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Pakistan launches special economic zone with China’s help

COURTESY OF RASHAKAI.COM

A resourceful province in northern Pakistan is all set to get maximum benefit following the launch of its first special economic zone with Chinese assistance.

Representatives from China and Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday in a ceremony held in office of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who formally inaugurated the Rashakai special economic zone.

Representatives from China and Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday in a ceremony held in office of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who formally inaugurated the Rashakai special economic zone

The first of nine proposed zones, Rashakai SEZ is being built under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan’s northwest Khyber Paktoonkhaw (KP) province which is in fact country’s gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asian states because of geographical location.

According to official documents, the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) and the Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw Economic Zones Development and Management Company are to jointly implement the Rashakai SEZ project.

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The Rashakai SEZ is expected to cover about 1,000-acre land, and will be developed in three phases to include a textile industry and mechanical complex among others.

Construction of Industrial complex is expected to generate 18,000 jobs in the following years, and zone itself may generate 50,000 jobs for skilled Pakistanis after it gets fully functional, according to official sources.

“The zone will change the destiny of the area by bringing in employment opportunities for the general public,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said while addressing the signing ceremony of the development agreement of the Rashakai SEZ.

Traditionally people of the area have to leave their families behind to find employments in other parts of the country and overseas.

“I am sure that the formation of the SEZ will enhance industrialization in the province and people of this region will be finding suitable jobs without having to leave their homes in the pursuit of livelihood,” Khan said.

With establishment of Rashakai Special Economic Zone, industries of marble, tobacco, wood, gems stone and agriculture will get huge boost

Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw is Pakistan’s third largest province in terms of population and third largest provincial economy. It contributes 10.5 percent in GDP of Pakistan.

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With establishment of Rashakai Special Economic Zone, industries of marble, tobacco, wood, gems stone and agriculture will get huge boost.

As the Rashakai SEZ is being set up at a place which serves as a bridge for Northern Areas of Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw and located close to Afghan border, it may possibly become a trade hub for KP province and prove valuable in expanding transit trade to Afghanistan and Central Asian countries by land, experts say.

The zone is connected to all provinces of Pakistan through International airport in the provincial capital city of Peshawar and a dry port both 65 kilometers away, highways linking it with the city center and a railway station about 25 km away. Availability of input resources in nearest districts makes RSEZ more attractive for the investment.

At present 78 percent of Pakistan’s total marble production comes from Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw, which is the largest province producing wood and tobacco. The province is also blessed with natural resources like minerals. The literacy rate of KP is 50 percent and human development index is 0.48.

“All of the above mentioned industries in the region will get a boost following setting up of Rashakai Special Economic Zone. They will get easy access to International market once this zone become operational,” Shahid Hussain, senior vice president of Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industries told this correspondent over telephone.

Based on the strengths of the connected districts and resource pool, the Rashakai Special Economic Zone has predominant investment feasibility for industries in fruit & food packaging and textile.

Bao Zhong, an official with China’s embassy to Pakistan in Islamabad, said setting up the Rashakai SEZ is another milestone being achieved under China Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC.

China will extend every possible support to Pakistan to make sure it gets maximum benefit from CPEC, Bao said. “I am sure that Rashakai Special Economic Zone will generate more jobs for youths in the region and boost its economic growth and potential.” 

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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