Gwadar, November 13 (Dawn): Pakistan Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif on Sunday inaugurated the Chinese-build US$ 46 billion Gwadar port in the Balochistan province of Pakistan, in the presence of the Pakistan army chief Gen.Raheel Sharif Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong and other dignitaries.
In his speech to mark the departure of the first major trade cargo from Port, Sharif emphasised Pakistan’s commitment to China’s One Belt-One Road initiative of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is part.
“We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring the CCPEC and all the projects under its umbrella materialize within the given time,” he said.
“This idea was conceived only two years ago, and this day marks the breaking of the dawn of a new era.”
“CPEC is for entire Pakistan and no region or province will be left out of it,” the PM said, in an apparent attempt at putting to an end reservations of smaller provinces that the project does not benefit them.
“The newly-constructed roads in Balochistan have opened up new areas that were inaccessible and deprived of development… and have brought peace to a volatile region,” the Premier said.
“The government of Balochistan and the Army have been successful in making the local population a stakeholder in development.Development can never be sustainable if it creates only islands of prosperity. It must reach the lives of those who have remained mired in a trap of poverty and backwardness,” he said.
The One Belt-One Road project integrates development of various regions, he said, adding that it integrates with Pakistan’s Vision 2025 which seeks to transform Pakistan into a hub of trade and commerce, harnessing its geo-strategic location into a geo-economic advantage.
“The government has spent Pakistan Rs 49 billion (US$ 467.3 million) on these projects. Next year, projects worth Pak Rs 200 billion (US$ 1.9 billion) will be launched,” the Prime Minister said.
CPEC will help integrate South Asia, China and Central Asia and offer opportunities for people in this region, and investors all over the world, he said.
The Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Asim Bajwa earlier tweeted that the first mega trade convoy of containers had arrived from China and will be loaded onto ships.
The trade convoy departed from Kashgar, China, on October 29, entered Pakistan on October 30 and reached Gwadar on November 12. Prime Minister Sharif termed the arrival of the convoy ‘a watershed event’.
Chinese vessels were ready at Gwadar Port for shipment of Chinese goods to Middle East and African countries, Radio Pakistan said.
The route used to bring the goods to Gwadar is objected to by India as it transits territory which was once a part of Kashmir. It was forcibly taken by Pakistan in a short war in 1948.
Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong told the ceremony today: “This the first time that a trade convoy successfully passed through the western part of Pakistan from the north to the south. It proves the connectivity of the local roads and the realisation of the concept of one corridor with multiple passages.”
“This is the first time that the Gwadar port is exporting containers to overseas destinations. It proves the port has restored it designed handling capacity,” he said.
“This is also the first time that Pakistan and China co-organized a trade convoy through Pakistan to Gwadar port.”
Balochistan Chief Minister (CM) Nawab Sanaullah Zehri addressing the ceremony said, “Due to the government’s hectic efforts, the active participation of our security forces and all-out cooperation fo the people of Balochistan, we have succeeded in curbing anti-state elements, and the law and order situation has improved.”
Zehri’s claims come a day after a terrorist blast killed 52 people and injured over 100 at a Sufi shrine in the Kuzdar area.