Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday inaugurated a project for the realignment of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) at Attabad barrier lake.
“Development projects will usher in a new era of prosperity for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan,” he said during his day-long visit to the region. A 24-kilometre stretch of KKH, which was constructed by China at a cost of Rs27.5 billion alongside the lake in Hunza Valley, includes five seven-kilometre-long Pak-China Friendship Tunnels, two big and 78 small bridges.
The tunnels were constructed by the China Road and Bridge Corporation in collaboration with Pakistan’s National Highway Authority over a period of three years and two months, re-establishing Pakistan’s land route severed by a landslide in January 2010.
At least 19 people had died in the landslide that blocked the flow of the Hunza River, forming what is now called Attabad lake.
China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong and G-B Governor Barjees Tahir and Chief Minister Hafeezur Rahman were also present on the occasion. Premier Nawaz welcomed Ambassador Sun to G-B and touted the region as a significant part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
He said that after completion, the corridor would provide north-south and south-north connectivity. “Chinese products would reach Gwadar in the shortest possible time, and access to warm waters would ensure speedy and uninterrupted economic activity in the extended region.”
The Gwadar port would be developed as a state-of-the-art facility, he said, adding that a modern airport was also being built there to attract investment. He thanked the Chinese government for extending support for materialising the trade corridor project. Earlier, addressing the G-B Legislative Assembly in Gilgit, Premier Nawaz urged its members to ensure transparency in financial matters. “Do make expenditures, but with honesty.”
He asked Chief Minister Rahman to supervise the projects himself. “A lot of money has been spent in the past, but not in a transparent manner.” The premier said Rahman had proposed some major projects for the region, including Gilgit-Naltar, and Gilgit-Skardu roads, a cardiology hospital, a hydroelectric project, a sewerage project for Gilgit, a tourist resort at Attabad lake and Shigar road. “These are all important projects and we shall continue to support Rahman.”
He assured the chief minister and the members of the G-B Assembly that the federal government would give due consideration to their demands and extend full support in realising these projects.
PM Nawaz asked the regional government to take steps for further promoting tourism in G-B, which, he said, drew more than 500,000 tourists this summer. “The tourism sector of G-B has immense potential.”
He also said a security force would be created for deployment between Gilgit and Mansehra.
Authorities in G-B are determined to change the fate of the region, according to him. “The federal government gives equal importance to all provinces and regions, and would strengthen the G-B administration by enabling it to serve the public by ameliorating the economic outlook of the region.”
On CM Rahman’s request, the premier also approved an increase in the ceiling of the G-B government to approve projects at their own level from Rs400 million to Rs750 million.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2015.