Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday performed the groundbreaking of phase two of the Gwadar Free Zone (GFZ) and launched a number of other development and infrastructure projects including an expo centre, agriculture industrial park and three factories.
During a single-day visit to Gwadar, the premier also inaugurated phase one of the GFZ, reviewed the progress on various development projects, and witnessed the signing of a number of memorandums of understanding (MoUs).
He was given a detailed briefing on the progress of the south Balochistan development package in line with the government’s efforts of focusing on the province.
- Gwadar Fertiliser Plant
- Gwadar Animal Vaccine Plant
- Henan Agricultural Industrial Park
- Hengmei Lubricants Plant
- Gwadar Free Zone Phase Two
- Gwadar Expo Centre
- Implementation agreement of 1.2 million gallons per day desalination plant
- Solar generators grant from China for south Balochistan
On the occasion, agreements were signed on solarisation and a desalination plant to solve the problems of Gwadar related to water and electricity.
In his address at the launching ceremony for the projects, the prime minister lamented that many areas in Pakistan including Balochistan had been left behind in development. He said development plans for Gwadar had been made for some time but the lack of any real implementation was due to common issues such as supply of water, electricity and gas, and connectivity with other areas.
"But in the time we are now seeing ahead, Gwadar is going to become a focal point from which all of Pakistan and especially Balochistan which was left behind [in development] will benefit," he added.
He said the "future of Gwadar" was being witnessed through the water and energy projects underway as well as the new international airport being constructed there which would connect Gwadar to other areas.
"I reiterate that any country can't meaningfully develop unless it has inclusive development and all areas develop," the premier said, adding that the government's biggest effort now was to develop neglected areas such as former Fata, Balochistan, northern areas and western districts of Punjab.
For Gwadar specifically, the prime minister announced a number of initiatives to promote human development such as a technical college, a hospital, university, cheap loans for farmers and poor households and a programme for uplifting of Gwadar's fishermen.
Prime Minister Imran said the government was also preparing to better facilitate and service investors through a one-window operation so they would be encouraged to come to free zones and set up plants and industries which could contribute to exports.
The increased exports would lead to wealth creation, correction of macroeconomic imbalance and job opportunities once demand for technical staff and trained labour increases, he added.
The premier said he wanted to see increased coordination between the federal and provincial governments to pull off the above steps to create a better atmosphere for investors.
He thanked China in particular and said Pakistan stood to benefit from its relations with the country. “Pakistan can benefit from its strategic location and also from the expertise of its friend China, which is becoming an economic power in the region,” he said.
Imran further said his office would directly and regularly monitor all progress on development projects in Gwadar on a monthly basis.
Speaking about the security situation, the prime minister said peace in Afghanistan remained a major concern and that the result of any violence or civil war would be felt on Gwadar's trade with Central Asian states. He said the his government was involved in efforts and had talked to Iran as well to bring the opposing parties in the Afghan conflict towards a political settlement.
Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar earlier said the free zone inaugurated by the prime minister in Gwadar's north was "35 times bigger than the phase 1 industrial zone of Gwadar".
"This reflects growing interest of Chinese and other investors in Gwadar free zone," he tweeted.
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani also addressed the event, saying despite misconceptions that "we don't address the basic issues of Gwadar's people," a lot of work had been done by the government.
He cited initiatives such as the Eastbay Expressway, a 180-kilometre water pipeline which would connect multiple dams, a desalination plant, extension of the Gwadar hospital and efforts to bring a university to Gwadar. The chief minister added that aside from the mega projects, a lot was being done to address the needs of the people and local communities.
'Iran trade through Gwadar Port to start soon'
Meanwhile, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority Chairman Asim Saleem Bajwa said that work for Iran's trade through the Gwadar Port was in progress and the trade would start soon.
“The Ramadan-Gabd crossing point near Gwadar is active and fully functional now, fencing work on the Pakistan-Iran border is going on rapidly and new border markets are being established at the crossing points,” he said in a video message, adding that smuggling to and from Iran was decreasing due to a rise in regulated trade.
Bajwa said as compared to the first phase of the Gwadar Free Zone, which comprised 60 acres of land, the second phase would be a huge project comprising 2,200 acres.
He said some 46 enterprises were engaged in phase-I of the free zone, while 12 new factories were being set up out of which three had been completed.
The CPEC Authority chairman stated that traffic at the port was increasing everyday and last year the trade volume increased by "hundreds of times" as 60,000 metric tonnes of cargo was transported during the year 2020-21 compared to only 1,300 metric tonnes in the preceding year.
Besides, he said, five LPG vessels were berthed at the Gwadar Port.
Bajwa added that cargo volume would increase at an even higher pace in the future as interest for transshipment and industrialisation was increasing with every passing day.
He further said the installation of a desalination plant in Gwadar with a capacity of 1.2 million gallons per day would be completed within a year and this would be "a gift from the Chinese government".
He noted that another desalination plant with a capacity of 5m gallons per day was included in the prime minister's south Balochistan package.
Provision of basic facilities including electricity, water and health is the prime focus of Prime Minister Imran, Bajwa added.