China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Issue of western, eastern routes raised again

The issue of changing the route of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project was raised again during a meeting of the Senate Special Committee on Tuesday.

Smaller provinces criticised the government for ignoring the western alignment despite the unanimous decision at the All Parties Conference on May 28 this year.

Chairman of the committee Senator Taj Haider along with others belonging to the smaller provinces expressed serious concern over what they termed a “fraudulent policy” of the government to ignore the western alignment in the name of ‘early harvesting’. The western alignment leads through D I Khan, Zhob, Qilla Saifullah, Pishin and Quetta.

After reading the briefing papers provided by the Ministry of Planning and Development, lawmakers from smaller provinces noted that it was in complete contradiction to the consensus reached at the APC. They said the prime minister had announced government’s priority for the western alignment.

“The government has earmarked only Rs10 billion for the western alignment and that too under the PSDP,” they pointed out.

“The PM must look into the matter himself since the agreed route is again being neglected by the bureaucracy and the Minister of Planning and Development,” said Haider.

He said the civil society has termed this project ‘China-Punjab’ and not ‘China-Pakistan’ Corridor and urged the government to review its policy in the larger interest of the federation. “There would be serious confrontation between the centre and smaller provinces if the policy is not reviewed,” he warned.

“How can you include Thar project in the corridor when it is 600km away from the route,” he said. “If the government does not hear the decision of the House and implement the joint decision of the APC, this debate could very likely go from the parliament to the streets.”

Haider said this was a good opportunity for the government to bring under-developed areas of Fata, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) at par with the developed ones. “This way, military expenses can be diverted towards the development sector.”

Meanwhile, Senator Ilyas Bilour of Awami National Party said the briefing papers completely negated the political parties’ consensus. “This briefing reflects the mindset of the minister for planning and we cannot accept this project in such a shape,” said Bilour. “We are being fooled and cheated on in the name of early harvesting policy.”

He also blamed the PML-N government for setting up majority of the CECP projects in Punjab to produce electricity. “This is being done to gain political mileage before the 2018 elections.”

Senator Farhatullah Babar said the country needed to be informed whether the western alignment was still a priority of the government.

“The western route is intentionally being constructed in such a way that China does not use it later for its heavy containers and would automatically use the eastern alignment,” added Babur.

Adding more to the debate, Senator Usman Tarakai claimed that there were no motorways included in the plan from Khuzdar, Dalbandin up to Sorab.

“The government has announced generating 16,000MW electricity under CPEC, but not a single project is from DI Khan, Zhob to Dilbandin; an area of almost 600km,” claimed Tarakai.