Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reko Diq to be a game changer: Sartaj

January 21, 2015 


Advisor to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has said that Pak-China Econo-mic Corridor will usher an era of economic development along with employment opportunities in Balochistan. Speaking as chief guest at the concluding session of a two-day Balochistan Development Forum organized by Balochistan government in collaboration with the UNDP to attract investment in the province, Aziz said the government is focusing on resolving the issues pertaining to Reko Diq project, which is going to prove a game changer for the country, especially in terms of prosperity and development of Balochistan. 

He suggested the provincial government to pay more attention to the development of social sector along with law and order. He acknowledged that the situation in terms of social sector development as well as law and order situation has improved considerably during the last one-and-half years. 

Sartaj stressed the need that each district in Pakistan should have a policy planning unit on the model developed by Chief Minister's Policy Reform Unit with the technical assistance of UNDP. He further added that Balochistan Higher Education Authority should be established so that education needs can be assessed and addressed at the local levels. 

The Chief Minister Balochistan urged the donors, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the UNDP, to make investment in the water sector as province is facing a serious situation of drought. He said that provincial government would itself manage development of other sectors such as health, education and law and order. He said that the provincial government would declare 2015 as year of peace, education and health and would invite estranged Baloch leaders and would speed up reconciliation process. 

Dr Malik further stated that reforms and changes in the laws and rules of business were a necessary step to fully deliver the benefits of the fiscal devolution under the 18th amendment. He said that Balochistan needs a three-pronged strategy for inclusive development in the province which included Institutional development, infrastructure development and human resource development. 

He said the Article 172(3) which empowered provinces to have a joint and equal ownership and control of natural resources, if followed in its true sense by amending relevant laws will not only help Balochistan overcome its historical deprivation in development, but will also take it to the level where it can provide resources for the development of rest of Pakistan. 

He also vowed institutional reforms in the province by restructuring Public Services Commission to ensure merit-based recruitment through credible and transparent processes, which will ensure efficient governance in the province. He said that political and bureaucratic decision makers of Balochistan have to make a commitment that we would root out poverty and under-development from the Balochistan and would never have to say again that we are a poor province. 

The World Bank Country Director for Pakistan Rachid Benmessaoud said the "provincial government could not implement policies in isolation, but can develop leverage with the private sector." The Bank would continue its support to the province and there is a need of mixed policies to mitigate problems and challenges. The Balochistan Education Support Programme through the Balochistan Education Foundation, supported by the World Bank, has been helping in addressing the education emergency. Further, the Bank through the Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan supports reconstruction, rehabilitation, reforms and other interventions needed to build peace and create conditions for sustainable development. He further said that the forum will help the development partners to align their priorities and focus on the province in the light of decision making by the government of Balochistan. 

Director Asian Development Bank (ADB) said the Bank has approved $197 million for the national highway development project of Balochistan. Chairman Gwadar Development Authority Dr Sajjad Baloch shared the vision of the Authority for the strategic port. He said the port can become the Asian energy hub for receipt, storage, processing and transshipment to S.E Asia, Far East and even to the US. He also shared how under Pakistan-China economic co-operation various road-and-rail links were being planned to connect the port with other cities and also how important the Kashgar to Khunjerab and Gawadar corridor will be for the province. 

Senator Hasil Bizenjo while talking the session on "Post 18th amendment challenges and opportunities" said it must be appreciated that the 18th Amendment started addressing the historical wrongs committed with the federating units. Ziaratwal pointed out that the current law and order situation is also a by-product of the economic conditions in the province. Dr Ishaq Baloch, Chief Minister's Co-ordinator to Policy Reform Unit, shared his views on how 18th amendment had caused significant changes in the legislative, governance and political structures of the federation and how this can lead to increased harmony amongst the federating units. 

The session on the natural resource management attracted a lot of attention as two critical questions Gwadar Port and Reko Diq were discussed in the session chaired by Dr Ruqayya Hashmi and Mir Khalid Langu, Advisor Finance. Ahmer Bilal Sufi, legal advisor to Government of Balochistan for international arbitration on Reko Diq, informed the audience that the proceedings so far in the International Court of Justice have opened up the possibility that Government of Balochistan and Tethyan Copper Company can settle the issue out of the court and get the assets of the Government of Balochistan released for further development. 

Donald Macintosh, Technical Adviser, IUCN, said that while exploiting natural resources special care should be taken not to disturb habitats and species, forests, rangelands, coastal ecosystems, wildlife, biodiversity and protected areas' ecosystems. Amir Goraya, Assistant Country Director UNDP, proposed that Balochistan government should take a lead in building an institutional framework for co-ordination and harmonisation of aid and development activities in the province.

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