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—File photo
—File photo

ISLAMABAD: The government disclosed on Thursday that the financing and development of Gwadar International Airport had been “taken over by China” and that the Civil Aviation Authority would not be involved with the process.

In addition, the controversy over the change in the route of the $35 million Pak-China Economic Corridor deepened as government officials continued to contradict each other over the reasons for the change.

Planning and Development Secretary Hassan Nawaz Tarar told a Senate committee that a special board had been established to oversee the construction of Gwadar airport. Pakistan People’s Party Senator Fateh Mohammad Hassani alleged that land for the airport — worth Rs100 million — had been purchased at Rs1.5 billion.

Controversy over change of route of Pak-China Economic Corridor

The government has already handed over the development and operations side of the Gwadar Deep Sea Port to China, after withdrawing the rights originally granted to Singapore.

Change of route: A number of senators walked out of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue meeting over what they termed “the conflicting statements of federal ministers and secretaries about the route of the multi-billion dollar project”.

The government currently favours the Gwadar-Karachi-Lahore route, also known as the ‘eastern route’; whereas opposition members preferred the original ‘western route’ of Gwadar-Dera Ghazi Khan-Dera Ismail Khan.

The former, they said, bypassed “Pakh­tun and Baloch areas” and demanded that the original route be restored.

On Wednesday, Tarar told the committee that a proposal to change the route was being considered at the request of the Chinese. But at Thursday’s meeting, he said the original route was never discussed with the Chinese at any stage.

His statement was contradicted by the additional secretary for communications, who told the committee that both route options had been shared with the Chinese, who showed a greater interest in the eastern route.

This led certain senators, led by the Awami National Party’s Haji Ilyas Bilour, to deplore the contradictory statements coming from government officials and alleged that Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal had ‘misled’ the committee. Mr Iqbal had told the committee on Wednesday that both routes were considered, but the government opted for the eastern route because it was possible to develop most of it on a build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis, without too much external financial assistance. Developing the western route, he had said, would require heavy borrowing, which the country could not afford.

Former finance minister Saleem H Mandviwala said that he had met the Chinese ambassador, who said his government had no role in the change of route and were fine with whichever route was chosen as long as Pakistan could guarantee its security.

Sardar Hassani demanded that the western route be reinstated, a view supported by a majority of members.

Mr Iqbal later told journalists that the route for the corridor had not been changed; rather both options were always part of the plan. He added that the western route was not viable at this stage because parts of it could not be developed on a BOT basis.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2014

Comments (35) Closed

BR Jun 13, 2014 03:41pm

Eastern route would bring immense pressure on already congested urban traffic system and will badly impact performance of the economic corridor in the long term. This will create disgust among Chinese at a later stage.

However, Western route would help develop new cities in underdeveloped regions all along the highway. This is a golden opportunity for leadership of Pakistan to distribute the burden of rural development in the shadow of proposed economic corridor.

A little sincerity and a little imagination could make our Pakistan best country in the world.

muhammad Jun 13, 2014 04:45pm

Good news we need another port with all intenational facilities so as to elevate the ever increasing burden on Karachi

Itsqashi Jun 13, 2014 05:21pm

@BR totally agreed with you. Govt should push Chinese to construct the western route.

John Ali Jun 13, 2014 05:34pm

Primarily Punjab will benefit from this!

Irfan Jun 13, 2014 06:31pm

It is critical that Western route is used as it is an opportunity to develop the underdeveloped areas of the nation

it ll also help eradicate extremism by giving people a chance to develop

eastern route will not only overload the already congested areas but also give a bad image to the government that they want to bring everything to punjab and don't care about rest of the country

afzal Jun 13, 2014 06:37pm

Where is Supreme court ..... land for the airport

BRR Jun 13, 2014 06:56pm

More of the same from Nawaz Sharif - infrastructure over governance and conflict resolution. This effort seems to be based on Chinese need and their timeline rather than on Pakistan's need and its timeline. The planning vacuum in Nawaz's govt. is being filled by Chinese ambitions.

unbelievable Jun 13, 2014 07:14pm

So why would China transport goods over lousy roads which are closed during the Winter only to put them on ships for ultimately delivery when they can transport them using China railroads to their own ports? Why choose the more expensive and dangerous route? One of those "elephant in the room" things? Gwadar port might make sense if the Chinese want to establish naval base to protect their fuel supply routes - but Silk Road corridor doesn't make any sense.

Taimoor Khan Jun 13, 2014 07:26pm

What is the point of having Gawadar port working independently from karachi when all the goods traffic will eventually turn up in Karachi via eastern route?

Flix Jun 13, 2014 07:40pm

We have to understand that it is not our choice to make... Both routes are being considered by "Chinese" who will make the choice of which route to develop...

Arjun Jun 13, 2014 07:45pm

how hard is it to make an airport without a foreign country's support?

NORI Jun 13, 2014 07:58pm

Civil Aviation Authority not involved ?? How can a sovereign government allow a foreign company/country to build such an infrastructure without a local partner ? I wait to see the terms and conditions of the agreement, given the fact that Chinese are known for shrewd business skills.

Akram Jun 13, 2014 08:22pm

Ask the members if they want to build a western route, they should do it at their own expense. Then look at their faces. Its easy to spend other peoples money, but when its your own money everyone will think twice.

Fappy Jun 13, 2014 09:07pm

Is there anything we can do on our own beside singing patriotic songs?

jamil Jun 13, 2014 09:20pm

@John Ali , Is Punjab not part of Pakistan? What's your point?

Mohammad Iqbal Jun 13, 2014 09:41pm

Mr. Afzal just try to find out from whom this barren land was purchased and which nawab played the crucial role for which he was grafted with dollar payments in Dubai and of course a flat in Burj Khalifa.

Tahir A Jun 13, 2014 10:36pm

Why does China get its own airports designed and engineered by western expertise while for developing countries it is revered as a leader in technology.

In Africa, Chinese are doing many projects but to the discerning eye it is cheap and nasty - hardly cheerful

naved Jun 13, 2014 10:41pm

@jamil Punjab should be only part ,not whole country.CM Punjab is acting like defacto PM who travel and enter into agreements with sovereign countries. Have you made Punjab as independent country?

Uxman Jun 14, 2014 12:56am

Great news! Thank you china for helping Pakistan a lot in development. Hope my country will be well developed in future , peaceful and terrorism free. Gwadar will become like Hong kong in future In Sha Allah

sky Jun 14, 2014 02:49am

@jamil .....Punjab is part of Pakistan but Pakistan is not just 'punjab"...thats his point...relax

Mumba - Lappie Jun 14, 2014 02:49am

@Arjun, you got any problem mate?

no name Jun 14, 2014 03:25am

@Arjun ya a Chinese financed project is difficult to digest too...

Balach Tahir Baluch Jun 14, 2014 03:40am

@BR Brilliant analysis, Sir. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Dystopia Jun 14, 2014 04:45am

So that we can have that airport attacked too? Our airports are becoming slaughterhouses too.

Sabhi Basher Jun 14, 2014 05:16am

Eastern route will have much bigger economic impact because it will provide links to the economic centers of the country to China and the new port. However, they have to take care for the highway to by pass the main cities, and not pass to close, otherwise congestion will increase. This the design of most interstate highways in US. The bad example being Chicago where the major cross country highway passes thruough downtown. This causes very bad traffic jams.

Daanish Jun 14, 2014 05:42am

"A little sincerity and a little imagination could make our Pakistan best country in the world"

Love this line.

Mohammad Akhtar Jun 14, 2014 05:58am

Good news, every body will make some money. Hope plan will not fall and will be completed.

Javed Jun 14, 2014 02:39pm

Chinese are very clear on what they want.

Ahmed Khan Jun 14, 2014 06:28pm

The fact is China is not doing this out of love for us. China's doing this to pump it's products into the west at even cheaper rates by going through this corridor. Pakistan benefits from excise and taxes but little else.

imran ali Jun 14, 2014 07:22pm

punjab is desperate in need of secure port... it cannot transfer sea to islamabad..

Ganga Din Jun 14, 2014 08:00pm

This rhetoric about Punjab and Islamabad etc. is all talk. Chinese know that in the long run, Indus will become the new Durand Line. That's the reason they are investing heavily in Afghanistan and having their own Air Port at Gwadar will automatically give them an upper hand over India and direct access to middle eastern markets. So before you people start infighting over this, look at what Chinese are thinking. As long they benefit, they will befriend anyone. They are like water: colorless, odorless and adopt the shape of any vessel you put them in but by dripping slowly will eventually shatter a rock.

Ayesha Khan Jun 14, 2014 08:50pm

If the government was truly sincere to Pakistan, and wanted to boost the economic trade affairs they would have first developed the Karachi port. This Gawadar project is all for China interest.

Sandip Jun 14, 2014 09:34pm

Looks like the pakistani government has learnt nothing from the past. I don't recollect a single precedence where a country has so blatantly handed over its territory to another under the garb of development. Gwadar is now gone from Pakistani control.

John Jun 14, 2014 10:42pm

Very convenient for China - They will finance the and manage the construction and future operations. The Pakistani tax payer will continue to pay back the Chinese for the next century. Smart for China bad for Pakistan.

Mustafa Jun 15, 2014 08:06am


Convoluted logic or just China hater.