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ISLAMABAD: Members of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Communications have expressed reservations over the change in the route of the Pak-China Economic Corridor and threatened to lodge a protest if Baloch and Pakhtun-populated areas are not included in the project.

During a meeting of the committee here on Friday, the members said the exclusion of backward areas of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from the route would deepen sense of deprivation among people of those areas. The meeting was presided over by Chairman Daud Khan Achakzai.

Editorial: Pak-China corridor

Zahid Khan of the Awami National Party said if the route did not include Quetta and Dera Ismail Khan, senators from the two provinces would stage walkouts from Senate sessions on a daily basis. He even threatened that demonstrations would be held outside the Chinese embassy if the issue was not resolved.

The stance of the protesting senators was supported by members of the PML-N, according to an official handout.

Senator Mohsin Leghari said Pakistan should give preference to its own interests while executing such an important project.

Mr Achakzai said the committee had sent several recommendations on the project to the government but not a single recommendation had been given consideration.

He said separatists were gaining strength in Balochistan because the federal government paid little attention to the problems facing the province. He said the prevailing sense of deprivation among people of the province was intensifying due to rising unemployment.

He criticised the Balochistan government for remaining silent on the issue and not taking up the matter in the Council of Common Interests.

The members of the committee expressed annoyance over the absence of the minister of state for communications from the meeting.

In June, the members of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Finance had also protested over exclusion of the Baloch and Pakhtun-populated areas from the route of the multi-billion dollar project on the desire of China.

During a meeting of the committee, Fateh Moham­mad Mohammad Hassani had quoted JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman as saying that Baloch and Pakhtun-populated areas along the route to Gwadar port had been excluded from the corridor. The Planning Commission had claimed that the change had been made on a request by the Chinese ambassador.

Mr Hassani said Maulana Fazl had taken up the matter with the ambassador who had denied that he had played any role in the change of the route and said it was the prerogative of the Pakistan government.

The senators had criticised the government for accepting every demand of the Chinese government and investors though the corridor was the cheapest logistical link for China which wanted to develop its western region for economic growth.

Published in Dawn, October 11th , 2014