AS Gwadar Port becomes fully functional – thanks to the commitment of China Overseas Port Holding Company Limited (COPHC) which is developing the region’s most strategically well located port into a hub of maritime trade in the whole region, including landlocked Central Asian Region (CAR), in general and of Pakistan in particular, Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated several projects of far reaching importance on Monday that would go a long way to exploit the full potential of the port.
During his day-long visit to Gwadar, he also announced the intention of the Government to engage estranged elements in Balochistan as part of the efforts to create a congenial atmosphere for accelerated socio-economic progress of the region and the province.
The importance of Gwadar Port and its potential has been highlighted by an assessment of the COPHC, which says “Being a Deep Sea Port and because of its location it will be a gateway and hub of world businesses and trades and will cater for all types of international commercial activities generated from one business to another irrespective of quantity, quantum and magnitude”.
The potential has been there but the pace of its exploitation remained criminally low because of various reasons but things started to change in 2013 when COPHC took over the command of the port and Gwadar Free Zone.
It is also satisfying that the Government too is demonstrating the right kind of interest to prioritize multi-dimensional development of Gwadar, which is evident from the projects that the Prime Minister unveiled during his visit.
Apart from performing the groundbreaking of phase two of the Gwadar Free Zone (GFZ), he launched a number of other development and infrastructure projects including an expo centre, agriculture industrial park and three factories.
In a related development, Chairman CPEC Authority shared a piece of good news when he said in a video message that work for Iran’s trade through Gwadar Port was in progress and it would start soon, a step further towards making the port a regional hub of trade and investment. A latest report speaks volumes about progress made in the all-round development of Gwadar.
The new international airport is under construction, the connection with the national power grid is in advanced stages of completion, dams for increased water supply have been built, Eastern Expressway is nearly complete and a number of socioeconomic projects for the people of Gwadar and nearby areas are being implemented.
The development of Gwadar would remain deficient if necessary facilities are not provided and needs and demands of the local population are not addressed in a satisfactory manner.
With this in view, agreements have been signed for solarization and a desalination plant to solve the problems of Gwadar related to water and electricity.
The PM, therefore, rightly pointed out that the “future of Gwadar” was being witnessed through the water and energy projects underway as well as the new international airport being constructed there which would connect Gwadar to other areas.
He also announced a number of initiatives to promote human development such as a technical college, a hospital, university, cheap loans for farmers and poor households and a programme for uplifting of Gwadar’s fishermen.
As Gwadar was one of the backward regions of the country, locals, whose livelihood was linked to fishing, felt threatened as they were at a disadvantageous position as for as modern fishing facilities are concerned and their concerns have adequately been addressed with the announcement of the Prime Minister that there would be complete ban on entry of foreign fishing trawlers in Pakistan’s water to protect interests of locals.
The next step should be to equip them with modern fishing boats and trawlers and impart them necessary training that could not only lead to enhanced income for them but a meaningful increase in export of fish from Pakistan.
As investors are demonstrating greater interest to come to Gwadar, the Government appropriately decided to serve them in a better manner through a one-window operation that would encourage more investors to come to free zones and set up plants and industries which could contribute to exports.
The decision that the PM Office would directly and regularly monitor all progress on development projects in Gwadar on a monthly basis is a step in the right direction that would help accelerate the pace of implementation and remove bottlenecks, if any, in a timely manner.
The plan to engage estranged elements has been there since long but faced road-blocks in the past.
Prospects for its success are bright this time round as both the PTI Government and the military leadership are on the same page on different issues, therefore, the dialogue should be initiated without loss of further time.