• Package features restoration of farmland, construction of dam, motorway, gas & power supply
• Sindh urged to reconsider cancellation of NOC for island project
SUKKUR: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday unveiled a historic development package worth Rs446 billion to develop backward areas of PPP-led Sindh through power supply, irrigation, sports and communication projects.
The package features restoration of 200,000 acres of agricultural land, upgradation of 14 passports offices, construction of Nai Gaj Dam to irrigate around 28,800 acres, 306-kilometre Sukkur-Hyderabad Motorway, gas supply to 160 villages and annual 30,000 new power connections in the neglected districts.
The prime minister, while addressing a ceremony to hand over business loan cheques among entitled youths here, said proposed projects would start getting shape within a month as their feasibility studies had already been completed.
The prime minister said he was pleased to visit the interior of Sindh with good news of the development package, which otherwise was responsibility of the provincial government under the 18th Amendment.
He said interior of Sindh was the poorest area of the country, besides southern Balochistan and tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
He said the people of interior of Sindh were living in difficult circumstances without basic facilities and rights besides facing victimisation through the police.
He likened the development outlook of the interior of Sindh to Moenjodaro and said instead of any advancement the people were moving backward.
“Insha Allah, we will assist (in) the uplift of backward areas of Pakistan honestly and trustfully. I am proud that we gave first development package for southern Balochistan in Pakistan’s history. We also gave the biggest package to now merged tribal area which would be increased. I again commit to my people in Sindh that I will try my utmost to improve their living condition,” he said.
The prime minister told the gathering that his government inherited the biggest debt burden. During the last two-and-a-half years, the government had repaid Rs35,000bn loan, Rs15,000bn more than the amount repaid by the previous government, he elaborated.
The amount of Rs15,000bn could have been spent for public welfare on construction of roads, irrigation and infrastructure development to change the fate of backward areas, he added.
He said despite giving its allocated share to Sindh, the federal government had allocated Rs446bn for the development package for the province, which would focus on skill training to youth, business loans, sports facilities and communication network.
He said it was essential to exploit the potential of 60 per cent of the country’s population below 30 years of age to make them an asset who otherwise would become a liability.
He said it was also equally essential to develop playgrounds for the youth to enable them to exhibit their talent. He said New Zealand with a population of about six million had more playgrounds than the 220m nation of Pakistan.
Mr Khan said Sukkur-Hyderabad motorway would facilitate transportation of logistics besides bringing ease of doing business in the country.
He said the government distributed cash under Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme among 15 million families after the poor suffered due to lockdown caused by Covid-19.
Sindh, with 22pc of the country’s population, got 33pc share in under the programme, which manifested that the amount was distributed fairly and without any political discrimination, he added.
Referring to Bundal Island project, the prime minister said the federal government had designed the project to attract $40bn investment to help surge foreign exchange reserves and strengthen local currency. But unfortunately, the Sindh government withdrew its No Objection Certificate (NOC) issued to federal government due to unknown reasons.
The people of Sindh would have been the biggest beneficiary of the project, he said and added that even the federal government had also offered the profit of the project to the province.
He hoped that the Sindh government would review its decision on NOC cancellation as the project would cast an impact on entire Pakistan.
He said the government had decided to provide cash assistance to about 12m families under Ehsaas Programme.
Mr Khan said he never discriminated the people as he represented the entire country.
Speaking on the occasion, federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said despite being a resource-rich province, the people of Sindh were deprived of development and basic facilities.
He said Sukkur-Hyderabad motorway project would be approved by the Central Development Working Party and Public Private Partnership Board by next week.
Under the package, he said, Rs52bn would be spent on power and gas supply to the deprived areas and Rohri and Hyderabad railways stations would be upgraded.
He said the federal government had decided to complete Nai Gaj Dam project after Sindh government refused to do its part.
He said 100,000 youth in 14 preferred districts would be imparted skill training and sports facilities would be developed for benefit of 130,000 youth, including 35,000 girls.
The package would also ensure introduction of 3G and 4G internet services for 3.7m people and optic fiber connectivity for 1.2m.
He said after upgradation of 14 passport offices, 200,000 people would not have to travel outside their districts for passport-related tasks.
He said the prime minister had given three-month time to the ministers concerned to start execution of their projects.
Sindh Governor Imran Ismail said Imran Khan believed that Sindh was still waiting for his vision for change, where people faced injustices, be it power and gas supply or policing system.
Earlier, the prime minister distributed among the entitled youths cheques of business loan under Kamyab Jawan Programme and certificates among those who had completed skill training courses.
Later, he witnessed the disbursement of Ehsaas cash assistance among the women through biometric identification and also handed over cheques to them.
Briefing the prime minister, his special assistant Dr Sania Nishtar said for the first time, biometric system was being used to ensure transparency in cash dispensation.
She said 80pc Ehsaas survey had been completed and rest would be conducted by June.
Dr Sania said the people should send their CNIC No to 8171 Helpline to ascertain whether they were entitled for cash assistance. Moreover, special desks would be set up at district level to register the families.
Federal ministers Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Dr Fehmida Mirza, Ali Haider Zaidi and Mohammadmian Soomro and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Dar were present on the occasion.
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2021