SKARDU: Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the Skardu International Airport saying it will promote international tourism in the region.
He also opened the under-construction Jaglot-Skardu road during a day-long visit to Baltistan’s headquarters on Thursday.
The airport in Skardu was previously only operational for domestic flights. However, its status was elevated on December 2, 2020, to receive international flights as well.
Addressing a big crowd at Municipal Stadium Skardu, the prime minister said the facility would transform the lives of the local people.
While highlighting the tourism potential of the region, PM Khan said that GB had the “most beautiful mountain scenery in the world” but regrettably people did not know enough about it because travel was difficult.
Pm Khan predicted that foreign and domestic tourists, including expatriates, would arrive in large numbers after the up-gradation of the airport and widening of the road.
“Tourism can become a big asset of Pakistan,” he said, adding that if Switzerland could earn $70 billion from tourism then Pakistan could also generate substantial income from it.
“We can make at least $30-$40 billion from tourism just in GB,” he said.
The prime minister also highlighted the importance and potential of religious tourism and the untapped coastal belt.
He added the locals would benefit the most from the surge in tourism as they would no longer have to travel to other cities to seek jobs. Instead, people would come to their area to find jobs, he said.
The prime minister said that no country can truly develop until it improves its backward and neglected areas.
He hoped that by the time our five years are complete, life in backward areas is better and many are brought above the poverty line.
During his Skardu visit, PM Imran was also scheduled to preside over various meetings on multiple development schemes and review the one-year performance of the Gilgit-Baltistan government.
The prime minister said his government was keen on developing Gilgit-Baltistan like other remote areas of the country.
He assured locals that the PTI-led government will ensure connectivity of Skardu to other parts of the country so that the potential of local tourism can also be exploited fully.
A spokesperson for the National Highway Authority said that the 167-kilometre strategic road connects GB with the Karakoram Highway at Jaglot.
The road has not yet been completed and work on the project causes problems for the passengers as traffic remains suspended for hours.
Interestingly, GB’s former Chief Minister Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman along with PML-N workers inaugurated the Jaglotet-Skardu Road at Alam Bridge a day ahead of PM’s visit to Skardu symbolically by cutting the ribbon. He claimed that the project was initiated during PML-N federal government.
Some political and religious leaders expressed disappointment over the PM’s speech.
Gilgit Baltistan’s Provincial Minister stated that Prime Minister Imran Khan would visit Skardu on December 16 and declare Gilgit Baltistan’s interim provincial status.
Political opponents said that the prime minister did not make an announcement about the constitutional status and other issues of the region.
A ruling party provincial minister had tweeted on his microblogging handler that PM Imran Khan during his Skardu visit will announce interim provincial status for GB.
Sheikh Mirza Ali, a religious scholar and leader of Tehreek Islami expressed his disappointment over the PM Khan’s speech, saying it was the same rhetoric and people were not gathered to listen rhetoric of Imran Khan he often describes the natural beauty of the region.
People were expecting that the premier will explain his government’s stance on the status of GB especially after the controversy generated in media by the affidavit of a former top judge of Gilgit-Baltistan saying that the region is out of the constitutional jurisdiction of Pakistan.