Key opposition leader Nawaz Sharif on Monday claimed that the development and progress of Gwadar port was the centrepiece of his Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s manifesto. He also pointed out that the project — the brainchild of the PML-N’s last government – would be completed within his party’s next tenure in government.
Nawaz told the Gwadar Conference at the PML-N Secretariat that as the people of Balochistan have the first and foremost right over the port they should be allowed to reap all or most of its benefits.
He said that like Sindh, he will also pay special attention to the welfare of the Baloch.
While highlighting the geographic and economic importance of Gwadar, Nawaz claimed credit for devising plans to construct Gwadar port in 1992 and develop the region, saying that the construction of the coastal highway linking it to Karachi was an integral part of that project.
Nawaz said that the highway, which was built at a cost of Rs21 billion, was now a national asset worth Rs220 billion, on which the government was now thinking of issuing bonds. However, he stressed that instead of utilising the amount raised against the bonds to meet the budget deficit, the money should be spent on constructing new motorways.
Taking a jibe at the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, Nawaz expressed his concerns that during the present government’s era, precious assets like motorways were being damaged through neglect. He also hit out at the National Highway Authority, claiming that it had no other task, except to loot and plunder the economy, thus the network of motorways was in the dilapidated condition today.
The PML-N chief added that he wanted to grant Gwadar a Hong Kong-like status of international acclaim, with similar laws and economic system in place to enable it to play an efficient role in the development of not only Balochistan, but the whole country. Sharif said that Balochistan was brimming with oil, gas and other natural resources, thus Gwadar’s natural deep-sea port could play a vital role in exporting these resources to the rest of the world to economically and socially benefit the whole country.
Amid the ongoing healthcare crisis in Punjab, the PML-N president is set to depart for Europe for two weeks, where he will address various events organised by overseas Pakistanis affiliated with the PML-N. His trip will take him to countries like Germany, which will host a fund-raising event for the party’s election campaign in Frankfurt in the first week of July.
On his return, Nawaz will embark on a trip to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for similar purposes.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2012.
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