ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal said that political instability and inconsistency in policies have cost Pakistan dearly in the past, denting the incumbent government’s efforts for rapid economic growth in the country.

“Political instability caused serious delay in completion of a number of mega development projects,” remarked Ahsan Iqbal while addressing the China Pakistan Economic Corridor International Logistic Forum organised by the National Logistic Cell (NLC) on Thursday.

The minister said that it's essential to understand that we have moved beyond the times of geopolitics and entered the era of knowledge-based competitive economy, where a robust economy is the only guarantee required to make Pakistan strong. “Today, we need inclusive growth to have shared prosperity but it needs a politically stable Pakistan”, he added.

The minister said Pakistan had missed two opportunities to take off - in the 1960s due to war and in the 1990s due to political instability. This situation led to hampering of important projects, including the development of Gwadar Port and new motorways, he added.

Ahsan Iqbal said that Gwadar Port development was started by the then Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government in 90s but political unrest in the country caused the suspension of this strategically important project and for the next 20 years it didn't get any attention by the ruling governments. The present government is now completing this long delayed project under the CPEC, he added.

He lamented that for over last 70 years, Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, was not connected to Gwadar via road. Unlike the past, he said, now Gwadar is connected to Quetta and one can travel from Gwadar to Quetta and back in eight hours. “This road has opened up the less developed areas of Balochistan and boosted economic activities, ensuring prosperity and rapid growth in this region”, he added.

The minister further said that the present government has started construction of Peshawar–Karachi Motorway and stressed that any voices which pose a threat to political stability of the country can lead to serious damage to such infrastructure projects. “Successive governments failed to complete the projects even in 20 years”, he noted, saying that again the present government has ensured completion of this long delayed project.

The minister informed that construction work has been initiated on two sections of this motorway Lahore-Multan and Multan-Sukkur by the present government, whereas the later one is being completed under the CPEC. Another project ‘construction of a new motorway from Burhan to Dera Ismail Khan’ is being constructed on the western route, he said, informing that these motorways projects would be completed till end of the next year. “Completion of western route would connect Khunjrab to Gwadar, ensuring inclusive development in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan”, he added.

Ahsan Iqbal further informed that lack of proper management and funds were responsible of complete chaos at Pakistan Railway. “However, with the allocation of proper funds and professional management, we have ensured restoration of its cargo services, he added and told that Pakistan Railway’s Main Line -1 (ML-I) upgradation from Peshawar to Karachi would likely to commence this year under CPEC.

He further said that the upgradation of the ML-I will not only improve the existing Railways infrastructure and increase the current speed up to 3 times but would support rapid supplies through cargo services. “Building of transport infrastructure would strongly support logistical competitiveness of Pakistan’s economy”, he added. He said that in the past, big eat small but now fast eat slow”, he added, adding that Pakistan’s success lies in rapid development of infrastructure.

Ahsan Iqbal further said that industrial cooperation between Pakistan and China would result in promotion of local industry and production capacity. He said that economic zones are being established in Pakistan under CPEC with complete ownership of provinces.

He said that this cooperation would support in relocation of Chinese labour intensive industries to Pakistan. The establishment of Chinese industries in Pakistan would also help in eradicating unemployment and boosting skill development, he added.

He further forced the local industrialists to play a proactive role and forge joint ventures in order to get massive investment opportunities due to establishment of the industrial zones in the country. The Chinese industry would provide an opportunity to learn new skills and enhance capacity, transferring of industrial technologies, he added.