LAHORE, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 11th Nov, 2016 ) : Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique said on Friday that connectivity was a corner stone of economic cooperation and it should become a top priority for all countries of region to find new drives of economic growth. He was addressing the concluding session of three-day international conference on "Inter-regional Connectivity: South Asia and Central Asia". The delegates from 18 countries attended the closing session of the conference chaired by Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Hassan Amir Shah.
The Federal Minister said that this kind of connectivity should not be considered sector by sector but rather as a part of integrated networks of industrial zones, trade, rail, roads, energy, culture, people and technology. Saad Rafique believed that the up-gradation of Pakistan Railways existing network and its connectivity to the railways of the region would usher in a new era of development and prosperity for Pakistan and other countries of the region within next 10 to 15 years.
"We must also acknowledge that geo strategic location of Pakistan provides numerous opportunities for regional cooperation as it is situated at the crossroad of Central Asia, South Asia and middle Eastern regions," he said. Talking about the PR development plans in context of inter-regional connectivity, the Minister said that a master plan was prepared to upgrade three main arteries of railways including Main Line One (ML-1) from Karachi to Torkham, ML-2 from Kotri to Attock City and ML-3 Rori-Quetta-Taftan Section with its extension to Dera Ismail Khan via Western corridor through Bostan.
He said that the framework agreement was being signed with Chinese government for providing funding of $5.7 billion for up-gradation of Lahore-Karachi segment of ML-1, while an understanding had been reached with the Asian Development Bank for providing financial support amounting $2.5 billion for up-gradation of Peshawar-Lahore section. With this up gradation, the speed of passenger train would be upgraded to 160 Kph which was currently at 105 Kph, he added.
Saad Rafique said that the feasibility studies of ML-2 from Hyderabad-Attock, ML-3 and Quetta-Gwadar, Abbottabad and Peshawar-Jalalabad railings had been awarded to renowned consultants. The Federal Minister said that the government would ensure Gwadar deep-sea port was used to full potential for transportation of goods to Afghanistan and landlocked Central Asian Republics. Similarly, he said, connectivity of Gwadar port with Khunjerab via ML-2 and Western Corridor via D.
I Khan would provide the shortest access to Chinese goods to warm-waters reducing the transportation distance 1600 KMs. Addressing the ceremony, Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Hassan Amir Shah hoped that the two days of extensive deliberations among the delegates of 18 countries would contribute to make effective recommendations to the government and give food of thought to the researchers. In his concluding speech, Prof Dr Khalid Manzoor Butt, the conference chairman, said that in academic sessions of the conference, deliberations had outlined diverse perspectives on Inter-regional connectivity between South and Central Asia. The conference chairman suggested the policy-makers to reform laws, include other regional stakeholders, and also involve private sector in the promotion of connectivity and development.