In a groundswell of support for Balochistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced on Thursday a massive infrastructure development package worth up to Rs18 billion to address the sense of deprivation felt by the people of the province.
Initiating three highway projects during his visit to Quetta, the prime minister pledged that the government would accelerate and maximise all development projects in the province.
Some Rs8 billion has already been earmarked for the completion of the Gwadar-Rato Dero and Khuzdar-Naag highways, which are scheduled for completion within a year. Another 10 billion rupees will be allocated for the Kalat-Chaman project, the premier said.
Travelling to Quetta Cantt via army helicopter, the premier spoke at the Corps Headquarters, saying security forces were playing their role to ensure peace and stability in the province.
He discussed steps for improvement in the law and order situation with the provincial authorities and the military leadership. At the same time, he advised the civil and military leadership to devise a common strategy for the country’s security and the safety of the people.
PM Nawaz paid tribute to the martyrs of the army, Frontier Corps, police and district administration while laying a floral wreath at Yadgar-e-Shuhada. His visit came in the wake of an attack that left 21 pilgrims dead in Mastung earlier this month and the prime minister expressed grief over the attacks, adding that travel arrangements for the devotees by air and sea were under consideration.
The problem of terrorism, he said, is not confined to Balochistan and the government is determined to eliminate acts of terrorism and sectarianism across the country at all cost.
Earlier, Commander Southern Command Lieutenant General Nasser Khan Janjua briefed the PM on the province’s law and order situation. Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Balochistan Governor Mohammad Khan Achakzai, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch and federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan were also present on the occasion as well as Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party Chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, National Party leader Mir Hasil Khan Bezinjo, Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad, IG Mushtaq Sukhera and Frontier Corps IG Major General Aijaz Shahid.
Meeting with parliamentarians from the province, the prime minister announced that 90 per cent of the benefits of the Pak-China Economic Corridor would be funnelled into Balochistan in the form of employment and other economic opportunities. Addressing the province’s energy woes, he said that studies to determine the feasibility of solar power projects in the province’s rural areas were being carried out.
“This programme will address power shortage problem for the domestic consumers, while providing sufficient power for agricultural purposes.” He also directed that Hajj flights be initiated from Quetta.
He expressed his desire to meet with the province’s youth in connection with the Youth Business Loan Scheme, saying, “I assure the youth of Balochistan that their right in this scheme will not be shared with any other province.”
Three highway projects – the Kalat-Quetta-Chaman N-25 highway project, Surab-Khushab N-35 project and Gwadar-Turbat-Khushab N-8 project – were initiated in a ground-breaking ceremony at the Governor House.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2014.