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TURBAT: Vowing to bring the Balochistan province at par with other areas of the country, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday announced a mega development package for the provision of basic facilities like electricity, gas, water and Internet in its nine southern districts.

"I have not come here on a political trip, or to ask for votes, or announce the projects for clapping. But as it is my faith that any country or nation cannot progress without taking care of the backward and downtrodden, I vow and will fully strive to bring this province at par with other areas of the country," he said while addressing the elders of southern Balochistan here.

The prime minister said Balochistan lagged behind due to the fact that Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had maximum population and the major political parties did not need votes of that province to form a government at federal level.

Moreover, he said, unfortunately, the political leaders from Balochistan in the past, like others throughout the country, also thought of their personal interests instead of thinking for the people of their respective areas.

"There had been a prime minister and a president [in the past], who made more trips of London and Dubai respectively, than Balochistan," Imran Khan remarked.

The prime minister said despite the reduction of Rs 900 billion in revenue collection due to closure of economic activities in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, his government had come up with a development package for the southern Balochistan.

Besides other things, he said, some 500,000 people in southern Balochistan would be provided with the facility of 4G Internet connectivity under the package. It would particularly benefit the youth in the era of Information Technology, he added.

The prime minister also announced the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme for southern Balochistan. Under the scheme, he said, homeless, poor and low income salaried people would be provided with the financing facility at a mere 5% mark-up for the construction of their own houses.

He said in the past Balochistan was not given the attention it deserved. The main reason behind the success of Riasat-e-Madina, the first welfare state in the world, was improving the lot of poor and weaker segments of society, he added.

Imran Khan said China, which pulled its 700 million people out of poverty in 30 years, launched the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project to ensure the development its less developed southern parts.

The Chinese leadership realized the fact that any country could not progress through the development of a smaller segment of people or areas but only by taking the whole nation along, he added.

The prime minister said the country was like a home which could only prosper when all its inmates moved forward together. "The prime minister is like a father and he should strive to take all the people along," he remarked.

He said CPEC, through its connectivity with Gwadar, would equally benefit Balochistan and rest of Pakistan.

The prime minister said with China, having an annual trade of US$ 2,000 billion and progressing fast to become a superpower in the world, Pakistan was fortunate to have its connectivity for the benefit of whole country, including Balochistan.

Talking about the country's economic situation, he said despite the effects of COVID-19, which had hit India badly in economic terms, as well as the fiscal and current account deficits his government inherited, Pakistan had come out of the difficult situation and its economic indicators were positive.

He said under the Ehsaas Poverty Reduction programme, billions of rupees were being disbursed to check poverty.

The prime minister said the current account recorded in surplus after 17 years, no increase in debt during the last four months, well performing stock market - best in Asia, the country's economy was on the right track.

He mentioned the second wave of coronavirus and cautioned the people to continue to follow the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

The prime minister thanked Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar for announcing Rs 730 million for a hospital in the area and said he (Buzdar) had played the role of a big brother for Balochistan.

Earlier, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said under the package for southern Balochistan, 47,000 homes in nine districts would be connected with the National Grid for the provision of electricity and 273,000 would be provided with off-grid electricity.

In order to overcome the gas shortage, he said, people would be provided with the facility of LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) on subsidized rates. Initially, 15% of the poor would be provided with the subsidy, which would late be expanded to 30%, he added.

The minister said for addressing the issue of water, 19 dams would be constructed in southern Balochistan, which would irrigate 150,000 acres of agricultural lands in the area.

Minister for Defence Production Zubaida Jalal, speaking on the occasion, thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan for announcing the package and said it was after 45 years that a prime minister visited the area and interacted with the people there. Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal said the previous governments did not pay any attention to the development of Balochistan and utilized the CPEC projects for other provinces.