Islamabad: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday announced a development package worth Rs370 billion for the country’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region. The ambitious five-year package includes massive infrastructure projects and expansion of healthcare, education programs, tourism and new job opportunities to ensure progress and development in the region.
“This multi-billion package is just the beginning” of development and prosperity in the region as the federal government would continue to assist Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) in the future, said Khan addressing a ceremony during his day-long visit to Gilgit. He termed the development package a “big achievement” for the people of GB and all of Pakistan.
The premier elaborated that the projects under the development package include hydropower generation to resolve electricity crisis, improving infrastructure and connectivity with the development of the Babusar Tunnel, skills training and scholarships for the youth, upgradation of health services, water and sanitation system.
Small and medium enterprises
Under the package, the government will support small and medium-scale industries such as food processing units which would create new employment and income generation opportunities, benefiting the local people. The expansion of Skardu Airport to attract international flights and improve both tourism and trade potential is also part of the development package.
· Rs35 billion on 5 road projects
· Rs6 billion for tourism development
· Rs17 billion for education and health
· Rs8.5 billion for water supply and sanitation
· Rs2 billion for environmental protection
The package also includes various projects such as incubation centres for promoting business and entrepreneurship, flood protection structures, enhancement of biodiversity, network expansion of 3G and 4G services and 25 small and medium-scale industrial units to add value to agricultural output, said federal minister for planning and development Asad Umar.
Highlighting the vital role of tourism in economic growth, the premier said that his government was focused on exploring the potential of tourism for revenue and employment generation. The government is keen to spend more on improving infrastructure and tourism services like hotel rooms and other facilities to develop the travel and tourism industry in Pakistan’s scenic Gilgit-Baltistan region which attracts more foreign tourists than the rest of the country.
During his visit, the prime minister launched the second phase of Pakistan-China fibre optic cable along the three main routes of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The first phase of laying fibre optic across 990 km stretch from Khunjerab to Rawalpindi has already been completed. Khan also inaugurated the first IT park and technology incubation center set up by SCO and Karakoram International University which would offer opportunities to fresh graduates and small businesses to start or expand new business. Khan also launched the first cell tower at the base camp of K2, the second-highest peak in the world, to facilitate the mountaineers and tourists visiting the region.