Mega projects in Balochistan
President General Pervez Musharraf, during the
last week launched a number of mega development projects in
Balochistan, which once completed in the next 3 to 5 years, will usher
in a new era of economic activity and resultant prosperity in this
hitherto neglected and backward province of Pakistan. No government in
the past has focused so much on the development of Balochistan and
arranged massive amounts as the present government has done.
From Shamim Ahmed
Aug 27 - Sep 02, 2001
In the past whatever funds highly inadequate to
meet the development needs of the province, most of it was siphoned
off by the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats which is now being
amply proved by the NAB operations in the province. As a result the
fruits of development hardly reached beyond people living in a few big
cities like Quetta and Sibi. People living in the scattered rural
areas still lived in dark ages. Development projects now launched like
construction of Mekran Coastal Highway, Gwadar deep sea port, Kachi
and Miran Dam will mostly benefit the people living in such areas.
Strategically located, area-wise Balochistan is the
largest province of Pakistan, bordering with Iran, Afghanistan,
touching the hot waters of Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. Balochistan
has an area of 3,47,190 square kilometers. It is almost a wholly
mountainous area with some peaks rising upto 6,000 ft with very rich
mineral resources. As compared to other provinces, Balochistan, in
terms of population, is the smallest.
President General Pervez Musharraf last week
launched a number of mega projects in Balochistan including Mirani
Dam, 633 kilometer Gwadar-Pasni-Mekran Coastal Highway and 97
kilometer Turbat-Mand road. Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of
the Turbat-Mand road.
The Province has a vast potential of economic
development and the projects being undertaken for its development in
the field of communication are reflective of its strategic importance
as a hub for transportation link with the Central Asian States.
Similarly the Mirani Dam will not only boost the country's water
reservoirs, but will also help irrigate Balochistan lands to develop
agriculture, which is the backbone of the country's economy.
The two most important projects i.e development of
Gwadar Deepsea port and Mekran Coastal highway are to be completed
with Chinese help. The signing of an agreement by the Finance
Minister, Shaukat Aziz, during his visit to China for financial
assistance of $200 million from the Chinese government for the
construction of the first phase of the deep sea Gwadar port, signifies
a highly important step forward in the close understanding and
cooperation between Pakistan and China.
The Chinese financial and technical assistance for
this project, which will be partly in the form of soft term loans and
partly in grants, will cover the cost of the first phase of the
project while Pakistan's contribution from its own sources will be $50
million. Speedy progress will also be maintained in so far as the
commencement of the port construction is concerned which is scheduled
to take place in December this year. Thus the Gwadar port project
though highly cherished by the previous governments also, which has so
far remained in cold storage for the last several years for want of
necessary funds from foreign financial institutions will now be like a
dream come true thanks to the readiness of the Chinese friends to
provide necessary technical and financial assistance.
The Chinese government has also expressed its
willingness to extend assistance both in terms of funds and technical
assistance for the construction of Mekran Coastal Highway from Karachi
to Gwadar and from there further north to link Pakistan and
Afghanistan, and also Central Asian republics via Herat. The National
Highway Authority has already started work on this project and
completed 40 kilometers of the road from Lyarl Karachi to Ormara, in
Balochistan. The availability of funds and technical assistance from
China for the construction of this highway up to Gwadar and further
north along with an embankment on the sea coast will undoubtedly serve
as a new gateway for the promotion of economic activity in the
otherwise under-developed province of Balochistan.
The simultaneous construction of deep sea port at
Gwadar in addition to Mekran Coastal Highway is likely to change the
entire economic scenario of Balochistan coast from the existing
wilderness into a hub of bustling trade and investment activity.
Within the next three years when the first phase of the Gwadar port is
expected to be completed, Pakistan's trade with Central Asian
republics and Iran is sure to pick up momentum to the economic benefit
of the entire region. Thus the twin projects of Gwadar port and Mekran
Coastal Highway wound prove to be a vehicle for economic turn around
for this part of Pakistan.