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Planning minister promises SEZ for G-B region

ISLAMABAD: The government on Monday reassured that a special economic zone would be established in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) after it initially ignored the region in its planning for the execution of the $46 billion project.

In the first phase, special economic zones would be established in all the provinces including G-B and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, said Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning and Development, on Monday. He was addressing the concluding session of a four-day debate contest on Pakistan Vision 2025.

The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) organised the contest.

Under the CPEC, the government has planned 27 special economic zones in various parts of the country. One site for a special economic zone in G-B, measuring 2,000 kanals, for mining and food processing would be developed.

Initially, the government had not allocated funds for setting up projects in the Gilgit region out of $46 billion Chinese investment. This created resentment among local people and now the government has assured them that a zone for industrial activities will be set up there.

The minister said the CPEC would equally benefit the most backward areas of Pakistan. It would not only connect 200 million people of the country, rather it would open several avenues of cooperation for the people, communities and states across the region, he added.

CPEC’s impact

The minister said under the CPEC, Gwadar would not just be a port city but would also become the centre of socio-economic activities for the local people. He said over $1.6 billion would be invested under early harvest projects including a modern airport, motorways, water, power, health, education and related projects in Gwadar.

Besides building the seaport, airport and expressway, a hospital and a technical and vocational training institute will also be constructed in the port city.

“Gwadar will be connected to other parts of the country by the end of this year as work on the western route of Gwadar to Quetta road and Gwadar-Khuzdar-Ratodero section is continuing on a fast track basis.” He said DI Khan to Burhan section would be completed by June 2018.

Earlier, Iqbal chaired the concluding session of the national debate contest in which teams discussed different aspects of the seven pillars of Vision 2025. In English debate, the University College Lahore won and LUMS was the runner up. In Urdu debate, Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences won while FAST Lahore was the runner up.

More than twenty-five universities participated in both English and Urdu debate on Vision 2025. Iqbal termed the youth of Pakistan emerging leaders of future, saying the vibrant youth had immense potential to project the country’s positive image.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2016.

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