MIRPUR (AJK): Azad Jammu & Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan Tuesday exhorted the need of comprehensive planning to turn the liberated territory into the economic engine of Pakistan through China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative.

He was speaking as chief guest at a one-day conference on “special economic zone – future prospects and potential" which was organized here by CPEC Center of Azad Jammu & Kashmir University in collaboration with Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad in the State's metropolis.

The conference was also addressed by Vice Chancellor AJK University Prof. Dr. Kalim Abbasi, Director (strategy) special economic zones Hassan N. Ansari and others.

The state president said that one of four mega CPEC projects have been completed in Azad Kashmir while initial planning for two more projects has been worked out.      Similarly, work on Mansehra-Muzaffarabad-Mangla-Mirpur highway will start from the next financial year.

He urged universities, academia and media of the country to besides highlighting its socio-economic benefits, effectively counter a negative campaign against the CPEC initiative.

He said that under the CPEC, nine special economic zones will be established across the country, and one of them will be established in Mirpur Azad Kashmir for which 1,185 acres of land has already been identified.

In the first phase, 571 acres of land will be acquired, while in the second phase, 614 acres of land will be purchased.

Sardar Masood Khan said that feasibility study including environmental study, topographic survey and other technical formalities of Mirpur special economic zone have been completed, and handed over to the Chinese officials.

Special incentives have been offered by the AJK government for investment in Mirpur economic zone.

These incentives include the tax-free import of machinery and other equipment, construction of infrastructure, and permission to prospective investors to generate their own electricity to run the industries at the local level.

Sardar Masood Khan said that the state government has set up a board of investment (BOI) to attract investment by local and foreign investors as well as overseas Kashmiris, and work is in progress on a comprehensive policy to protect the capital of the investors and to restore their confidence.

While enumerating challenges and difficulties, the AJK president said that planning was being made to ensure natural gas supply and uninterrupted electricity supply to the economic zone, setting up a dry port, the introduction of e-filing system and laying of the railway link between Dina-Jhelum-Mirpur.

He said that the state government was trying to ensure speedy development works in special economic zones, resolve environmental issues on a priority basis, and to take on board the local industrialists and small business.

On this occasion, Vice Chancellor Azad Jammu and Kashmir University, Prof. Dr Kalim Abbasi threw light on the efforts of CPEC centre for projecting economic corridor project in its real perspective.

He also paid tributes to state president Sardar Masood Khan for effectively highlighting Kashmir issue at the OIC summit in Makkah.

A memorandum of understanding was also signed between China-Pakistan Study Center of ISSI and the Azad Jammu and Kashmir University under which both the institutions will cooperate with each other in the field of education and research.

Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2019