Development fund in NAs up by 183%: Aziz
30 December 2005
The Daily Times
Islamabad: Political reforms, improved security situation and an 183 percent increase in the Northern Areas' development expenditure over the last five years will herald a new era of prosperity and improve the living standards of the people, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, said on Friday.Talking to a Pakistan Muslim League delegation form Northern Areas (NAs), the prime minister said 740 schemes worth Rs 16 billion were currently underway in NAs that included hydropower generation, water supply, roads, educational and health facilities. He said the government had approached the World Bank and other foreign donors to prepare a comprehensive plan for the uplift of the Northern Areas. He said the plan would cover health, education and recreational facilities and road links to Central Asia and China, for the promotion of tourism and socio-economic uplift of the people. He added that the NAs were a gateway to China and Central Asia and using the historic silk route these regions could be accessed for trade, energy and travel.The prime minister called for exploring the tourism potential of the area, adding that the development of tourism and related infrastructure was among the priorities of the government. He said the government was encouraging the private sector to invest in tourism in these areas and was also interested in the development of gem mining and agriculture. He said the introduction of new ATR turbo prop aircraft by PIA would improve access and reliability of travel to the NAs. The prime minister said peace was a prerequisite for the development of any area and it could not be enforced by law enforcement agencies alone. He said that local leaders could play a role in maintaining peace in the NAs. He said that local leaders and opinion builders in the NAs could find lasting solutions to social problems as had been envisaged in the devolution of power plan.Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz assured the delegation that local people in the NAs would be given maximum jobs as and when recruitment begins. The members of the delegation praised the steps taken by the present government for the development of the NAs. They said the road over Babusar would reduce the travel time between Gilgit and Islamabad to eight hours and would provide a boost to trade and tourism. The prime minister said that the PML was committed to developing the NAs and promoting growth and pace there. He said the party had been reorganised in the NAs and urged the delegation to make efforts to increase party membership and coverage.