Another APC by Nawaz to debunk ‘unfounded objections’ on CPEC

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Ruffled by the insane and pointless controversy teed off by some elements, disgruntled by their own performance, over the historic China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC), Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is mulling over convening another All Parties Conference (APC) to put to rest their misconceptions and misunderstandings.

In the meantime, while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Pervez Khattak has gone overboard, surprising many, to make the CPEC contentious, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has thankfully shown restraint in the ongoing craze of issuing public statements every now and then over the landmark projects. But he has stopped short of containing his chief minister from harming the game-changer just for petty politics. Only once, he made a couple of sensible remarks calling for taking all and sundry into confidence.

Before summoning an APC on the pattern of the previous similar session held in May last, the premier sent Planning Division Minister Ahsan Iqbal to Khattak to explain that his objections were misplaced and unfounded. His subsequent visit to Balochistan was also meant for the same objective. However, the KP chief minister remained hell-bent upon harping on his unsubstantiated stand against the CPEC even after deliberations with Ahsan Iqbal.

Last time, almost the same elements, who are now crying hoarse, had kicked off the similar row relating to the western route, which ended immediately as the prime minister heard them at the APC culminating in the approval of a unanimous resolution. Nawaz Sharif is not opposed to more consultations so that there is no damage to the grand projects.

“The damaging situation created by the irresponsible statements of this lot can’t be allowed to persist,” a cabinet minister told The News. “That’s why we are thinking holding another APC so that the unnecessary ruckus is buried once and for all.”

A vicious campaign was intensified on day of inauguration of the western route near Zhob as if something extremely disastrous for Pakistan was started. The prime minister took the right decision of taking all the Balochistan parties apart from the Awami National Party (ANP) along at the ground-breaking ceremony.

Hopeless politics is the order of the day on creating commotion on the CPEC, which has upset China as well. When Khattak speaks against it, the ANP feels it is duty-bound not to lag behind in issuing a similar statement with the sole purpose of garnering support in KP. Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq also believes that he will be deprived of political dividends if he did not match the attack on the CPEC.

Same is the case with Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Nobody is counseling Sirajul Haq from his own party to let at least a day pass when he will not issue a statement. His unending campaign has hardly added anything to the public standing of his party if the consecutive by-elections and local government polls are any guide.

Although Jamiate Ulemae Islam-F (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman will not join the chorus of these elements but agreed to share their ‘reservations’ just to show solidarity with them and increase his weight in the eyes of the prime minister for more patronage.

Thus, everyone is trapped in this vicious circle in one way or the other. However, it is clear that at the end of the day neither Sirajul Haq nor Fazlur Rehman will stand with Khattak against the CPEC.

In this exasperating scenario, the political parties of Balochistan except the tiny entity one headed by Akhtar Mengal are not part of this anti-CPEC drive. Mehmood Khan of the Pakhtunkhwa Awami Milli Party (PkMAP) has also been seen with these elements in a localised APC but he was absolutely unlikely to join their voice. The Mengal’s party that considers itself the sole representative of Balochistan is organising an APC in Islamabad on January 10 to give rise to more doubts on the CPEC.

Every individual or political party that is working against the CPEC on different pretexts has its own axe to grind. Khattak is keen to mobilise the support of ‘nationalist’ elements in KP where his own performance over the past two and a half years has nothing to show. Similarly, the ANP, which was comprehensively routed in KP in the 2013 general elections due to its classic bad governance for five years in KP, is desperate to improve its position by raising hue and cry over the CPEC.

The PPP faces a different dilemma, which is provoking it to oppose the CPEC though half-heartedly. It feels cornered because of the expanded role of the operation being conducted by the Rangers in Karachi, extending to its alleged corrupt elements specifically Dr Asim Hussain. By siding with the CPEC opponents, it, in reality, wishes to put pressure on the Nawaz Sharif government to get the Karachi operation restricted to only target killers, extortionists, kidnappers for ransom, sectarian terrorists and mafias and not to stretch to its cronies who are allegedly involved in mega corruption.

Right or wrong, the PPP has to extend support to whatever stance the ANP takes on any issue for being its old ally although Sindh benefits from the CPEC like every part of Pakistan and the party has no major objections of its own to hammer.

In this irrational campaign, these elements are forgetting that if the CPEC was harmed in any way, the people of the areas which have accorded respect to them in the political arena will equally suffer.