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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 Rizvi,
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.