Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday inaugurated the western corridor of the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as he broke ground on upgradation of two vital arteries, Zhob-Mughal Kot (N-50) and Qila Saifullah-Wagum (N-70).
The projects are part of the western alignment of the CPEC, which is a network of roads and rail links that will connect China’s impoverished Xinjiang region to the Arabian Sea via Gwadar deep seaport in Balochistan. The 81-kilometre long Zhob-Mughal Kot road and the 126-kilometre long Qila Saifullah-Wagum road will be completed in 2018 at respective costs of Rs8.80 billion and Rs7.50 billion.
Addressing a huge gathering after performing the ground-breaking, the prime minister said Rs150 billion to Rs200billion would be spent in the next three to four years in Balochistan for alleviating its backwardness. “There is no precedent in the history of Balochistan that construction work on a massive roads network is initiated on such a fast track,” he said.
He added that the uplift of the province was a top priority of his government as it would benefit the entire country.
“The project will open up trade and business opportunities for the whole region and help in alleviating backwardness of the province. Soon, there will be the dawn of prosperity of which Balochistan fast track,” he said. He added that the uplift of the province was a top priority of his government as it would benefit the entire country.
“The project will open up trade and business opportunities for the whole region and help in alleviating backwardness of the province. Soon, there will be the dawn of prosperity of which Balochistan will be the major source of fast-track progress,” he said.
Premier Nawaz said the upgrading of these roads would be completed within the next two years besides completion of a 2,428km roads network, linking other provinces with Balochistan.
Enumerating the CEPC projects in the province, he said the 194km Gwadar-Khushab road would be inaugurated next month whereas 454km Khushab-Panjgur-Basima road and 243km Khuzdar-Wanguhil-Shahdad Kot road would also be completed by next year. “All these projects are funded by the government of Pakistan out of its Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP),” he added.
The prime minister praised the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) director general, Maj Gen Muhammad Afzal, and the National Highway Authority (NHA) chairman, Shahid Ashraf Tarrar, for their hard work and commitment.
He also referred to Kalat-Quetta-Chaman and Kharan Phase-1 roads which would be completed next year, adding that feasibility of Zhob-Jandola road was being done.
He expressed the hope that all political parties would collectively work for national prosperity and against terrorism and play their due part for the durable peace and prosperity.
Earlier, upon his arrival at the Zhob airport, the prime minister was accorded a warm welcome by Balochistan Governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai and Chief Minister Sanaullah Khan Zehri. The provincial chief secretary, inspector general of police and other senior officials were also present on the occasion.
Premier Nawaz was accompanied by senior political leaders, including JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, National Party President Mir Hasil Khan Bezinjo, ANP leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain, PML-Q leader Mushahid Hussain Sayed and National Security Adviser Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Janjua.
Earlier, the provincial leaders of the ruling PML-N issued a statement, welcoming the prime minister. They said the prime minister had fulfilled his promise of launching great development projects for Balochistan. “The CPEC will bring progress and prosperity in the region,” the statement said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2015.