Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Sunday said the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) had become a reality with starting off the first shipment of trade cargo from the Gwadar Port to international destinations. Terming the arrival of the first trade convoy at Gwadar Port ‘a watershed event’, the Prime Minister said the CPEC project, conceived by the leadership of China and Pakistan, had materialised, bringing a dawn of immense trade and commerce opportunities for the whole region.
Addressing a ceremony of the launching of the first mega pilot trade cargo, he said Pakistan was a proud partner of China and assured that his government would leave no stone unturned to complete all the development projects under the aegis of CPEC on time.
He underscored the significance of the political stability and said the CPEC was a leapfrog in this regard. The Prime Minister said the CPEC was a national programme and its enemies were the enemies of Pakistan and China.
He said the CPEC also manifested the desire of the leadership of two countries for shared prosperity through a broader and solid cooperation. He also lauded the Chinese President for his vision of regional prosperity which coincided with Pakistan’s vision of development of 2020. He said President Xi’s vision of shared prosperity through greater connectivity was need of the hour in the conflict ridden and increasing polarised world.
The CPEC was the fusion of Chinese President’s concept of ‘one belt and one road’ project which came as integrating the trade and commerce activities of various regional countries through enhanced connectivity, thus transforming Pakistan into a major hub of trade and commerce, he added. The Prime Minister said Pakistan enjoyed the unique geo-strategical location, standing at the crossroads of three major engines of growth, including South Asia, China and the Central Asia, and changing fate of three billion people of the region and in future would serve as the hub of a major trade zone.
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Rashad Mahmood, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zakaullah Khan, federal ministers Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Ahsan Iqbal and Abdul Qadir Baloch, Advisor on National Security Nasir Khan Janjua, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, a number of ambassadors, FWO officials, Chinese dignitaries, Sino Trans company officials, members of provincial assemblies, notables and elders were present on the occasion.
The Prime Minister said today they had gathered to witness the dream of CPEC turning into reality and further strengthening of bilateral ties between the two countries that stood the test of times.
He reiterated that the CPEC was going to be a reality and would open a world of opportunities for both the countries and the region. Terming the Gwadar Port a ‘jewel in the CPEC crown’, he expressed the confidence that due to its geo-strategic prime location, it would play a pivotal role in future trade and cargo activities. He said the vision of exclusive and sustained development must reach to those who had been mired in poverty and backwardness and in that regard, the CPEC would provide benefits to the all the under-developed areas of the country, including Balochistan, KPK, FATA, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan. He assured that no area of the country would be deprived of the fruits of prosperity from various CPEC development projects. He expressed the hope that with the execution of various development projects, bilateral relations between China and Pakistan would reach further heights. He said a new era of prosperity had not only ushered in Balochistan but also spanned the length and breadth of the country.
The Prime Minister said the construction of new roads had brought peace and prosperity in the province linking the major coastline of the country, which had been erstwhile virtually inaccessible due to lack of road network. He said the government and the armed forces rendered efforts to make local people as the main stakeholders of the project, adding faces of residents would now gleam with prosperity.
He said the federal government was spending Rs 74 billion for numerous development projects in the province whereas projects, including Khuzdar-Quetta and D I Khan road dualization, worth Rs 200 billion would be launched soon. He lauded the services of Frontier Works Organization (FWO) for the operationalizing of Gwadar Port by laying three major road networks through the rough and difficult terrains of the province over which the federal government spent Rs 49 billion. He paid tribute to the brave 40 FWO men who laid down their lives in the construction of the road projects.
The Prime Minister also commended the personal support and indulgence of the Chief of Army Staff and Balochistan Chief Minister for executing the development projects, adding the maritime security was being looked after by the Pakistan Navy.
He announced that Khuzdar-Gwadar-Ratodero road would be made operational in 2017 whereas Chaman-Khyber road had been rehabilitated. The federal government, he said, had allocated land for the Free Trade Zones whereas a project worth Rs 25 billion was being executed for the development of Gwadar city, keeping in view its importance. The federal government had given a free hand to the provincial government in that regard that designed the project, considering Gwadar’s basic requirements, he said.
The provincial government was implementing the project and the resources were being provided by the federal government, he added. The Prime Minister said his government was pursuing uniform development policies for the whole country and endeavouring to preserve harmony in the socio-economic uplift of the people.
He said an amount of Rs 11.5 billion was being spent for the clean drinking water supply to Gwadar. In that regard, Shadi Kaur dam was completed whereas work on Basol dam was underway.
The existing 50-bed hospital, he said, was being upgraded to 300-bed facility, while a university, and a technical and vocational training institute were also being set up in Gwadar to produce required manpower.
He said under the CPEC, the government had prioritised energy and road infrastructure. To meet the electricity needs, a 300-megawatt power plant was being installed in Gwadar, he added. The Prime Minister said the government had already allocated land for the Gwadar Free Trade Zone with special concessions. Moreover, he said, the projects of Exclusive Industrial Park Processing Zone and Mineral Economic Zone were also being executed on priority basis. Referring to the tragic terrorist attack at Shah Noorani shrine, the Prime Minister said their hearts were saddened and their thoughts and sympathies were with the families of the victims.
Such cowardly attacks, he resolved, could not weaken their determination to completely eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country. He said the Operation Zarb-e-Azb had broken the back of terrorists with countless sacrifices by the personnel of armed forces. He said they would not rest till Pakistan was brought back to the Quaid’s vision where all people, irrespective of their religion, race or ethnicity, lived in harmony.
Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Khan Zehri termed the event a landmark development towards operationalization of the CPEC for which he commended the Prime Minister and the Chief of Army Staff for their dedication.
He said the Free Trade Zone had been established whereas exemptions in the customs and taxes were granted. With the support of security institutions and people of the province, his government succeeded in curbing the anti-state elements and improving the law and order, he added. He expressed the hope that massive development projects would usher in socio-economic uplift of the area. The land route in future would increase massive vehicular traffic, besides generating huge revenue, he said, adding the CPEC would provide a rare fate changer reality for the people of Balochistan and Pakistan.
Speaking on the occasion, FWO Director General Major General Muhammad Afzal said the first pilot trade convoy had reached Gwadar after covering a distance of 3000 Kms from Kashghar. He said under the concept of modern times maritime trade activities, the CPEC would usher in socio-economic transformation of the whole region. Terming the CPEC a classical example of the time-tested bilateral ties between the two countries, the FWO DG said the CPEC would be a harbinger of socio-economic uplift of the three billion people of the region in which Gwadar would have the pivotal role as it would serve as the shortest and economically viable trade route. He said it was the legacy of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, who, after taking over the command of armed forces of Pakistan, initiated the operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorism, thus ultimately making possible the commencement of the mega project.
He said the personnel of the armed forces had rendered countless sacrifices for realising that dream into reality and making it a successful story of ‘toil, sweat and blood’. The FWO DG also lauded General Raheel’s personal indulgence and devotion in the completion of development projects.
Major General Muhammad Afzal said the Prime Minister’s patronage was vital for the realisation of the project. He said Pakistan army provided security to the trade convoy from China to Gwadar and would ensure security of all the trade routes in future.
He thanked the Sino-Trans, a Chinese company, for lending help and cooperation to the FWO and said the synergy among all the stakeholders proved to be a catalyst in operationalizing the port.
Executive member of the Sino Trans company, in his remarks, said the completion of the CPEC would have far reaching effects upon all the countries of the region.
Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong conveyed the warm felicitations on behalf of the Chinese government to the Pakistani nation and the government on the commencement of first trade cargo. He said it was a significant development as for the first time, a trade convoy had passed through the western route to the south and north of the country, showing the greater connectivity. It proved the capacity of the port to handle the shipment of the trade cargo to international destinations, he added.
Weidong said it was ‘the win-win opportunity’ for both the countries and commended the security and law enforcement agencies for providing security to the convoy. He said about 60 different projects of the CPEC were under construction, creating jobs for the tens of thousands of local people. A new beginning of journey had started, the giant ship of CPEC would break the wind and embark on the global destinations, he added. Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif presented a souvenir to the Prime Minister.
A duet was also presented by the Pakistani and Chinese singers to celebrate the occasion.