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AJK-centric CPEC projects to be back on track soon: president AJK

Report CPEC in AJ&K: a gateway to regional connectivity and beyond launched in Muzaffarabad.
CPEC will usher in an era of unprecedented development and growth in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the government is determined to address the factors, causing uncalled controversies and delay in the implementation of the projects related to it. The government also endorses the recommendations put forth in a recent report published by Center for Policy, Development and Reforms relating to public awareness and non-politicization of CPEC projects in AJK, construction of a dry port in Mirpur, addressal of the environmental concerns of the people of Muzaffarabad in connection to the Neelum-Jehlum and Kohala hydropower projects, and the exploration of AJK's linkages with Central Asia and China.

This was said by Sardar Masood Khan, President Azad Jammu and Kashmir, in a report launch event held at the UAJ&K-University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Muzaffarabad. The report “CPEC in Azad Jammu & Kashmir: a gateway to regional connectivity and beyond”  has been authored by Sabur Ali Sayyid and published by a think tank known as Center of Peace, Development and Policy Reforms”.

The event was jointly organized by Center for Peace, Development and Reforms, CPDR and CPEC Center of Excellence, UAJ&K. The event was attended by top government officials, ministers, secretaries, journalists, students and people from different walks of life. The proceedings of the event were conducted by Ms. Samina Sabar, Head of the CPEC Center of Excellence at the UAJ&K.

Speaking on the occasion, Vice Chancellor of UAJ&K, Professor Dr. Muhammad Kaleem Abbasi appreciated CPDR and the President’s Office for collaborating with the University and the students to apprise them of the development plans that have been designed keeping in mind the future of the youth.  He further said that there’s a scanty amount of information available on CPEC in Pakistan and this report has contributed significantly in clearing the air and controversy around CPEC.

The author of the report Mr. Sabur Ali Sayyid shared with the audience that the fate of three out of four projects hangs in the balance owing to different controversies currently surrounding them.  These projects include Kohala Hydel Project, MMM Expressway, Special Economic Zone at Mirpur and Karot Hydel Project shared with the Punjab Government.

He further mentioned that MMM-Mansehra Muzaffarabad Mirpur Expressway was designed to connect different districts of AJ&K internally but no progress has been made on it. Similarly, Kohala Hydel Project has also become controversial due to its purported environmental impact.

Former President of JKJCCI-Jammu Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Zulfiqar Abbasi, while speaking on the occasion, lamented the fact that the investment worth three billion dollars is being jeopardized by such controversies and the construction company working on it has either sold its machinery or shifted it to other places. Mr. Abbasi stressed the need for advocacy and proper information dissemination in AJ&K for CPEC projects so that the future of AJK gets secured.

Responding to the concerns and questions raised by Mr. Abbasi and Mr. Sabur, Jamil Ahmed Khan from Planning and Development Department, AJ&K said that the feasibility check of MMM Expressway has been completed and it is expected that the necessary funds will be allocated for this project in the next year. He also said that the Government of AJ&K has to consider the ecological costs of such mega projects and we are working to formulate public consensus on them.

Ershad Mahmud, Executive Director CPDR-Center for Peace, Development and Reforms also spoke on the occasion and suggested that the students of the University of AJ&K, CPDR and other civil society organizations should jointly come up with an advocacy campaign to support CPEC led projects and particularly the fast track construction of MMMM as it can become a real game changer in the region by connecting AJ&K with the rest of Pakistan but also at some point of time in future with the regions located on the other side of LoC.

Concluding the event, President of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Muhammad Masood Khan acknowledged the efforts of the author and CPDR for starting a discourse on CPEC and the economic future of AJ&K. He further said that he will take up the issue of scanty growth and slow progress of CPEC projects at the Federal level and will make sure that the development of AJ&K isn’t compromised.

Mr. Masood stressed the need for consensus building on issues of ecological importance and concerns regarding Hydel Projects under CPEC. He acknowledged the fact that there’s a lack of information available on CPEC but also stressed that the young people must channelize their hidden potential and resources to contribute positively to such projects and the nation.

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