ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday said Balochistan lagged behind in socio-economic development owing to neglect in the past, adding both federal and provincial governments were now taking measures to ensure growth and peaceful environment in the province.

Addressing the inaugural session of Balochistan Development Forum here, the prime minister said development of Balochistan was close to his heart and despite constraints the federal government provided substantial resources to supplement the efforts of the provincial government to address the needs of its people.

The prime minister mentioned some already taken corrective measures in the shape of 7th NFC Award, Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan, 18th Amendment and substantive allocations for development projects.

He said since the developmental gaps were huge, development partners, civil society and foreign and local investors should create synergies to give new impetus to development efforts.

He said the federal government was also financing and implementing a number of projects in Balochistan to address major gaps in infrastructure as well as human development indicators in the province.

He mentioned construction of M-8 (Gwadar-Turbat-Hoshab and Khuzdar-Ratodero) and N-85 (Hoshab-Basima-Sorab) which, he said, would greatly improve its connectivity with the country.

Prime Minister Sharif said the federal government had also launched a project at a cost of Rs 4 billion in collaboration with the provincial government for construction of houses for earthquake victims of Awaran district.

To meet the electricity demand of Balochistan, he said a 300MW power plant was planned to be set up in Gwadar, while two additional transmission lines of 220 KV Dadu-Khuzdar and 220 KV DG Khan-Loralai had already been completed.

The prime minister said allocation of Federal PSDP (Public

Sector Development Programme) this year for Balochistan had been substantially enhanced with Rs 61 billion which was 37 percent higher than financial year 2012-13. He added Rs 15 billion had been earmarked in PSDP 2014-15 as a special development package for Balochistan, which was the highest amongst all the provinces.

Nawaz Sharif said Balochistan enjoyed central position and could become a regional hub for trade in goods and energy with its strategic location, making it pivotal both for the East-West and North-South trade routes.

He said Balochistan was going to be the main beneficiary under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and mentioned that Gwadar Port, Gwadar Port City, a modern new airport, and improved inland connectivity would make the area a hub of national and regional trade.

He said establishment of free trade zones and special economic zones in the province would underpin its prospects to become an attractive destination for foreign and domestic investment. He said these initiatives would bring about a socio-economic revolution for the people of Balochistan.