GWADAR  - At a time when the country is in the grip of all sorts of rumours about tense relations between the civilian government and the army, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made a public appearance along with Army Chief Raheel Sharif, and said that the government and all its institutions, including the armed forces, would build Pakistan together.
“The political and the military leadership are on the same page as far as security and development of Pakistan is concerned,” he told the media after a briefing at Gwadar Thursday afternoon.
“This (oneness) is quite clear as the Chief of Army Staff is standing on my left and Balochistan chief minister on my right,” he remarked while pointing towards them in a symbolic expression of unity among the civilian and military ranks.
PM Sharif said it was the joint resolve of the political and military leadership to take Pakistan forward and turn it into a developed country. He was confident that through collective efforts they would be able to resolve political, social and economic issues and put Pakistan on the road to progress and prosperity.
About the significance of Gwadar, the prime minister said it has all the hallmarks to become a successful free port like Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore. He said the Planning Commission has been tasked with hiring international consultants for this purpose.
The prime minister said the development of Gwadar would prove to be a game-changer, not only for Balochistan but for the region. He was however dissatisfied with the pace of development in Gwadar and said it should have been much faster.
Earlier, on his arrival by a helicopter, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and senior officials received the premier at PNS Akram Base. Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik, federal ministers Ishaq Dar, Pervaiz Rashid and Ahsan Iqbal also accompanied him. The purpose of the visit was to review developments at various projects in the province.
The prime minister said the government has a broad-based plan for the development of Gwadar under which the port city would have a state-of-the-art airport and a developed seaport. He said a new security force would also be raised for the security and protection of foreign nationals, particularly the Chinese citizens, working on various projects in the area. He appreciated the role of federal agencies, Army, FC and police for improving the law and order situation in Balochistan during the last 10 months.
Answering a question about the meeting that he held with the authorities, the prime minister said matters relating to development of Balochistan, peace and security and Pak-China Economic Corridor were discussed. The ways and means to connect Kashgar (China) and Gwadar through road and rail links were also deliberated on in detail, he added.
The prime minister said the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) director general briefed them about the pace of work on various road projects underway in the province. He expressed his government’s resolve to lay a network of roads in Balochistan during the current tenure.
He appreciated FWO DG Maj Gen Muhammad Afzal for his dedication in the development and construction work with the support of Army Staff. He said the development work in Balochistan by the FWO was not aimed at making profits, as profit does not matter to achieve the goal of peace and progress.
Nawaz Sharif was also highly appreciative of the policies of reforms, good governance and merit initiated by the Balochistan chief minister. “He (the CM) is doing a good job”, the PM remarked.
The prime minister said he would also convene a cabinet meeting in Balochistan.
During the briefing, the prime minister was apprised that in the Pak-China Economic Corridor, Rs162 billion have been allocated for Balochistan alone. He was informed that the provision of clean drinking water, a 300-bed hospital, a technical training centre, 19-km expressway and expansion of airport and port have also been planned for Gwadar. He directed the finance minister to release Rs1.6 billion for the port dredging.
Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Blaoch, while thanking the prime minister for his interest in the development of the province, said it was the first time in the history that 78 per cent development budget had been released till now and Rs110 billion have been received under the NFC Award for Balochistan.
Speculations have been rife in the recent days that the government and the army have differences over key issues, including on the treason case against former army chief Pervez Musharraf and the talks with Taliban. At least on one occasion, Gen Raheel Sharif made a strong statement, saying that the Army would preserve its institutional pride and honour at every cost. Then statements by Defence Minister Khwaja Asif and his cabinet colleague Saad Rafiq added to the perception of cold ties between the Army and the government. Furthermore, the attack on TV anchor Hamid Mir and ensuing chats made things even murkier.