KOHLU (Balochistan), Dec 14: Vowing continued focus on development of remote areas, President Gen Pervez Musharraf said here on Wednesday, “saboteurs and anti-development elements cannot deter the process of socio-economic progress as the masses want to move forward.”

Addressing a public gathering during his four-hour visit to Kohlu, the president announced Rs1.5 billion development projects for Kohlu district and sought people’s support for development projects in different parts of Balochistan, including Gwadar port.

“We are not deterred by anti-development elements and will continue to steer the country on the path of socio-economic development,” he said in reference to recent incidents of rocket attacks and bomb blasts in the area.

During the president’s visit, miscreants fired rockets at Kohlu, but the incident did not affect the visit which went on as scheduled.

President Musharraf, who is the first head of the state to visit Kohlu over the past quarter of a century, told the audience: “You should be rest assured that resources of the (Balochistan) province will be utilized for your wellbeing, so do not pay heed to the elements who indulge in utterly baseless propaganda.”

He said increase in oil and gas exploration activities would speed up the pace of development in Balochistan and putting the Gwadar deep-sea port into operation by the mid of next summer would usher in a new era of development in the province and the country and facilitate trade in the region.

About the benefits the development projects would offer to the local populace, President Musharraf said the projects would create unprecedented economic opportunities in the province.

Referring to the Mirani and Subakzai dams and Kutchhi canal, he said availability of water would bring thousands of acres of land under cultivation and also provide large quantities of fish as an economic resource.

Similarly, he said, a number of schemes had been undertaken to improve the quality of life in the province, adding that the Rs8 billion water supply project was a major step in that direction.

“We are building schools and hospitals, we are ready to bring into use all resources for development of Balochistan, identify projects and you will always find me on your side,” said the president.

Unveiling the Rs1.5 billion development plan for Kohlu district, he said it would include 35 schemes, including Rs1 billion Kohlu-Sibbi road which would open up new routes to prosperity.

“Other schemes include Rs40.5 million network of 14 roads, electrification of villages at a cost of Rs10 million, upgradation of intermediate and degree colleges at a cost of Rs20 million, a high school in a tehsil, a cadet school in Kohlu and Rs50 million water supply scheme under which 23 tubewells will be installed. In addition, the district hospital in Kohlu will be revamped and water storage dams constructed.”

The president recalled the time when he was posted here as a young army officer in 1970s and said he fondly remembered the hospitality of local people.

Earlier, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Mohammad Yousuf paid tribute to the president for his contribution to the development of Balochistan since the inception of his government.

Local speakers – including former provincial ministers and nazims — welcomed the president, saying his leadership and continued focus on development of remote areas had brightened prospects for their young generation and opened up new vistas of progress. They also presented traditional gifts to the president.

The Balochistan government had invited MPA Balaach Mari, son of Nawab Khair Bakhsh Mari, to the gathering.

However, Mr Mari not only refused to attend the gathering but, according to reports, forcibly prevented Kohlu District Nazim Ali Gul Sumrani Mari from attending the meeting although the nazim was its host.

The public meeting was attended by representatives of the 50 sub-tribes of the Mari tribe, except the Gazini sub-tribe of Mr Mari.

Talking to journalists at the conclusion of the public gathering, some of the local participants expressed support for President Musharraf’s Balochistan policy.

The president, who had flown into Kohlu from Quetta, also inspected a guard of honour by the Maiwand Rifles, held a meeting with the Balochistan Levies and had lunch.

During the president’s visit, rockets were fired at Kohlu. The quick reaction force of the Frontier Corps immediately responded and seized eight more rockets, which were loaded on donkeys and being transported for being firing. —-Online

Our Correspondent in Quetta adds: It is learnt that the rockets were fired from the Jandran mountain range.

“Eight rockets exploded at brief intervals in Kohlu,” official sources said, adding that five of the rockets landed and exploded at an open place in the outskirts of the town while three exploded near a mess of the Frontier Corps, creating panic in the area.

However, no causality or property loss was reported.

Soon after the rocket attack, law-enforcement personnel cordoned off the entire area and returned fire towards the place from where the rockets had been fired. The assailants escaped.

Law-enforcement agencies claimed to have recovered eight live rockets. They also recovered launchers and empty shells of the rockets that had been fired.

Meanwhile, Mirak Baloch, spokesman for the Baloch Liberation Army, claimed that the rocket attacks in Kohlu had been carried out by the BLA.

He told media personnel through a satellite phone that the ‘BLA accepts responsibility of the rocket attack during the president’s visit to Kohlu.’

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