PESHAWAR: Treasury and opposition benches on Friday opposed changes in the original plan of Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, which was proposed to pass through the underdeveloped areas of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The assembly through a unanimous resolution asked the provincial government to demand the federal government to execute work on the project without making any change in the western route of the corridor.

Speaker Asad Qaisar chaired the sitting.

Urges provincial govt to seek execution of original project

Qaumi Watan Party parliamentary leader Sikandar Sherpao tabled the resolution, which was supported by all parties in the house, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

“Any change in original plan of the project will be sheer injustice with the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who have already affected due to terrorism,” said the resolution.

It said Abbottabad, Mianwali, Dera Ismail Khan and Zhob would be on the corridor’s proposed route linking Gwadar with Kashgar.

The stance of the Qaumi Watan Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Awami National Party was tough over the proposed changes in the multibillion dollars project.

MPAs of the three parties threatened to launch protest if the centre made changes in original plan of the highway.

Parliamentary leader of ANP Sardar Hussain Babak said like Kalabagh dam project, his party would oppose changes in the economic corridor plan.

He termed the project the backbone of the development of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata and said despite sitting on the opposition benches in the assembly, his party would support PTI on the issue.

“If PTI chairman Imran Khan stages a sit-in against changes in the plan, ANP will join him,” said Babak, whose party is strong opponent of the PTI policies.

He said the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been suffering socially and economically for the last 30 years due to insecurity and insurgency, while economic benefits were diverted to another province.

He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should compensate people of the province by executing the original plan of the highway.

“Are we not Pakistanis? Why are the people of this province discriminated against? The federal government should not adopt policies that benefit Punjab only,” he said.

Sikandar Sherpao of QWP said his party would agitate if the federal government revised the original plan of the corridor.

He said such policies would create a sense of deprivation among the people of smaller units of the federation. The QWP leader said the government had planned to abandon the western zone of the project and that work on the eastern zone was being started.

He said the proposed changes in the economic corridor was not environmentally viable as parts of Punjab proposed to be on the route remained in the grip of dense fog from November to January.

Sikandar Sherpao said thick fog disrupted traffic in the central parts of Punjab. He said China was economically growing very well and that it was one of the major trade partners of Pakistan.

The QWP leader said trade between the two countries had increased from $4.1 billion to $9.2 billion over the years.

He said Pakistan-China economic corridor would not only serve as a trade route but it would also generate economic activities in the entire region, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata if original plan was not changed.

Public health engineering minister Shah Farman opposed changes in the original highway plan and said changes could put the future of the federation at stake.

He said the centre should look after the rights and economic interests of the smaller units of the federation. Also, the house passed a resolution condemning the printing of blasphemous cartoons by a French magazine.

Moved by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl MPA Mufti Said Janan, the resolution also criticised the French government for allowing media to print sacrilegious material hurting the sentiments and feelings of followers of different religions.

It asked the European Union to make laws to declare the printing of objectionable material an offence.

Another resolution tabled by information minister Mushtaq Ghani demanded that the federal government confer Hilal-i-Istaqlal upon the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for showing tolerance and bravery during the war against terrorism.

He said the same award was given away to the people of Sargodha, Sialkot and Lahore after the 1965 India-Pakistan war.

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2015

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