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In the fast lane: Nawaz wants China-Pak Economic Corridor ready by 2018

ISLAMABAD: 

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is fast tracking all infrastructure projects related to the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), signalling to officials that they were working on a strict end of 2017 deadline.

The premier issued the instruction while presiding over a meeting on Monday to review progress on the Gwadar East Bay Expressway, Mughalkot-DI Khan Road and various other road projects under the corridor project in Balochistan.

Pakistan and China had earlier this year finalised deals worth $46 billion for infrastructure and energy projects under the corridor from Gwadar in Balochistan to Kashgar in China.

Read: Economic corridor: Pak, China to establish tech school

“The completion of road projects in Balochistan under the CPEC would be a game changer for the region,” an official handout released after the meeting quoted the PM as saying. The meeting also reviewed the Havelian-Thakot Road project and other sections of the Karakoram Highway that are being upgraded.

Premier Nawaz was told that the major sections of the Peshawar-Karachi Motorway, including the Sukkur- Multan, Gojra-Khanewal and Lahore- Abdul Hakim portions, were ready for groundbreaking.

He directed that all necessary arrangements be completed before the inauguration so that construction is started right away.

The PM, who is expected to inaugurate the Attabad tunnel in Gilgit in the last week of August, also directed the authorities to complete the work on the new Gwadar International Airport as early as possible.

The army has employed 11 units of the Frontier Works Organisation to connect Gwadar port with major roads in the other provinces. Last week, army chief General Raheel Sharif also visited Panjgur and Turbat in Balochistan to inspect the under-construction road network.

The military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations, said the construction of 870km roads was under way simultaneously at five different locations, out of which 502km in Balochistan had been completed already.

The PM was also briefed about the ongoing upgrade of 10 railway stations on the Peshawar-Karachi main railway line. He called for providing the best possible facilities to passengers and for utilising the buildings of railway stations for economic and commercial activities.

Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Secretary Hassan Nawaz Tarar, and Water and Power Secretary Muhammad Younus Dagha among other senior officers attended the meeting.

Read: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor ‘unacceptable’, Modi tells China

The insurgency-hit province of Balochistan has been a major source of concern for the project decided upon in April during the landmark visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Pakistan. More than 50 agreements were signed to inaugurate the corridor expected to create a new network of roads, railways and pipelines linking China’s restive west to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan.

Soon after the inauguration of the project, the military had announced setting up a 10,000-strong force especially for the protection of the schemes under the CPEC and the Chinese workers and engineers working on them.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2015.

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