Pakistan maintains a record of mega development projects that often fall to political controversies. Like the Kalabagh Dam, the latest development initiative, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has also become controversial with political leaders particularly of small provinces alleging the project has been altered to benefit Punjab.

The federal government has however denied that any changes have taken place in the original design of the project. Nevertheless, the federal government has convened a special meeting in Peshawar on March 16 to address the concerns and end differences with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa leadership over the project.

Federal Minister for Planning, Development & Reform Ahsan Iqbal, who is spearheading this initiative, believes the government will overcome these differences and will be able to complete the CPEC as planned. Here are excerpts from the conversation:

Q.What is the controversy about the change in the route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor?

A. There is no controversy. It’s absolutely based on misunderstanding and it seems that some people have floated self-made wrong maps to try to mislead people. Now even the Chinese embassy has clarified that not even an inch of the CPEC has been altered.

Q. Then why is there a protest against this project?

A. The basic reason: some quarters don’t want the CPEC to be implemented. Because if it is implemented, the entire geo-strategic importance of Pakistan will change.

Q. Was there ever any proposal to change the design of this project?

A. There was no proposal of change. Not a single inch has been changed.

Q. What efforts have you made to satisfy the critics of the CPEC?

A. We have clarified that the CPEC is not a project of just one road but it’s a network of multiple roads, which will go from Gwadar to Khunjerab. One of the routes is through Gwadar up to Quetta, Quetta to Qilla Saifullah, Zhob, Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar.

The second route will be Gwadar to Ratodero, Sukkur and the Indus Highway. The third route will be Gwadar to Sukkur, Sukkur to Karachi and Lahore-Peshawar motorway. So there will be multiple routes which will come under the umbrella of the CPEC.

Q. What efforts have you made to take the opposition into confidence and satisfy them?

A. On March 16 we will go to Peshawar and give a presentation to all the political leaders. The governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will also invite them and brief them. The economic corridor will serve all the four provinces equally.

Q. What if you fail to satisfy the opponents of this project? What will be its future then?

A. Why will they not be satisfied? The reality is that not a single inch has been changed. So I believe that we will remove all of their differences. Because there is nothing against any region or province in this project. Actually, the basic spirit is that the CPEC should serve all the regions of Pakistan equally.

Q. Then when will this project become a reality?

A. The work on the main highway linking China to Pakistan has already started. The project will soon become a reality and we will take everybody on board for its completion.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2015

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