ISLAMABAD - Federal Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal yesterday said that three universities in FATA and Baluchistan located on western route of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will start functioning this year.

“Universities in FATA, Zhob and Gwadar, located on western route of Chin-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will start functioning this year to produce quality human resource for CPEC in these areas,” Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal said this while speaking as a chief guest at a seminar on “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); Opportunities and Challenges” organized by Preston University at National University.

He said that these universities are part of government’s efforts to produce quality human resource along with focusing on infrastructure development and energy production through this mega development project.

Ahsan Iqbal described CPEC as trans-regional project, which would benefit three billion people of the region through enhanced regional connectivity with Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces of the country to play instrumental role integrating the whole region.

He dispelled the impression that CPEC would benefit any one province or region and said this controversy was political having no relevance with the facts. Now, there is complete consensus and all parties support CPEC.

“CPEC would benefit the most-backward areas of the country and this change is started to appear in the form of emerging of human settlements on section of Western route from Quetta to Gwadar, which is scheduled to be completed by end of this year”, the minister stated adding that a new era of development and prosperity would usher in Balochistan when missing links on western and central routes would be completed.

He said that in energy component of CPEC, Sindh is largest recipient of energy projects, where $11.5 billion dollar out of $35 billion energy portfolio is being constructed in CPEC. The bias towards South in energy projects is due to coal source as coal projects can be completed in three years timeframe and there is urgency of overcoming energy shortage in the country.

CPEC is not two or three years project restricted to present government’s tenure, he pointed out and added that it is 15 years long project to be completed in 2030 by focussing on infrastructure development, Gwadar Sea Port, Energy and Industrial Cooperation.  

Ahsan Iqbal said that along with CPEC, TAPI and KASA 1000 MGW regional cooperation project would redefine West Asia to turn it into a regional economic block of three billion people.

“Even India has started realizing potential benefit of CPEC to trade with China through this shortest and economic route, he added. Ahsan Iqbal said that CPEC is a fusion of Vision-2025 of Pakistan and China’s One Road-One Belt” for future growth and development.

CPEC translated the decades-long political relations between China and Pakistan into strong economic ties. He felt that as one hand, CPEC offers enormous opportunities for sustained economic development of the country, it also brings with it the challenges and issues, which requires huge responsibility to dealt with. He underlined the need for developing new mental models through changed thinking and behaviours to make this project a success.

“The positive thinking and behaviour can be brought in by focusing on quality human resource development and present government is earnestly working on this aspect,” he stated.

Ahsan Iqbal called upon the scholars and academia to join hands with the government to tackle the challenges in the way of CPEC for optimal utilization of its potential for economic development of the country.

He said that we live in an age of economic ideologies. Countries are competing on basis of competitiveness, which depends on productivity, innovation and quality of economies. “We need to become an economic nation. Our success depends on ability to produce wealth and distribute its benefits across all regions in an inclusive manner.”