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May 1, 2021

I made mistakes while awarding tickets: PM Imran Khan

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May 1, 2021

GILGIT: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday admitted to making “many mistakes” in the past when it came to awarding tickets for elections.

“I have made many mistakes in giving tickets in the past and often think about these,” he said while unveiling a development package for Gilgit Baltistan worth Rs370 billion here at a ceremony. “But the CM (Khalid Khurshid) is the right choice,” he added.

The Gilgit Baltistan development package was announced with special focus on boosting tourism by enhancing road and aerial connectivity, power supply and upgradation of education and health facilities.

“This Rs370 billion package for five years is just a beginning. We will be assisting you more as you require,” the prime minister said. “I predict, if you properly take care of tourism, you will no more need money from the Centre, rather we will seek funds from you. You cannot imagine as how blessed you are?”

He was accompanied by Minister for Planning Asad Umar, Kashmir Affairs Minister Ali Amin Gandapur and SAPMs Dr Sania Nishtar and Zulfiqar Bukhari. Prime Minister Imran Khan, who earlier unveiled plaques to inaugurate and kick off multiple projects under the development package, said he had been awaiting such a package for GB.

He also appreciated Asad Umar for designing a mix of projects under the PSDP and Public Private Partnership keeping in view the affordability of the federal government. He said despite financial constraints owing to a huge debt burden, the federal government had approved a package of Rs370 billion for GB, where he had been visiting since his school age.

The uplift package consists of hydel projects, new roads and Babusar Tunnel, scholarships and skills training for youth, upgradation of health and education facilities, water and sanitation schemes, promotion of SMEs and expansion of airports — particularly the Skardu airport to cater international flights.

He said having visited Austria and Switzerland, he had found Gilgit Baltistan as the most beautiful region in the world, also admitted by his foreigner friends. The prime minister said the previous rulers showed blithe lack of concern towards GB's development as they used to visit London for vacations where they their children live and have the properties as well.

However, he said the PTI government decided to exploit the potential of the region, particularly in tourism. Drawing a comparison between Pakistan and Switzerland, the prime minister said the latter earned around $60-$80 billion just from tourism which was far higher than Pakistan’s total exports of $25 billion.

He said the development of Gilgit Baltistan would not only change the living standard of the locals but would also bring in foreign exchange for the country. Appreciating GB Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid for his passion to serve his people, Imran Khan expressed satisfaction over his decision of nominating him for the slot.

He told the gathering that GB is an attractive destination for both summer and winter tourism. In summer, it will attract the locals while for winter, it is a suitable site for skiing which is also a major revenue source for Switzerland.

However, the prime minister repeatedly instructed the GB government not to compromise town planning and environmental protection while executing the projects as it could prove counterproductive.

Imran Khan said as the area remained disconnected, it helped the locals build a good community system which would also help the enforcement of bylaws for tourism as well as town planning.

Calling it another step towards provincial status, the prime minister said the incumbent government had decided to let the GB government make its own decisions, doing away with a decades old practice of overseeing the affairs from Islamabad. He said an impression was created that the GB people were incapable to run their affairs which provided an excuse of controlling the affairs from the federal capital.

The prime minister viewed that a society lacking rule of law could never prosper. He said people involved in petty financial crimes only inflicted loss to individuals but the big plunders caused damage to the whole country through money laundering, which consequently caused inflation and poverty.

Speaking about the National Accountability Bureau, Imran Khan said the NAB has been around for the past 20 years, but the anti-graft institution initiated operations against the powerful during the PTI-led government and has laid hands on the powerful in the country. “Whenever we win, we will bring the powerful under the law," he said.

He said the country was facing corrupt mafia but was confident to say that he had been trained to defeat them. The construction of five major roads with a total stretch of 360km, conversion of suspension bridges to RCC in 10 districts, 1,200km inter-valley roads and two mega projects of regional connectivity including Gilgit Shandur Road and Shounter Tunnel would be built under the package. It also features the installation of Concordia BTS by SCO, in memory of legendary mountaineer Ali Sadpara, in most harsh terrain to provide 4G connectivity to those going on K2 expeditions.

The prime minister also performed ground-breaking for the second phase of the Pak-China optic fibre project along all three CPEC routes. The first phase involving the laying of optic fibre across 990km stretch from Khunjrab to Rawalpindi has already been completed. The launch of fibre to home project for 39 cities is also part of the package.

Imran Khan inaugurated the first IT park and technology incubation centre set up by SCO and KIU. It will give an opportunity to fresh IT graduates and small business owners to showcase their talent and get initial support to further expand or start a new business.

Under the package, the jurisdiction of USF would be extended to Gilgit Baltistan and the auction for 4G licenses would complete till June this year. Planning Minister Asad Umar told the gathering that after Karachi, Balochistan and 14 Sindh districts, it was the fourth development package announced by the PTI government to ensure uplift of ignored areas.

He said out of the Rs370 billion, Rs140 billion would be spent on nine power projects to generate 250MW, Rs33 billion on roads, Rs6 billion on tourism, Rs17 billion on education and health sector, Rs8.5 billion on water supply and sanitation schemes and Rs2 billion on environmental protection.

He said April 30 would be remembered in Gilgit Baltistan’s history when a government came up with an unprecedented development package as a big leap towards interim provincial status.

He said the government had also decided to give GB representation in all constitutional forums. Kashmir Affairs Minister Ali Amin Gandapur said keeping in view the deprivation, Imran Khan increased the budget for GB in the past, despite the fact that PMLN was in power there. He said the development projects faced delay there because the then rulers were not interested in public welfare rather their own interests.

Chief Minister Gilgit Baltistan Khalid Khurshid said since 1947, no such package was ever given to GB. He said poor connectivity was the major impediment in boosting tourism and said the hotels were suddenly filled to their capacity after the government started the Skardu-Lahore flights.

He said the people were awaiting the expansion of the Skardu airport to cater international flights. Khalid Khurshid said the auction of 4G licenses would fulfill the longstanding demand of the GB people.

He assured that while executing the projects under the package, the GB government would not allow unplanned construction rather ensure proper town planning and environmental conservation.