The main railway line project between Karachi and Peshawar, the multi-billion-dollar ML-1, will begin as soon as possible this year, according to Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Prof. Ahsan Iqbal.
The ML-1 project was supposed to be completed in the first phase, but for whatever reason, it was put off for the past four years.
The minister remarked, “There was little follow-up from the previous government, but now, we are actively following it up.”
He told APP in an interview that followed a special meeting of the 12th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of CPEC in Beijing, “We are hopeful that this project will start this year.”
“The railway track was severely harmed during the floods last year,” he stated. This is the primary rail line that connects north and south Pakistan. As quickly as possible, we wish to upgrade and repair it. It will cost $10 billion USD. We’ll accomplish it in stages, and we want to get started on this project as soon as we can this year. The 150-year-old railway line currently needs significant modernization and improvement, according to Ahsan Iqbal. We are hopeful that with China’s assistance, we would be able to modernize this railway line connecting Karachi and Peshawar, which will be a huge boost to our logistics. “It is a mass transit project for Karachi, which is the biggest city in Pakistan,” he added in reference to the Karachi circular train. We also decided to expedite the project as a result. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) turned ten years old at the JCC summit, according to Ahsan Iqbal.
Through CPEC, a pilot project of the Belt and Road Initiative, China and Pakistan began a new path of bilateral relations about ten years ago. As a result, more than $25 billion worth of investments have been made in Pakistan through the CPEC, and the flagship project has assisted Pakistan in resolving its energy crisis. We put up more than 8,000 megawatts of power projects under CPEC. It has assisted us in building cutting-edge highways and motorways, which have increased connectivity throughout the nation, connected various sections of the nation, and offered effective logistic assistance to the economy.
He added, “We have also built infrastructure in Gwadar through CPEC.” With the installation of fiber optic connections between China and Pakistan, we have also upgraded the digital infrastructure. “With the help of CPEC, we have also completed a number of socio-economic projects to improve people’s social conditions.” Therefore, this is a very historic voyage in which we are able to change the character of the relationship between two nations and make it stronger in the area of economic cooperation, the minister continued.
“We had a discussion about how to advance CPEC in the next phase, which will promote business-to-business cooperation, industrial cooperation, as well as Chinese private investment in Pakistan’s energy, agriculture, information technology, and mining sectors, where there are many opportunities for investors to have good business opportunities for Pakistan, to take advantage of investment and technology from China,” he said. “It will be a win-win investment for both countries, and we now look forward to taking CPEC into the next phase, based on greater cooperation in industrial, agricultural, and technology fields,” said the official. He provided further specifics regarding how the CPEC improved the standard of living for Pakistanis, stating that “The CPEC projects have created almost 200,000 job opportunities and helped Pakistan overcome the energy crises.” According to him, factories were shut down and employees were laid off after periods of 12 and 14 hours without electricity.
Small enterprises have failed, causing pain for patients in hospitals and for students at educational institutions.
So, by resolving the energy issue, everyone in Pakistan has benefited from CPEC’s significant contribution. Similar situations occurred in some isolated places where projects had been undertaken, for instance, in Thar, a very remote region of Pakistan, where there was a vast undeveloped coal reserve. We were able to complete the mining project thanks to CPEC, and as a result, Pakistan now boasts the country’s largest energy industry.
“The businesses that are working there are building hospitals and schools. By giving them employment options, they are empowering locals, including women. The economy has benefited. Therefore, these programs have in many ways brought together residents of relatively isolated locations. Whereas it used to take eight hours to go between them, they are now quite close to one another and the trip may be covered in two and a half hours. The minister said that this represents a significant transformation in all respects.
According to Ahsan Iqbal, the first phase’s primary objective was the improvement of the infrastructure. Our transport system lacked a stable foundation and there was a shortage of electricity. So, in the first step, we took care of the infrastructure.
“Now that we are in the second phase, our focus is to shift away from business-to-business linkage to government-to-government linkage, as well as to invest in industrial cooperation.” Through more investments and the development of Pakistan’s economy, we would aim to strengthen that infrastructure. There are numerous chances for investment, such as in the agriculture sector, agro-based businesses, the addition of value to the agricultural sector, and the livestock and meat sectors. “There are numerous chances in the industrial sector to increase production or the industrial base in order to increase exports. In Pakistan, there is both an enormous potential for mining and a brand-new enormous potential, ” he continued.
“So, through investment in mining, we can generate billions of dollars in exports in the mining sector, and there is opportunity in the energy sector where we are actively pursuing solar energy for the future so we are also hoping and inviting the Chinese companies to set up solar power production plants in Pakistan,” the statement reads. The transition from infrastructure to industrial collaboration and from government-to-government linkage to business-to-business linkage, he continued, are the fundamental differences, in my opinion.
He stated that we have brought a lot of vigor over the past year in response to a question regarding new vigor and commitment to pursue a new project. We finished a lot of ongoing work last year that had been put off for the previous four years.
“Accordingly, there is much more vitality and vigor to advance CPEC than there was in the years 2013 and 2018 prior. We are all excited and looking forward to moving the initiative into the next phase with much more vigor because there is a bigger need than ever for cooperation in this area. The minister declared, “Both countries must cooperate in order to share the benefits of CPEC not only with one another but also with the whole region. And this is only possible if we finish our connectivity projects extremely quickly. With more Chinese funding, we may be able to serve the markets.”Using our current infrastructure, we can route the world’s supply chains. Therefore, I am hopeful that this phase would truly yield numerous benefits for the larger area than just Pakistan and China. We expect that eventually, the entirety of South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East would profit from CPEC, he continued.