Islamabad: Amidst renewed criticism by various parties of the government’s reported plan to alter the route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the members of a parliamentary committee have decided to inspect the work on the project.
“We have decided to visit Balochistan and Sindh by the end of this month to physically inspect the work on the project,” Mushahid Hussain, Chairman of the Special Parliamentary Committee on the CPEC, told Dawn on Sunday.
He said the committee’s members would travel to Gwadar, Ratodero and Sukkur on Nov 28 and 29, to receive briefing from officials of departments concerned and visit the project sites.
The 22-member committee, which was formed as a result of a consensus reached at a political parties’ conference presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in May, is undertaking the visit at a time when the opposition parties, including PPP and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), are accusing the government of changing the CPEC route in violation of the consensus.
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Ahmed Shah wrote a letter to the prime minister last week, complaining that while Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were being discriminated against in the $46 billion project, Punjab would benefit the most from it.
Mr Shah said that eastern route of the project had been preferred rather than the short and better western route, which might create resentment in other provinces against Punjab.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan, speaking at a party convention on Saturday, also accused the rulers of hiding facts about the CPEC because they wanted a large part of the corridor to pass through Punjab.
Mushahid Hussain said the government should be proactive in responding to the opposition’s criticism and should have a better outreach to political parties.
When contacted, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal expressed his surprise over the criticism, saying the government was implementing the decisions reached at the conference in letter and in spirit.
The minister, who is also ex-officio member of the parliamentary committee, said that like the nuclear programme the CPEC project should also be kept above politics, because it had a strategic importance for the country.
“We hope that the political leadership will show restraint,” he said, adding: “If they have a complaint they can raise it in the parliamentary committee as it is not appropriate to talk publicly on the issue.”
He said the government planned to take the members of the committee as well as media persons to the project sites to see the situation on the ground and to have firsthand information.
The parliamentary committee comprises many senior parliamentarians, including Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Aftab Sherpao, Amir Haider Khan, Hasil Bizenjo, retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, Asad Umar, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Akram Durrani, Ghous Bux Mahar, Talha Mehmood and Awais Leghari.
A senior office-bearer of PML-N alleged that those raising hue and cry over the CPEC were doing it for political reasons as they feared that their local politics would die after the completion of the project.
In an apparent reference to the PPP and PTI, he said the parties knew that if the Karachi-Multan Motorway was built, the PML-N would become more popular and it would be difficult for them to contest elections against it. He said PML-N was still reaping fruits of constructing the first motorway in the country between Lahore and Islamabad.
He said the Karachi motorway project had nothing to do with the CPEC. It was part of a 1991 plan of the then PML-N government to link major cities with motorways.
The PML-N leader alleged that some individuals were opposing the CPEC at the behest of those international forces which did not want Pakistan to become a developed country.