Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif at a grand opening ceremony at the Gwadar port on Sunday marked the operationalisation and opening of trade activities at the port, a key project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). PM Nawaz while addressing a ceremony marking the departure of the first major trade cargo from Gwadar Port emphasised Pakistan’s commitment to China’s One Belt-One Road initiative. “We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring the CPEC and all the projects under its umbrella are materialised 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 bed the reservations of smaller provinces that claim the project doesn’t 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 islands of properity. 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 Rs49 billion on these projects. Next year, projects worth Rs200bn will be launched,” the PM 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. 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 Oct 29, entered Pakistan on Oct 30 and reached Gwadar on Nov 12. PM Nawaz 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 reported. 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-organised 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 brutal attack on a shrine in Balochistan’s Khuzdar area claimed at least 52 lives and injured over 100 other people. Top civil and military leadership, including Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif, Balochistan Governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai and Balochistan CM Nawab Sanaullah Zehri attended the event. Executives from Sino Trans, a Chinese logistics company, also attended the ceremony as well as ministers for defence and planning and a number of politicians, especially from Balochistan. This is the largest collection of VIPs hosted by Gwadar since it witnessed the signing of the 2009 National Finance Commission Award. Amid tight security and a stream of arriving VIPs, the first consignment of cargoes from China to depart from the Pakistani port arrived at Gwadar on Saturday. All day long, a stream of trucks of different sizes lined up outside the port to be individually scanned before being ushered in.