AJK CPEC projects being brought back on track, Corona Virus not to affect implementation pace; Masood Khan
Sardar Masood Khan, President Azad Jammu and Kashmir, has said that the AJK has been integrated into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) but the progress on three out of four projects has slowed down. "Joint efforts are being made by the governments of AJK and Pakistan to put them back on track and pick up the pace", he said.
The President made these remarks while launching a report "CPEC in Azad Jammu and Kashmir - A Gateway to Connectivity and Beyond", authored by Sabur Ali Sayyed of the Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms (CPDR). The report was launched at the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Muzaffarabad.
President AJK said that the 720 MW Karot hydropower project is near completion and initial planning has been done for the Mansehra-Mirpur motorway, running across AJK, 1124 MW Kohala hydropower project and a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Mirpur.
Sardar Masood Khan said that the Corona Virus epidemic will not slow down the implementation of CPEC projects. What was requires, he said, was the speeding up of internal decision-making processes.
President Masood Khan also revealed that feasibility of an alternate CPEC route starting from Mustagh Pass and running through to Shigar to Astore to Shounter to -Neelum is also being explored. Such a route, he said, will bring Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK closer and will pass through the territory of AJK. “Our major challenge is the construction of the Shounter Tunnel”, he said.
The President said that AJK has come a long way from where it was in 1947. "In 1947, there were hardly any roads, schools, colleges and hospitals, but today AJK has five public sector universities, scores of post graduate colleges, three medical colleges, two Cadet Colleges, thousands of primary and secondary educational institutions”, he said.
President Masood highlighted that with the highest literacy rate in all of Pakistan, an educational, scientific and technological revolution was unfolding in AJK. “Graduates of these educational institutions will not only run CPEC projects but will also take the whole of AJK to higher levels of manufacturing, corporate services and high tech, innovative start-ups. The fertile landscape of AJK is ripe for that kind of transformation", he added.
Recalling the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres' recent statement in Pakistan that the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir should have the same sort of civil liberties and fundamental freedoms as enjoyed in AJK, the President said that the Government was focusing on the rule of law and good governance which provides an ideal environment for entrepreneurship and business ventures.
"CPEC is a supplement and not a substitute for AJK's multifaceted economic development. Azad Kashmir's growing human capital is its biggest asset which is driving its growth”, he said adding that CPEC should be fully understood and technical studies should be conducted to prepare the ground for the success of Azad Kashmir projects under its rubric.
President Masood Khan said that AJK would be fully integrated into CPEC when it would participate in people to people contacts with China, promotion of tourism, development of agriculture, especially floriculture/horticulture, and establishment of vocational training institutions.
The President lauded the efforts of CPDR and the author and endorsed the six recommendations for CPEC advocacy, non-politicisation, the building of a dry port and an airport in Mirpur, addressing the environmental concerns of the people of Muzaffarabad in connection to the Neelum-Jehlum and Kohala hydropower projects and exploring AJK's linkages with Central Asia and China.
On this occasion, Vice Chancellor Prof Dr. Kaleem Abbasi, CPDR Chairman Zulfiqar Abbasi, CPDR Executive Director Ershad Mahmood and Chief Planning AJK P&D Jamil Ahmad Khan and Report author Sabur Ali Sayyed addressed the students and faculty who attended the launch.
The President especially commended the highly professional and substantive report researched and written by Sabur Ali Sayyed and complimented Samina Sabir for her able stewardship of the CPEC Centre at the University of AJK