GWADAR, March 22: President Gen Pervez Musharraf said on Friday that the future port city of Gwadar would play a key role in the speedy economic development of the whole region.

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony of Gwadar deep-sea port, he announced that an industrial zone will be set up in Gwadar to lure investment, create job opportunities and open up new vistas of economic development in the surrounding human settlements of Mekran region.

Gen Musharraf said his government was determined to build the entire infrastructure needed for operating and developing the Gwadar port.

He said the National Highway Authority was building the Mekran Coastal Highway at full speed to synchronize with the completion of Gwadar port project.

The president also made mention of other projects, including Mirani dam and the Kachchi canal, which would supplement the benefits accruing from the Gwadar port.

“What we are doing in Gwadar will end the sense of deprivation among the people of the district and surrounding areas, boost the economic activities and alleviate poverty,” Gen Musharraf said.

“We all are witness to the making of history today,” the president remarked, alluding to the laying of foundation stone of the port project. He was sanguine that it would be completed in three years.

He expressed his special gratitude to the Chinese premier who, he said, took personal interest in providing finances and technical expertise for the project.

“I took up the issue of Gwadar project with Mr Zhu Rongji, the Chinese PM, when we met in May. He agreed to help Pakistan in implementing this mega project.”

Another key project — Saindak copper and gold — is to resume production with the Chinese assistance after a lapse of six years, he said.

He also praised Federal Minister for Communications, Lt-Gen (retd) Javed Ashraf Kazi for actively pursuing the project, holding detailed negotiations with the Chinese ministers, officials and experts and ensuring that a blueprint was finalized within 10 months.

He also lauded Balochistan Governor Amirul Mulk Mengal for his role and help in kick-starting mega projects, including Gwadar port, Kachchi canal, Mirani dam, and Mekran Coastal Highway.

The president exhorted the Nazims and Naib Nazims gathered at the function from remote regions of Mekran to encourage the people to get better education and necessary skills in order to compete for job opportunities.

He assured every possible help and cooperation in upgrading the education standard so that students of Balochistan could compete with students of other parts of the country.

“Our efforts would bear fruit only when the people of the area rose to help themselves,” he said.

Speaking on this occasion, Chinese Vice-Premier Mr Wu Bangguo said the project was being taken in hand after prolonged talks between the two nations.

He said his country had sent the best team of experts, builders and planners to construct the port.

The Chinese Vice-Premier hoped that the friendship between the two countries would consolidate further with the implementation of this project.

Governor Balochistan, Amirul Mulk Mengal, pledged to extend all possible cooperation and support to the federal government agencies and departments implementing mega projects in the province.

The governor said the port project would create new job opportunities, boost economic activities and improve the lot of the common man.

He thanked Gen Pervez Musharraf for taking personal interest in the development of Balochistan.

He said his government would fulfil all its commitments in respect of Mirani dam project, Saindak gold and copper project and Kachchi canal.

The governor spoke specifically of his government’s support to implement all the major projects in Balochistan launched by the president.

Earlier, Federal Minister for Communications Javed Ashraf said the construction of Gwadar port will be completed in three phases.

He congratulated the area people on the initiation of the project after a lapse of 50 years. He hoped that Gwadar would become a more developed region once this project is finished.

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