PM envisions Gwadar as free port
By Raja Asghar | 6/12/2015

ISLAMABAD: True to his grandiose style, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif intervened in the National Assembly`s budget debate on Thursday to inform the house that he envisioned Gwadar as a free port and that he planned to consult the country`s political leadership over the matter.

He also spoke of work already in hand to lay a network of motorways to link all the four provinces.

`Gwadar will be given a special status, the status of a free port,` the prime minister said, adding that it would be on the pattern of Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong.

He said he had not discussed his idea with any other party yet, but he hoped the opposition parties would extend their cooperation in his plans for Gwadar. The port is to be linked with the northwestern Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

`It is a historic opportunity,` the prime minister said, adding: `Gwadar should be a gift for the country and for the region.

The previous government of the PPP gave China 40-year management rights for Gwadar port that it financed and built, and the prime minister said Gwadar could have a separate administrative unit with new laws.

His talk of motorway for all provinces was prompte d by a demand by a PPP MNA from Sindh, Nawab Ali Wassan, during his speech in the budget debate that his home province should also have a motorway like the one between Islamabad and Lahore, which was started by Mr Sharif`s first government in early 1990s.

`Motorway will be built in Sindh, as well as in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and God-willing in Balochistan,` he said before explaining plans for different links such as the extension of the Islamabad-Lahore motorway to Multan and, as part of the CPEC, from there to Sukkar, and a Hazara motorway in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He also spoke about new power generation plans, including two 650MW plants to be fired by coal from Thar in Sindh, and said he hoped there would be no need for electricity load shedding at the end of the remaining three years of his government.

LIVE TELECAST CONTROVERSY: Earlier in the day, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid seemingly ended the controversy about the live telecast of the budget debate, telling the house that Pakistan Television would show live all speeches in the debate, in addition to giving a live feed to all private television channels that could use the speeches according to their discretion.

The house was marred by pandemonium on Wednesday after the government seemed backtracking on the original assurance of live telecast when members complained that except for the debate-opening speech by Leader of Opposition Khursheed Ahmed Shah on Tuesday, the PTV did not give live coverage to other lawmakers.

The information minister had also said on Wednesday that financial constraints would allow the PTV to give live coverage only to parliamentary group leaders.

The opposition parties seemed satisfied with the minister`s new assurance as Thursday`s sitting continued smoothly for about eight hours with speeches from backbenchers of both sides of the aisle before the house was adjourned until 10am on Friday.

Published in Dawn