MUZAFFARABAD, Feb 18 (APP):Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) President Sardar Masood Khan Tuesday said said the progress on three out of four projects launched under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) had slowed down, and the Pakistan and AJK governments were making joint efforts to put them back on track.
Sardar Masood 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), here at the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, an official statement said.
CPDR Chairman Zulfiqar Abbasi and Executive Director Sardar Ershad Mahmood, Chief Planning AJK P&D Jamil Ahmad Khan, Sardar Sabur Ali and Vice Chancellor Prof Dr. Kaleem Abbasi also addressed the students and faculty who attended the launch.
The AJK president said the 720 MW Karot hydropower project was near completion, while initial planning for the Mansehra-Mirpur Motorway, 1124 MW Kohala hydropower project and a special economic zone (SEZ) in Mirpur had been made.
He said the coronavirus epidemic would not slow down the implementation of CPEC projects. There was need to speed up internal decision-making processes.
Sardar Masood revealed that the feasibility of an alternate CPEC route starting from Mustagh Pass and running through to Shigar to Astore to Shounter to -Neelum was also being explored. Such a route, he said, would bring Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK closer.
“Our major challenge is the construction of the Shounter Tunnel,” he said.
The president said the AJK had 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.”
President Masood highlighted that with the highest literacy rate in all of Pakistan, an educational, scientific and technological revolution was unfolding in the 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.”
Recalling 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 the AJK, Sardar Masood said the government was focusing on the rule of law and good governance, which provided 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 the 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.
He 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.
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.