ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Imran Khan said Wednesday that he had the given mandate to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to probe the exorbitant cost incurred on the road construction projects undertaken by the government of Pakistan Muslim League-N.
While addressing at the upgradation of Balochistan’s Jhaljao-Bela Road at an event held here at the PM House, the prime minister said investigation would reveal how a corrupt government looted the public exchequer by carrying out projects at a “much higher cost”.
Imran Khan said the PML-N extorted Rs 200 million per kilometre on construction of every four-lane road, the information about which was available on the websites. He termed corruption the biggest problem of the country, where a handful of people in power misused the public money.
“A corrupt government through misappropriation of funds and theft of tax money always leads to the loss and damage of a nation,” he said, adding that the plundered money could have been used for further communication projects, particularly in Balochistan.
Stressing on an “equitable” national development, he said, the road connectivity in Balochistan was equally essential for the socio-economic prosperity of the country.
“Unless Balochistan is made the stakeholder, the overall development of the country cannot be achieved,” he said. “Linking Balochistan with a developed Centre will be beneficial for both the province and Pakistan.”
Imran Khan said he was committed to ensure uplift of the areas of Balochistan which faced neglect over the past 70 years. On apathy towards Balochistan, he held responsible the previous governments and also the politicians of the province, who ignored the overall development and focused merely on their constituencies in view of gaining electoral support.
“After completion of the government’s five-year tenure, I want our scorecard to have an outstanding highlight, i.e, carrying out an unprecedented phase of development in Balochistan to end its deprivation,” he said.
Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan said in three years, the federal and the coalition government had materialised numerous development projects for the benefit of the locals. He mentioned that Punjgur to Awaran and Jhal Jhao to Bela highway would prove as the “shortest trade link from the Iranian border to Karachi”.
He said the main artery road of Chaman-Quetta-Khuzdar would be a milestone of socio-economic development in future.
Federal Minister for Communication Murad Saeed said the focus on Balochistan’s development was in line with PM Imran Khan’s vision of uplifting the underprivileged sections of the country. He mentioned that work on the highways of Balochistan was underway at full pace to connect the province with the rest of the country.
Chairman National Highway Authority (NHA) Capt (retd) Khurram Agha said the 80-kilometre-long Jhaljao-Bela Road would be linked with Awaran and the N-25 highway at a cost of Rs. 11,835 million (PC-1), while the contract cost was Rs. 7,208 million.
He mentioned that Rs.1,500 million had been allocated for this project in Public Sector Development Project P2021-22 to be completed in three years. The two-lane road will have 182 culverts with an expected road travel of 2,645 vehicles daily.
Jhaljao is located in the southern part of Balochistan, surrounded by high mountains and deserts. The only means of transportation in the area is the Jhal Jhao-Bela Road.
The national highways in Balochistan are of significance in view of the regional trade from Pakistan to Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asian states. The length of national highways in Balochistan is 4,128 km, which comprises around 30.42 percent of NHA’s road network.
The NHA is working at full pace on the western route of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). At the same time, the uplift of adjoining roads in Balochistan will ensure development of the province by connecting with the national communication network.
Innovation of agri sector, uplift of farmers a priority: PM
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said bringing innovation in agricultural sector and ensuring prosperity of the farmers was among the top priorities of the government.
Chairing a high-level meeting on the development of agricultural sector, he said for first time in the country, a comprehensive strategy had been formulated for the betterment of agricultural sector.
The prime minister said the Agricultural Transformation Plan was the first step towards food autonomy and mentioned that the Agri Dashboard would prove helpful in timely decision-making.
The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen, National Security Adviser Moeed Yousuf, Special Assistants Dr Shahbaz Gill, Jamshed Iqbal Cheema and the concerned officials. The chief secretaries of the four provinces joined through video-link.
It was highlighted that the Food Security Dashboard had been fully activated for wheat.
The dashboard contains the demand and supply indicators
of wheat at tehsil, district, division, province and national level.
The Dashboard will guide about the effective monitoring of prices, procurement and the timely decision-making. It will also help in taking timely action against profiteers and those involved in illegal hoarding of agricultural commodities.
The Dashboard will be updated on daily statistics to prepare the real-time data on availability of wheat in the country.
The meeting was informed that after wheat, the categories of sugar and other food commodities would be added to the Dashboard. The steps are aimed at saving the country from the future food crisis.
Later, the meeting was given a detailed briefing on the Agricultural Transformation Plan. The plan includes ensuring supply of high-quality seeds to increase crop yields.
In this regard, after amendments in rules and regulations, only those companies in the country will be registered which provides high-quality seeds after research.
Under Asian Development Bank, a PC-1 for distribution of quality seeds among Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has also been approved.
To ensure access of farmers to seeds, the data from the Consumer Sourcing Authenticity System will be completed by this December.
The meeting was also briefed on the progress on cooperation with Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences to increase innovation and productivity in agricultural sector.
The step will significantly reduce the cost per acre with use of modern technology. Also, four Centers of Excellence in Punjab, research institutes in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and agricultural sector innovations are part of the project.
The project focuses on genetic improvement of cattle to increase meat and milk production and a comprehensive import strategy is being formulated at the government level. The strategy will not only focus on increasing production on conducting research on breeds of cattle. A helpline 9211 is being introduced for cattle farmers and in Punjab, the facility has been reactivated.
The meeting was updated on the progress on projects related to olive cultivation and the Kisan Card, aimed at the uplift of farmers.
Value added exports surge by $3.8b during 2020-21, PM told
Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday chaired a meeting to review the country’s exports wherein he was told that during 2020-21, the value added exports had witnessed a surge of $3.8 billion.
It was also told that owing to government’s investment friendly policies and incentives to the exporters, the non-traditional exports also increased by $2.7 billion during the previous fiscal year.
The commerce ministry told the participants that traditionally, textile products were being exported from Pakistan but in order to increase the volume, steps were being taken for export of non-traditional items like minerals, food products, fruits, information technology and ceramics.
The prime minister said the government was extending all possible facilities to the exporters.
He called for promoting non-traditional exports and focusing more on the countries with more demand for Pakistan’s products.
He also instructed for giving targets to the trade attaché at Pakistan’s embassies for enhancement of exports and examine their performance using the same yardstick.
Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, Commerce Advisor Abdul Razzak Dawood, National Security Advisor Dr Moeed Yousuf and senior officers attended the meeting.