ISLAMABAD: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has constituted six working groups on mid-term development framework along with the western route of the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) for Mianwali, Attock and Chakwal districts.
According to a notification of the Punjab government, a copy of which is available with The News, these groups will immediately meet and deliberate upon development of sound evidence-based recommendations and preparation of five-year development plan of the Punjab districts along the CPEC western route for approval of the inter-ministerial committee by April 10.
It was directed that these plans must include sector specific development schemes; five-year implementation plan preferably with annual phasing; and high priority and high value projects for these districts that may be included in the annual development programme for 2017-18.
The plans will also assist the inter-ministerial committee in consolidating the recommendations of the working groups and formalizing them into a policy document for final presentation to the chief minister by April 30 this year.
The seven-member ‘Infrastructure Development Working Group’ is headed by the Punjab minister for communications and works and includes former member of the Punjab Assembly (MPA) from Mianwali Ali Haider Noor Niazi; a representative of the National Highway Authority, member (infrastructure development), Planning and Development Board.
The ten-member ‘Skills Development Working Group’ is chaired by the minister for industries, commerce and investment and comprises the minister for youth affairs, former Mianwali MPA Humair Hayat Rokhari and others.
The ten-member ‘Industries, Mines and Mineral Development Working Group’ is headed by the minister for industries, commerce and investment and includes the minister for mines and minerals, member of the National Assembly (MNA) from Mianwali Ubaidullah Shadi Khel; Attock MPA Malik Zafar Iqbal and others.
The 14-member ‘Agriculture, Livestock, Wildlife and Tourism Working Group’ is led by the minister for agriculture and comprises the ministers for livestock & dairy development and forestry, fisheries and wildlife; Attock MNA Malik Aitbar Khan, Bhakkar MPA Inamullah Niazi and others.
The 11-member ‘Housing & Urban Development Working Group’ is chaired by the minister for housing & urban development and includes the minister for communications and works apart from former MPA from Mianwali, Adil Abdullah Rokhari, former Attock MPA Asif Malik and others.
The ten-member ‘Energy & Irrigation Development Working Group’ is presided over by the minister for irrigation and comprises the minister for mines and minerals, Chakwal MNA Mumtaz Tamman, Chakwal MPA ulfiqar Ali Dullah and others. Sometime back, the Punjab government started positioning the province to benefit from the western route by devising a strategy to leverage the four-lane highway for development of backward areas in its vicinity and proximity. However, other provincial governments continue to look towards the federal administration to formulate similar policies.
To achieve this objective, the Punjab chief minister constituted a comprehensive inter-ministerial committee comprising several members of the provincial cabinet, lawmakers, top bureaucrats and a host of representatives from the private sector to firm up a way forward by deliberating upon plans to draw maximum benefits from the western corridor.
It was suggested that appropriate planning should be made to provide livelihood to local populace in the same region along the western route and discourage migration to major urban centres.
Housing colonies like satellite towns should be developed in the vicinity of interchanges at Fateh Jang, Pindigheb and Tarap so that mass migration to Islamabad and Rawalpindi is managed and discouraged. Rather this new development should provide affordable housing to residents of the two cities in the areas around the CPEC. It should help decongestion of Islamabad and Rawalpindi rather than further burdening them with influx of people.
It was recommended that the future development in this region can be modeled like Noida (New Okhla Industrial Development Authority), a systematically planned development in the suburbs of New Delhi.
A similar development can leverage its proximity to Rawalpindi and Islamabad, and should also be attractive for future rural to urban migrants. Being a green field with very economical land prices this development can have potential.
The Punjab government should consider development of a ‘land bank’. Since land procurement is a big challenge for future investors, the government can facilitate this by having a land bank in all tehsils around the western route. It was proposed that the provincial roads linking the CPEC western route with M2 and N5 need to be developed and dualised.
The western corridor will provide fast and world class connectivity to southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) like Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, and Karak to Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Similarly the tehsils of Mianwali, Jandh, Pindigheb will by 60-90 minutes commute from Islamabad-Rawalpindi.
Designed for 120 km/hour speed with 100 meters right of way, the western route has been divided into five packages for speedy execution. Four packages pass through Punjab and one through KP. It has eleven interchanges – five in Attock at Hakla, Fateh Jang, Pindigheb (near Thatti), Pindigheb (city), Tarap-Injra and three each in Mianwali and Dera Ismail Khan districts.