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Without good governance economic development cannot take off: Masood Khan

MUZAFFARABAD : (Parliament Times) Sardar Masood Khan, President Azad Kashmir has said that Mehbooba Mufti’s wish to join CPEC can only be made possible if her government ceases being a facilitator to Delhi’s oppressive rule in Indian Occupied Kashmir and also if Indian force’s halt cross-border fire over the LOC.

The President made these remarks at the inaugural session of the panel discussion titled ‘Kashmir at Present: Quest for Empowerment and Progress’ organized by the Alumni Association of National Security Workshop (AAN) of the National Defence University held here at the Presidency in Muzaffarabad.

The event was attended by Major General Mohammad Samrez Salik, HI (M), Director General ISSRA, Lt. Gen (R) Agha Muhammad, Ministers of AJK Government, alumni of NSW, senior military and civilian officers, Vice Chancellors of AJK Public Sector Universities and a large number of student

Highlighting the priorities of the present AJK Government, the President said special emphasis is being given to three key elements, namely: accelerating the pace of the freedom movement for the right to self-determination of the Kashmiris; good governance; and economic development.

The President said on the occasion, Azad Kashmir is poised to start off an economic revolution that is being catalysed by the AJK Government with the active collaboration of the Federal Government of Pakistan. He added that without good governance economic development cannot take off in a holistic manner and thereby, the AJK Government has taken a series of steps to promote meritocracy, the rule of law, access to justice, accountability and transparency.

The current Government of AJK, he said, has stimulated economic activity by investing heavily in socio-economic development projects, especially in the sectors of infrastructure development, road construction, hydropower generation, promotion of tourism, industry, agriculture, next-generation telecommunications connectivity, high-quality education, and universal access to health.

President Masood Khan said that work has also been initiated on building a cascade of hydropower projects throughout Azad Kashmir. In the coming decade, a total of 5000-6000 MWs of energy will be produced indigenously in Azad Kashmir from hydropower projects to be built at Karot, Kohala, Mahl, Azad Pattan and Dudniyal, he said. He added that after fulfilling AJK’s own demand the rest of the generated energy will be sent to the National Electricity Grid and will, in turn, contribute to the economy of Pakistan.

Being a treasure trove of minerals, Azad Kashmir has vast deposits of marble, granite, phosphate, graphite, bentonite, bauxite, gold and coal, in varying quantities, along with some of the finest reserves of ruby, sapphire, topaz, and tourmaline. Through research, enterprise, use of sophisticated machinery and public-private partnerships, minerals can be extracted through modern means to gain maximum output; all the while taking appropriate measures in protecting the environment.

Industries in AJK include small and medium-sized enterprises producing textiles, paper, pharmaceuticals, automobile, tyre and rubber, plastic, pipes, shoes, furniture, flour, rice, food, crush, and handicrafts said President Masood.

The President said that under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a Special Economic Zone will be built in Mirpur which will provide an opportunity to specialized industries with investment opportunities.

“Operations of this zone will be buttressed by another mega-project under CPEC, namely, an expressway from Mansehra to Mirpur that would cut across the entire territory of Azad Kashmir and connect it to the central artery of CPEC”, he added.

President AJK said that with the exponential growth in tourists visiting Azad Kashmir, a reliable road network and a chain of motels, theme and sports parks, and development of reservoirs, sanctuaries, and historical sites will be built. A special ‘Tourism Corridor’, he said, would also be built which starting from Saran-Chikar and after passing through Ganga Choti, Haji Pir, Toli Pir and Banjosa would end in Devi Gali.

The President said that with 5 universities, three medical colleges, two cadet colleges and scores of post graduate colleges AJK also enjoys the highest literacy rate and educational scores in the whole of Pakistan in terms of enrolment, retention, learning and gender parity. He added, AJK’s government has three goals relating to education which include ensuring high-quality education at all levels, building an interface between the academia and industry, and promoting compatibility between university curricula and the demand for skills and jobs generated by contemporary market trends.

Azad Kashmir, he said, is hospitable for investment and constructive steps will be taken to incentivise private entrepreneurs’ participation in Azad Kashmir and create salutary conditions for ease of doing business. He invited entrepreneurs, the diaspora community and private investors from all over to explore the growing economic opportunities AJK has to offer.

This, he said, would also address the unemployment issues faced by the educated youth of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Speaking about the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir, the President said, “Because of the Indian atrocities in IOK, we are a traumatized as our kith and kin living across the LoC are suffering grievously. We as a nation are incomplete without Kashmir”. The people of the IOK have as much a right over Pakistan as the people of Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab, and KP, he said. “We will continue our moral, political and diplomatic support till Kashmir is free from Indian occupation”, he asserted.

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