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ISLAMABAD: The first ever cancer hospital costing Rs2.5 billion in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) has started functioning, former chief minister Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman told Business Recorder.

In a chat with Business Recorder here, the provincial president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said that the project was started in the region in 2017, which was completed in May 2020.

He said that the people of the G-B were facing serious problems of health facilities. The area is top local and global tourist destination but was badly ignored in provision of education, health, infrastructure, power generation and sports facilities to the people since decades.

He said since independence there was no CT scan and MRI facilities in the region as even the hospitals of capital city, Gilgit were referring patients in need of the CT scan and MRI tests to Rawalpindi/Islamabad, which cost them Rs100,000 on simple MRI and CT-scan tests but during past five years with the help of federal and Punjab government the provincial government of G-B not only installed CT-Scan and MRI machines in Gilgit but also built state-of-the-art cancer hospital.

He said that provincial elections were to be held in November in G-B and his party was committed to complete and implement all mega projects started by his government from 2015 to 2020.

He said in the past five years the provincial government specially focused on law and order, health, education, infrastructure, power projects, and tourism sectors.

The former chief minister said that the region was not financially self-sufficient as it had to rely on the grants of the federal government but after 2015 his party successfully convinced the federal government to increase financial resources for G-B, which were increased from Rs5 billion per annum to Rs35 billion per annum.

The allocation of additional financial resources enabled the provincial government to spend more on public projects.

Law and order especially sectarian violence was one of the core problems facing the region since independence but with the help and close cooperation of the people of G-B his party government restored 100 percent peace in G-B.

Since 2015, no incident of sectarian violence took place in the region.

During the past five years, the government has brought over 138,000 out-of-school children in schools as a result total number of enrolled students in the region crossed from 84,000 in 2015 to 220,000 in 2020.

The PML-N-led government has also started new university in the region, now Gilgit-Baltistan has two public sector universities, adding, we also built poly-technical institute in Skardu.

Hafeezur Rehman added that in the past five years his government spent Rs333.17 million to build tourist facilities in the region, which included tourist information centers in all the districts of the G-B, four tourist facilitation centers, setting up of 20 tent villages in Gilgit, regional/annual functions arrangement, purchase of three snow scooters to facilitate winter tourism, creation of tourists police, and many other steps.

On infrastructure development, the provincial government specially focused and completed Gilgit-Astore Road costing billions of rupees, Gilgit-Sakardu road is still under construction at a cost of Rs42 billion, and construction of Gilgit-Chitral Road will cost Rs16 billion.

He said that he wanted to start working on Shounter-Neelum Valley road, which would connect the G-B with Azad Jammu and Kashmir but the present federal government had dropped the project from the federal PSDP along with many other projects.

If completed, the flux of tourists in the G-B from present 1.5 million can increase to 2.5 million in the next few years, he added.

He said the G-B was a land of rivers and streams; therefore, it had great potential to produce cheap electricity, which according to experts could produce up to 40,000 megawatts of electricity from water resources.

He said that his government allocated Rs5 billion for the construction of first grid station in the G-B, work on Rs4.8 billion Shugarthang power project with 26 megawatts capacity was underway, Thaknalah power project of four megawatts in Chilas with a cost of Rs1.3 billion was also underway, work on Rs3.8 billion Naltar power project with a capacity to produce 14 megawatts hydel power was completed, while another power project in the same area of 16 megawatts costing Rs3 billion was under construction, and Rs8 billion Ghowari-Baltistan power project of 30 megawatts was also under construction.

He said work on dozens of more, small hydel power projects in the region was underway and the completion of those projects would enable the region to sell electricity to other areas as well.

He said that his government had started work on the construction of an international hockey stadium in the region, which was almost completed.

The completion of hockey stadium will also help attract more international tourists to visit the region, he said.

He lamented that the federal government was applying delaying tactics in providing 4G services of all the cellular networks operating in the country, as a result the people of the most important region of the country were unable to connect with rest of the country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020