ISLAMABAD - Federal Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal has yesterday said that Chinese citizens working on CPEC projects are our national guests and Pakistani nation considers their security as a national duty.

"Pakistan will leave no stone unturned for protection of workers on CPEC projects", Federal Minister for Planning, Development & Reform (PD&R) remarked while presiding a high-level meeting here to review progress on CPEC projects.

He said that the year 2017, an important year for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, would enable Pakistan to witness new era of development with completion of CPEC early harvest projects.

The meeting was attended by officials of the Federal Ministries, provincial governments and officials from Chinese Embassy.

“A number of mega projects in infrastructure and Gwadar are breaking ground this year” Ahsan Iqbal said.

Officials from line Ministries briefed about progress on the ongoing projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in various sectors including communication, Railways, infrastructure, energy, Gwadar Port and special industrial zones.

Ahsan Iqbal expressed satisfaction over the progress on CPEC projects.

He said that current year is important for CPEC as a number of early harvest project are achieving its commercial operation date in 2017.

“Sahiwal Coal Power project has been completed much a head of its stipulated time, starting generation of 1330 MW of electricity” Minister said, adding, a number of energy project under CPEC and non CPEC will enable us to overcome the challenge of loadshedding.

He said that construction work on a number of projects in transport infrastructure sector is going on in full swing.

“These road projects would ensure not only connectivity within Pakistan and well being of the people belonging to the underdeveloped areas but in the whole region, paving grounds for sustainable growth and inclusive development.”

Minister said the timely completion of these projects would be a success for the people of Pakistan.

He said that Pakistan and China have signed framework agreement of Pakistan Railway Main Line-1 project, an initiative which would revolutionise transportation system in the country.

This mega project, beginning this year, would completely upgrade rail system and the main track from Karachi to Peshawar, allowing Pakistanis to enjoy modern transport facilities, he said.

He further maintained that new technologies were being introduced in infrastructure, transportation and engineering sectors due to CPEC projects.

“The Economic Corridor is helping Pakistan open new avenues of knowledge based economy as it has great opportunity to learn the state-of-the-art knowledge and technologies in transport sector,” Ahsan Iqbal remarked.

He said that Pakistani universities and research institutes should tap those opportunities by making comprehensive planning in this regard.

He directed the Higher Education Commission to ensure immediate introduction of academic programmes in the sector of transport engineering.

He emphasised that universities should establish linkages with Chinese institutes to ensure transfer of knowledge in this important field.

About Gwadar project, Minister instructed to fast track work on a number important mega projects.

Framework agreement of Gwadar Eastbay Express way and grant agreement of international airport has been signed between China and Pakistan, he said.  He said that fully fledged construction work would commence on these projects within months.  Minister directed to speed up work on water supply project in Gwadar to address the drinking water issue.

He also instructed official of Gwadar Development Authority to work for revitaliSing the existing desalination plant at Karwat so that it can provide water to the local population during the summer season.

He further stated that contract of the Gwadar Master City Plan has been signed. "This project would develop Gwadar at par with international modern port cities like Singapore and Hongkong"

Minister said that Chinese citizen working in Pakistan on CPEC projects are our national guests who are busy in development of Pakistan.

"Pakistani nation considers security of Chinese workers as a national duty", he added. Minister said that Pakistan will leave no stone unturned for protection of workers on CPEC projects.