ISLAMABAD - Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif, stressing the need for political stability in the country, yesterday said it was important for all to shun confrontation and focus on cooperation so that mega projects could be completed in prescribed times.

Making a special reference to the Indian intelligence agency, RAW, that was blatantly involved in destabilising Pakistan, The COAS said, “Let me make it clear that we will not allow anyone to create impediments and turbulence in any part of the country.”

He said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was a grand manifestation of the deep-rooted ties between Beijing and Islamabad.

“Much larger than its bilateral benefits, CPEC is indeed a corridor of peace and prosperity, not only for the people of Pakistan and China but also for the region and beyond. It will bind all these nations together and bring about an economic transformation through enhanced connectivity,” the COAS said, addressing a seminar in Gwadar.

“Having passed through a tough fight against terrorism, we have now come a long way in our struggle for stability and development. As you all know, Zarb-e-Azb is in progress, and let me say with satisfaction that we are in the final stages of our military operation in Fata,” Raheel Sharif said.

Mentioning the strong resolve and sacrifices offered by the people as well as by intelligence, law-enforcement agencies and the gallant armed forces, he said Zarb-e-Azb was not only an operation but a wholesome concept. It ultimately aimed at breaking the syndicate of terrorism, extremism and corruption.

The COAS urged the international community to not only acknowledge the successes and sacrifices but also come forward to block external help to these terrorist organizations and their facilitators, abettors and financiers.

Terming the CPEC a lifetime opportunity for Pakistan to improve the socio-economic equation of its underprivileged areas and populace, he told the people of Balochistan that they would benefit the most from the fruits of this project.

“In my belief, CPEC is poised to bring a true economic transformation to the province. In the place of today’s rugged mountains and lifeless barren deserts, we look forward to the emergence of modern infrastructure, special economic zones, health facilities and universities which will bring enduring benefits to our people,” the army chief said.

It is pertinent to mention that though Gawadar is central to the broader conception of CPEC, the corridor itself ranges from Western China to the plains and coasts of Pakistan and promises to bring prosperity to the remotest areas of Pakistan from Gilgit-Baltistan to Balochistan, he said.

For the sustainability of this project, he said transparency and good management were extremely important, adding socio-economic justice resulting from the balanced development would also increase people’s stakes in national unity and cohesion. “For our enduring progress and prosperity, this sense of coherence will be our greatest asset,” he asserted.

“Now, zooming out to the global and regional level, we have seen a wide appreciation of CPEC by many world powers that appreciate its true potential as a catalyst of economic transformation of the entire region. At the same time, the CPEC has also raised many eyebrows by those competing for influence in the region,” he said. “In this context, I must highlight that India, our immediate neighbour, has openly challenged this development initiative. We all know that hostile intelligence agencies are averse to this grand project,” he added.

Since the onset of CPEC, he said, Balochistan had seen unprecedented development of communication infrastructure.

“We mobilised army engineers for construction and Frontier Corps units for security of the projects. Over the past two years, 275km of roads have already been constructed, while a total of 870km road infrastructure will be completed by FWO by the end of this year,” he averred.

With Gwadar as a pivot, the dividends of CPEC would be reaped not only by Balochistan but also they would spread across the entire rim of Indian Ocean region, the COAS said.

“As the chief of army staff, I assure you that security of CPEC is our national undertaking and we will not leave any stone unturned. We will continue to keep a close watch at its every step.” To that effect, he said, 15,000 strong dedicated troops were already in place under the ambit of Special Security Division.

“The CPEC, besides being at the core of our national resolve, is a reflection of Pakistan-China friendship. It will be truly realised, whatever it takes. Insha Allah this year, we will move cargo from heartland China to Gwadar and beyond, fulfilling our dream. “I have no doubt in my mind that, with the help of God Almighty, Gwadar is set to become a port, worthy of its geo-political significance, transforming our beloved Pakistan into a prosperous state, as envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah,” the COAS said.

He asserted the greatest asset of the country was youth; the hope and future of this great nation. “Whatever we build today, we build it for them.

The investment that we are making in our youth today will enable them to take on the challenges of tomorrow and lead this great country to a prosperous future.”

Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, the Southern Command commander and a large number of people attended the seminar.