Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing a gathering in Sukkur. (Photo screengrab)

SUKKUR, Apr 16 (APP): Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday unveiled a historic development package worth Rs 446 billion to uplift backward areas of opposition-led Sindh province through power supply, irrigation, sports and communication projects.

The prime minister, while addressing a ceremony to hand over business loan cheques among the entitled youths here, said the proposed projects would start getting shape within a month as feasibility studies had already been completed.

Federal ministers Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Dr Fehmida Mirza, Ali Haider Zaidi, Asad Umar, Mohammad Mian Soomro, Special Assistant Dr Sania Nishtar, Sindh Governor Imran Islamil and Usman Dar accompanied the prime minister.

The prime minister said he was pleased to visit the interior Sindh with a good news of development package, which otherwise was the responsibility of the provincial government under 18th amendment.

He said Interior Sindh was the poorest area of the country, besides Southern Balochistan and now merged tribal districts. He also likened the development outlook of the interior Sindh with Mohenjo-Daro and said instead of any advancement of the people were moving backward.

He said the people of interior Sindh were living in difficult circumstances without basic facilities and rights besides facing victimization through police.

The development package consisted of the restoration of 200,000 acres of land, upgradation of 14 passports offices, construction of Nai Gaj Dam to irrigate around 28,800 acres, 306-kilometer Sukkur-Hyderabad Motorway, gas supply to 160 villages and annual 30,000 new power connections to the deprived districts.

“Insha Allah, we will assist the uplift of backward areas of Pakistan honesty and trustfully. I am proud that we gave first development package for Southern Balochistan in Pakistan’s history. We also gave the biggest package for now merged tribal area which would be increased too… I again commit to my people in Sindh that I will try my utmost to improve their living condition,” he said.

The prime minister told the gathering that his government inherited the biggest debt burden. During last two and half years, his government had returned Rs 35,000 billion debt – Rs 15,000 billion more than the previous government.

He said the same Rs 15,000 billion could have been spent for public welfare for construction of roads, irrigation and infrastructure development to change the fate of backward areas.

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He said despite giving its allocated share to Sindh province, the federal government had scrapped this Rs 446 billion for Sindh development package which would focus skill training to youth, business loans, sports facilities and building communication network.

He said it was essential to exploit the potential of 60pc below 30 population to make them an asset who otherwise would become a liability.

He said it was also equally essential to develop playgrounds for the youth to make them exhibit their talent. He said New Zealand with a population of around 6 million had more playgrounds than 220 million nation of Pakistan.

Imran Khan said the Sukkur-Hyderabad Motorway would facilitate the transportation of logistics besides bringing ease of doing business in the country.

He said the government distributed cash assistance under Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme among 15 million families after the poor suffered due to COVID-19 lockdown.

He said Sindh, with 22pc population, got 33 pc share in Ehsaas Cash Programme, which manifested that the amount was distributed fairly and without any political discrimination.

Referring to Bundal Island project, the prime minister said the federal government had designed the project to attract $40 billion investment to help surge foreign exchange reserves and empower local currency.

But unfortunately, he said the Sindh government withdrew its No Objection Certificate issued to federal government due to the unknown reasons.

The people of Sindh would have been the biggest beneficiary of the project and that even the federal government had also offered the profit of the project to the province.

He hoped that the Sindh government would review its decision on NoC cancellation as the project would impact whole of Pakistan.

He said the government had decided to disburse cash assistance to around 12 million families under Ehsaas Programme.

Imran Khan said he never discriminated the people as he represented whole of the country.

He said the incumbent government also gave away the biggest development package for Southern Balochistan as well as now merged tribal districts.

Earlier, the prime minister also distributed cheques among the entitled youths of business loan under Kamyab Jawan Program and certificates among those who completed skill training.

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Later, the prime minister also examined the disbursement of Ehsaas cash assistance among the women through biometric identification and also handed over cheques to them.

Briefing the prime minister, SAPM Sania Nishtar said for the first time, the biometric was being used to ensure transparency in cash dispensation.

She said 80pc Ehsaas Survey had been completed and rest would be done by June.

Dr Sania said the people should send their CNIC No to 8171 helpline to know their entitlement. Moreover, special desks would also be set up at district level to register the families who could not be registered yet.

In his address, Planning Minister Asad Umar said despite being a resource rich province, the people of Sindh were deprived of development and basic facilities.

He said the Sukkur-Hyderabad Motorway project would be approved by CDWP and Public Private Partnership Board by next week.

He said under the package, Rs 52 billion would be spent for power and gas supply to the deprived areas and Rohri and Hyderabad railways stations would be upgraded.

He said the federal government decided accomplish Nai Gaj Dam project to irrigate 28,800 acres after Sindh government refused to do its part.

He said 100,000 youth in 14 preferred districts would be skill trained to, sports facilities to be developed for benefit of 130,000 youth including 35,000 girls.

The package would also ensure the introduction of 3G and 4G services for 3.7 million population and optic fiber connectivity for 1.2 million people.

He said after upgradation of 14 passport offices, 200,000 people would not have to travel outside districts for the passport related works.

He said the prime minister had given three-month time to all the ministers concerned to start execution of their projects.

Sindh Governor Imran Ismail said Imran Khan believed that his vision fo change was yet awaited in Sindh where people faced most injustices, be it was power and gas supply or the policing system.

He also thanked Asad Umar for drafting the package by visiting the areas to ascertain the needs in consultation with the local leadership.