China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)-related projects will turn the disputed territory of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) into Pakistan's "economic engine," claimed a former diplomat of the country, Sardar Masood Khan, on Tuesday.
He added that a "comprehensive strategy" needs to be chalked out for it, while speaking a conference titled "Special Economic Zone (SEZ) - Future Prospects and Potential" at a university here.
The former diplomat said that one of the four CPEC projects in PoK has been completed, according to The Express Tribune. He also added that "initial planning" for two more projects has been completed.
Khan further said that work on the Mansehra-Muzaffarabad-Mangla-Mirpur highway -- which connects Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to PoK -- would begin next year, during his address.
Under CPEC, nine SEZs are slated to be established across Pakistan, including one in PoK's Mirpur. He alleged that 1,185 acres of land have been identified for the project in the region, the acquisition of which will take place in two phases. While 571 acres of land in the disputed region would be taken in the first phase, the rest would be acquired in the second.
Khan added that the environmental study, topographic survey and other technical formalities for the SEZ in PoK have been completed and handed over to Chinese officials.
The Pakistan-instated regime in PoK has offered incentives for investment in the Mirpur SEZ, the Pakistani official said. "These incentives include 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," he stated.
A board of investment (BOI) has also been set up by the Pakistani regime in the disputed territory "to attract investment by local and foreign investors as well as overseas Kashmiris," Khan added.
Regular protests against hydropower projects amongst other things have been suppressed by the Islamabad regime in PoK. Scores of protesters have been detained.
Protesters have alleged that projects which were supposed to bring prosperity have adversely affected the lives of the common people, with many of them being forced to migrate to other places.
The former Pakistani diplomat also said that planning to ensure an "uninterrupted supply of natural resources and electricity" to the SEZ is underway.
Towards this, a dry port is being set up, e-filing system is being introduced while a railway link between Dina, Jhelum and Mirpur is being established.