr Khan pointed out that railways had been in loss for years and the hard-earned tax money was used to make up for those losses. He added that the government was trying to turn railways into a profitable organisation so that the common man could benefit from it.
He said they would sell and re-purpose all the land that railways had in order to pay for the losses that the previous governments had raked up. “We are trying to make Pakistan a welfare state. For that, we are trying to come up with policies that are people friendly. In railways, we have started giving concessions on tickets to people above the age of 60 years and free service facility to above 75,” he added.
Mr Khan said Mr Rashid was also developing stalls on railway platforms for women so that they were able to make money and provide for their families. He also gave details of all the projects that the government had started under the Ehsaas programme.
He said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government initiated Ehsaas projects and allocated about Rs190 billion that would help in uplifting the condition of poor people. He said the government was striving for establishing new industries besides revitalising the sick industries in the country to provide jobs to the people, explaining that he had declared 2020 as the year of job opportunities and housing facilities to government employees.
Earlier, Mr Rashid said: “The Rs510 million Azakhel dry port project would promote business and trade in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”
He said he would like to suggest that the Peshawar-Jalalabad rail route be added to the ML-1 track.
The minister said the Peshawar-Jalalabad railways project would connect Pakistan with Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics and turn the province into a hub of trade, business and investment.
“When it had started, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was solely based on a single railway track; other things were simple minor projects. Today, CPEC has moved forward while railways have been left behind because of negligence,” Mr Rashid added.
He said also announced that railways would give increments to its employees from the revenue it was generating. Besides, 100,000 jobs would open up the day the ML-1 railway track would be completed, he said.
The minister said he was hopeful that the Pakistan Railways would become a profitable organization within four years. He said the federal government had planned mega projects to strengthen and increase rail connectivity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
He said the proposed railways track would pass through Loi Shalman area of Khyber tribal district, mountainous terrains and beautiful landscapes of KP and thus promoting tourism.
He said the government had decided to open the Nowshera-Dargai railways section, which would help promote tourism in Malakand division, including Swat, Dir, Chitral and Buner districts.
The railways minister also mentioned about an agreement with the National Logistic Cell (NLC) to include Peshawar-Jalalabad track in the ML-1 would help end smuggling and create jobs for 100,000 people, adds APP.
Mr Rashid said the PC-1of ML-1 had been submitted to federal Minister for Planning Asad Umer. There would be no crossing on the 1,872-kilometre ML-1, he said.
Mr Rashid said under an open policy, the railways had given three freight trains and 11 passenger trains to the private sector. He said the railways system would also be computerised along with installation of trackers for geo-tracking.
Later, he announced that the Azakhel dry port was being renamed as Pir Piyai Azakhel as per wish of the area people.
Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman and Chief Minister Mahmood Khan also attended the event.
Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2020