PESHAWAR             -       Terming 2020 the year of employment and progress, Prime Minister Imran Khan said yesterday that the biggest challenge for his government is to make Pakistan a welfare state for elevating the weaker segments of society.

“We are trying to make Pakistan a welfare state and come up with policies that are people friendly. Pakistan Railways will witness immense uplift through mega projects,” he said this while speaking at the inauguration ceremony of Azakhel Dry Port in Nowshera district.

Governor Khyber Pakthunkhwa, Shah Farman, Chief Minister Khyber Pakthunkhwa, Mahmood Khan, Federal Minister for Railways, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, Defense Minister Pervez Khattak, Provincial Ministers, MPAs and others high ranking officials were present on the occasion.

Imran Khan said the Azakhel Dry Port would provide quality transportation and logistics services. Spread over 28 kilometres, the state-of-the-art dry port has been completed by Pakistan Railways with an estimated cost of Rs 507 million in a record one-year time.

The PM lauded the efforts of Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad for the completion of the project pending since 2006 and also for Rs 10 billion revenue generation by Pakistan Railways last year.

He said the main line rail track, commonly known as ML-1, to be built with collaboration of China, would prove to be a revolution in the country’s railway system. The Karachi-Peshwar train on ML-1 would complete journey in eight hours, besides other benefits in shape of swift transportation of freight, he added.

Imran Khan stressed that both Pakistan Railways and the national flag career Pakistan International Airlines needed to come forward in competition with the private sector. “Several corporations have become a burden on the national exchequer and need competitive approach to survive and thrive,” he stressed.

The PM asked the employees and workers of Pakistan Railways to work diligently and act unitedly against corruption. “I want you to run Pakistan Railways with same care and concern which you attach for your own vehicle,” he said.

He said that the land of Pakistan Railways would be retrieved to get it commercialized to bridge its deficit.

About the Ehsaas programe, he said that the country’s largest ever social welfare programme, for which Rs 190 billion had been allocated for loans, skill training, 50,000 higher education scholarships and health cards.

He said that the government would construct five million affordable houses to accommodate low-income groups and this step would benefit 40 affiliated industries.

He regretted the ‘governments of elites’ in the past which neglected major civic areas, including education, health, legal system and railways.

On the occasion, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid announced to rename the dry port as Pir Piyai Azakhel for its acceptance by majority in the area. He mentioned about an agreement with the National Logistic Cell (NLC) to include Pehswar-Jalalabad track in ML-1, which, he said, would end smuggling. It would also ensure employment for 0.1 million as 92 percent jobs had been reserved for Pakistanis, he added.

He said Pakistan was the sole country in the world for being profit-earning from passenger trains, adding that Pakistan Railways witnessed an increase of 0.7 million passengers last year.

Sheikh Rashid said that under the open policy, Pakistan Railways had given three freight trains and 11 passenger trains to the private sector.

He said that the PC-1 of ML-1 had been submitted to Planning Minister Asad Umer. There would be no crossing at the 1872-kilometre-long ML-1, he added. He said the railway system would be computerized with trackers installed for geo-tracking.

In his remarks, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak lauded Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad for the completion of the dry port project and requested him to allow laying of gas and irrigation pipelines for the area through Pakistan Railways lands.

He mentioned that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government had resolved up to 80 percent problems of Nowshera.

The Azakhel Dry Port has been completed by Pakistan Railways with an estimated cost of Rs507 million in a record one year. Spreading over 28 acres of land and located about 20 kilometres east from Peshawar on main GT Road in Nowshera district’s town Azakhel, the dry port is equipped with the modern loading and unloading facilities.

The dry port has one-window operation facility for which a facilitation centre, Pakistan Customs, Railways, National Bank of Pakistan and police check-up points, had been established. The Azakhel Dry Port would make Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially Peshawar, a hub of trade, business and foreign investment with a direct positive impact on people’s socio-economic lives.

Shifting of Azakhel dry-port to Nowshera from Peshawar, was planned in 2006 and its completion was possible today due to keen interest, taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.