Regional efforts on to resolve Afghan issue: PM

Published July 6, 2021
PRIME Minister Imran Khan receives briefing on south Balochistan package at Gwadar on Monday.
PRIME Minister Imran Khan receives briefing on south Balochistan package at Gwadar on Monday.

• Says civil war in neighbourhood can affect Pakistan’s trade link with Central Asia
• First phase of Gwadar free port zone inaugurated
• MoUs signed with China for desalination, solar energy projects
• Seven countries express interest in Balochistan’s port city

GWADAR / QUETTA: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Pakistan and its neighbouring countries want peace and a political settlement in Afghanistan to avoid possible civil war, which would affect the entire region.

Speaking at the launch of development projects and the signing of two Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with China for different projects in Gwadar during his daylong visit to the port city on Monday, Prime Minister Khan said: “Pakistan is trying to talk to all the neighbouring countries and the Taliban to work out a political settlement with consensus.”

“I have recently talked to the newly elected president of Iran and discussed the Afghan situation,” he said, adding that all neighbouring countries should work for a political settlement between Kabul authorities and Afghan Taliban so that Afghanistan should not fall to yet another civil war.

While expressing concern over the emerging situation in Afghanistan along with the withdrawal of US and Nato forces, the prime minister said Pakistan was making all-out efforts for a political solution of Afghan issue.

“Afghanistan will suffer most if civil war breaks out and neighbouring countries will also be affected apart from the Afghan refugees,” Mr Khan reiterated, pointing out that Pakistan’s trade link with Central Asia could also be affected. Pakistan made good contracts with Tajikistan and soon he would be visiting Uzbekistan, he said. “They all are interested in using Gwadar deep sea port for trade since they are landlocked,” he explained.

About development of Balochistan, the prime minister said the future belonged to Gwadar as it would emerge as the focal point of development, ensuring prosperity of the entire country.

It would open up new avenues of opportunities for regional trade, Mr Khan said, mentioning that Gwadar International Airport would encourage regional trade and boost economic activity and the port of Gwadar would connect directly with other countries.

One-window operation was in progress to facilitate investment, he said, asking the Balochistan government to ensure proper servicing of investors as the subject moved to the provinces after the passage of 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

He thanked the government of China for launching water and solar projects in Balochistan, particularly in Gwadar. One of the MoUs signed was regarding the setting up of a desalination plant with a capacity of 1.2 million gallon a day to resolve water shortage in Gwadar, while the other was related to the Chinese grant for solar generators for south Balochistan.

Mr Khan appreciated the provision of technical education to the youth of Gwadar by China and said it would prove greatly helpful in future as foreign investment grew. “Pakistan can benefit from its strategic location and also from the expertise of its friend China,” he observed.

According to Pakistan’s official news agency APP, seven regional countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kenya and Qatar — have expressed their commitment for cooperation on Gwadar’s development.

The prime minister mentioned several initiatives for Gwadar uplift including establishment of a university, employment under Kamyab Jawan Programme and upgrade of equipment of local fishermen to ensure value addition of their catch. To fully protect the fishermen and improve their conditions, Rs10 billion was allocated under Kamyab Jawan programme and out of which Rs 5bn had been spent so far.

Mr Khan vowed that PM Office would monitor on a monthly basis progress on the development plans in Gwadar.

The prime minister said his vision of an emerging Pakistan was that of a steadfast nation committed to country’s prosperity. The government was focused on ensuring provision of basic amenities in Gwadar and Balochistan, particularly clean water and electricity to encourage industrialization.

Terming the recently announced Rs730bn development budget for Balochistan by the federal government ‘historic’, the prime minister expressed the hope that it would mitigate the longstanding deprivation of the people of the province. “No country can progress unless it mainstreams all its areas and ensures development across the board,” he said, adding that ‘connectivity’ was one of the major components of the Balochistan package.

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, federal ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Ali Zaidi, Fawad Chaudhry, Zubaida Jalal, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, China Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority Chairman Asim Saleem Bajwa, Chief Secretary Mathar Niaz Rana and provincial minister were present on the occasion.

Free port zone inaugurated

On the occasion, the prime minister inaugurated the first phase of Gwadar Free Port Zone besides performing the groundbreaking of its second phase spread over 2,200 acres.

The factories inaugurated on the occasion included a chemical fertilizer factory, Gwadar animal vaccine factory and lubricant factory, besides the opening of Gwadar Tissue Plant Laboratory, adds APP.

Also attending the programme from Shanghai through a video link were the Chinese investors who expressed commitment for investment in Gwadar and other parts of Balochistan. Those who pledged to invest in Balochistan’s different sectors included Huang Weiguo (textile), Huang Daoyuan (prefabricated technology), Fang Hongyan (agriculture), Shen Jian (wool spinning), David Dia and Chen Yi (dairy processing) and Bao Dequan (textile).

Earlier, Gwadar Port Authority Chairman Naseer Khan Kashani briefed the ambassadors on the model of free port zone and the facilities being provided at the seaport.

Enhanced yearly contribution promised

Meanwhile, the prime minister assured a gathering of elders that the federal government would enhance its contribution for the development of the Balochistan every year.

He decried the past rulers for putting Balochistan progress on the backburner. They did not pay attention to the province and focused solely to become the prime minister of the country, he said, adding that they preferred to live in London and spent summers there. Nawaz Sharif had 24 visits to the UK out of which 23 were his private trips, he said, adding that the ex-premier did not visit Balochistan. If they had paid attention to the whole country, they might have continued as country rulers, he observed.

Mr Khan said one who thought of Pakistan would always focus on its less developed areas first. He reiterated that the country could progress only when there was simultaneous and uniform development in all its parts. Residents of Balochistan had a sense of deprivation due to continuous neglect in the past, he added.

Moreover, neither the Center nor the political leadership of the province, in the past, paid due attention to the plight of people, leading to widespread sense of deprivation, he said. He said his government was focusing on Gwadar uplift with string of development projects, including setting up of the desalination plant and the construction of a 300-bed teaching hospital.

About the construction of low-cost housing units, the prime minister said, the government had received a total of 4,000 applications from the area and had identified 200 acres of land over which initially 2,500 houses would be built. He announced that Ehsaas scholarships would be given to 4,698 young people of the province.

He made it clear there was complete ban on illegal fishing through big trawlers.

He said the federal government was committed to provide 3G and 4G connectivity across the province, which would create huge jobs opportunity for all.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2021

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