MIRANSHAH: Once a hotbed of terrorism and a centre of poppy cultivation, North Waziristan Agency (NWA) is set to transform into a hub of regional and trans-regional trade as Ghulam Khan border crossing is about to be inaugurated next month.
It merits mention here that Pakistan has constructed a three-lane highway as a new trade road with Afghanistan and the Ghulam Khan crossing would be third major trade route linking Afghanistan’s Khost with Miranshah.
Miranshah is strategically located to provide a shortest link between Russia, central Asian states and warm waters of Arabian Sea through Gwadar Port. Moscow is only 4,798 kilometers from Miranshah while Dushanbe is 860 kilometers, Tashkent is 1414 kilometers and Ashqabad is 1753 kilometers, Kabul is 277 kilometers while Khost is mere 47 kilometers away from Miranshah.
Ghulam Khan trade route has the capability to become a major trade link with central Asia and Russia via Afghanistan as this route passes through comparatively stable areas of Afghanistan which are largely under control of Afghan Taliban.
“Ghulam Khan Crossing would be third biggest trade route between Afghanistan and Pakistan after Chaman and Torkhum. Around 500 trucks of goods are transported from this crossing on a daily basis. Once the new three-lane highway opens up next month, the number would climb further,” the official added.
Asked about security measures adopted at Ghulam Khan crossing, the official said state of the art gadgets were being installed at the crossing.
“We have a new data centre by NADRA for identification of travelers. Moreover, scanners would be installed to scan large and small vehicles to ensure safety,” he added.
He said when army arrived in Miranshah to launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the fields were rife with poppy cultivation under the terrorists. “We destroyed all poppy fields and urged local farmers to shift to other crops. We imparted them modern farming skills too and today we have extraordinary yields of dates, wheat, pine nuts, etc.
In a bid to facilitate agriculture sector, the military officer said modern agriculture skills including tunnel framing, vertical vegetable farming, fish farming, honey bee framing etc had been introduced to help the locals shift from old ways of cultivation to modern agricultural techniques.
“We have also installed a date-processing facility as farmers use to suffer due to waste of dates in past. Moreover, pine nuts processing plants have also been established to ensure local industry to grow,” he said. On the occasion, an official told only one farmer had loaded fourteen trucks of pine nuts from his fields in one day.
Copper Mining has also started here as precious ore reservoirs have been identified. He said officials of Strategic Plans Division along with local authorities were working on the project to extract Copper Ore reservoirs. Oil & Gas exploration has also been launched and a survey is underway.
Another senior military official told Pakistan Today during a visit to the valley here that Ghulam Khan crossing would be the third economic route between the two countries and Miranshah would be the centre of trade.
The official said that over US$ 1.7 billion have been invested so far to execute several projects reaching out and impacting lives of approximately five million people of FATA.
“We have completed 550 projects only in NWA including 266 water supply schemes, 147 schools, 17 healthcare units, 67 markets, five veterinary hospitals, 13 roads, 27 mosques and eight miscellaneous projects including playgrounds and stadiums,” he said.
Under development & public support initiative, the official said 768 projects had been completed while 14000 youth being employed, 5000 foreign visas being provided while 1500 vacancies had been provided in Army schools.
“Under deradicalisation drive, 3080 beneficiaries had been transformed into useful citizens including 118 women,” he added.
About education of FATA youth, the official said 3947 youngsters had been enrolled in various schools while 14000 youth had been employed by the armed forces.
“59 cadets have been enrolled at the PMA from where they would be inducted into the army. Besides, we have also launched a de-radicalisation initiative under which 443 militants have surrendered and joined the mainstream,” the official said.
The official said over 286 water supply schemes have been installed, five vocational centres for women and three for men have been established.
“We have also developed a modern Sweet Home for orphans while others would soon be established. A model village ‘Sarbakai’ has also been developed. Miranshah Bazar would also be opened in March,” he added.
The officials also arranged a visit of media to the Miranshah Bazar where life had back to normal and construction process was in advance stage.
“We have constructed over 500 shops in Miranshah Bazar which was once under control of the terrorists who had opened notorious an IED market. We demolished the market which was a stigma for the people of this area who used to fear of this market. Now the new market is almost complete and it would be opened next month too,” the official said.
Asked who would own this market, the official said that mostly the shops were owned by locals and the same would be handed back to them once the construction work is completed.