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Complete the Gwadar Port First

Mian Shahbaz Sharif, the Punjab Chief Minister, was the first politician from Punjab who exposed the real designs of military dictator General ® Pervez Musharraf on the issue of Gwadar. He had rightly said that the General deliberately left the Gwadar Deep Water Port Project incomplete and by designs to keep Pakistan in a deeper economic crisis and for a prolonged period. While addressing a huge crowd on inauguration of Shalimar Interchange near Lahore the other day, he said the General could have completed the Gwadar Deep Water Port by spending a couple of billion of US dollars and could have made it operational on commercial basis earning huge foreign exchange for the country. He could have done by building the railway line and the highway connecting Gwadar Port with the Central Asian countries, through Afghanistan, and via Rato Dero (Indus) Highway with rest of northern Pakistan.

He merely built three berths at the Gwadar Port and without proper infrastructure to make it operational. In a way, the military dictator willfully kept Pakistan in a deeper financial and economic crisis denying sizable earnings from the Gwadar Port as transshipment port meeting the requirements of the landlocked countries of Central Asia, including Afghanistan. We wrote on the same line on various occasions asking the rulers, both past and present, to complete the Gwadar Port first and make it operational on commercial basis. Ironically, construction of Airport at Gwadar started nine years after the groundbreaking ceremony of Gwadar Deep Water Port. It was a willful delay on the part of the Pakistani establishment so that the Gwadar Port should not be functional in foreseeable future.

The Chinese Premier could not pay a visit to Gwadar and participate in the inauguration of the Gwadar Port as Special Plane of the Chinese Premier could not land at Gwadar Airport as its runway was not of the required length. It was the greatest embarrassment to the Government of Pakistan when the Chinese Premier could not participate in the ceremonies. When Mian Raza Rabbani read out the draft of Balochistan Package on behalf of the Prime Minister and on the floor of the Joint Session of the Parliament, he had mixed up Gwadar Development Authority with Gwadar Port Authority (GPA). As written in the draft announcement, the Balochistan Chief Minister was made Chairman of the Gwadar Development Authority, a department of the Provincial Government.

It was the level of interest of the decision-makers at the highest level in the Federal Government. Even a wrong announcement was made on floor of the joint sessions of the Parliament. After weeks, the Federal Government had corrected the announcement at the Federal Cabinet meeting in which Balochistan Chief Minister was made Chairman of the GPA. The demand from the people is handing over entire control to the Balochistan Government and the Central Government should surrender all its rights in the field of ports and shipping. Balochistan Government should be the owner with all powers from the Central Government to procure economic, financial and technical assistance from the world over to complete the project with its decent and modern infrastructure. At present, it is incomplete and without the needed infrastructure. The Punjab Chief Minister ridiculed the Central Government decision to divert the Karachi-bound cargo first to Gwadar Port and later bring back the same cargo to Karachi.

The Singapore Port Authority had failed to honour its commitment and did not make significant investment in building its infrastructure. There is a strong section of people within the Government of Balochistan seeking cancellation of the agreement with the SPA and taking control of the Gwadar Port on the pattern of Reko Dik Copper and Gold Project.

It will be the first step of the Government of Balochistan to take over Gwadar Port and its all operations. The Government should give top priority to completing the entire project first so that it is made operational on commercial basis. The international firms and multi-national companies should use the Gwadar port facilities at their own earning huge economies and benefits from its strategic location. The Musharraf regime had already delayed the project for a decade or more and the Balochistan Government should prevail upon the Central Government to complete it by building the railroad network connecting Gwadar Port with rest of the world, including Afghanistan. Independent economists hoped that Gwadar will cater the needs of all the landlocked Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan, in providing transit trade facilities to the whole world saving time and money for being in proximity with its strategic location.

The Government can earn billions of dollars a year by facilitating transit trade to the landlocked countries as Gwadar got the potentials to be the first and prime mother port of the region outmatching Salalah in Sultanate of Oman and Dubai in UAE. (Courtesy: Daily Balochistan Express)

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