ISLAMABAD: The continued failure to benefit from the dividends of the retrocession and the poor socio economic condition of the people of Gwadar is a testament to a governance crisis the country has been facing since its inception.
This was the crux of a webinar titled “63 Years of Gwadar’s Retrocession to Pakistan: Achievements, Prospects, and Challenges”. It was organised by the Institute of
Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad in collaboration with the National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA) and the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR).
Addressing the webinar, legislator from Gwadar, Kauda Babar, praised the federal government’s allocation of hefty funds for the Southern districts of Balochistan, especially Gwadar’s development, under Southern Balochistan Package. “Also, the finalisation of transshipment regulations last year for the first time in the country’s history will help realise the true potential of Gwadar,” Senator Babar said.
Vice Admiral Iftikhar Ahmad Rao (retd), in his keynote speech earlier, said Gwadar Development Plan was in place even before its retrocession in 1958.
“Despite this, Gwadar has not received due attention from policy makers in the country over the decades,” Rao said.
Highlighting various development projects underway under Southern Balochistan Package worth Rs600 billion, announced by the federal government, Commodore Jawad Akhtar said Rs23 billion had been allocated for roads and infrastructure development in the city.
“Work on a 300 MW coal power plant is set to begin this year, he added. Many development projects are being planned under Public-Private partnership schemes, too,” he added.
He deplored the lack of enthusiasm on part of the previous governments to focus on socio-economic development in the districts with the lowest HDI scores, including Gwadar.
However, he ensured the people of Gwadar that many development projects regarding skills development, digital connectivity, food security, electricity generation, and water provision were already underway and expected to yield long-term benefits for them.
Commodore (retd) Dr Anjum Sarfraz shed light on the potential of Gwadar as transshipment hub in the region.
He said Gwadar port was built to handle transit trade of China, Afghanistan, Central Asian Republics (CARs), and serve as a transshipment hub.
“Nonetheless, port operation progress of Gwadar has remained surprisingly slow despite the fact that Gwadar port as transshipment hub has the capacity to outmatch regional ports provided appropriate steps are taken,” Sarfaraz added.
Lamenting upon the lack of housing facilities in Gwadar, Zaigham M Rizvi argued that the housing scheme promised to be built in 2006 was yet to be completed.
He emphasised the need for ensuring ease of doing business for local and foreign investors, and expediting work on development projects so that basic facilities like water and electricity are provided at the people’s doorstep in the port city.
Chairman IPS Khalid Rahman said the governance crisis had started in Pakistan from early years of its formation and Gwadar was no exception.
“However, the new development projects under the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives are expected to address the plight of the local population of Gwadar,” Rahman said.