QUETTA: Awami National Party (ANP) has announced to convene a multi-party conference in Quetta on May 16 to discuss the issue of Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and its proposed route.
ANP and other Baloch nationalist parties claim that Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been ignored in the 3,000 kilometres long Gwadar-Kashghar route of CPEC. "We have approached and invited all political parties to the all parties conference (APC)," Mian Iftikhar, the ANP leader told a news conference in Quetta on Friday evening.
The party has also announced to hold a shutter down strike in Quetta on May 6 against the reported change in CPEC.
Iftikhar claimed that the federal government has deliberately created a controversy, neglecting the smaller provinces. "We will resist any change in route," warned the former KP information minister.
ANP delegation, led by Mian Iftikhar, had a detailed meeting with Balochistan Chief Minister Dr. Malik Baloch, PML-N Balochistan Chief Nawab Sanaullah Zehri and other political leaders with regard to CPEC.
Iftikhar stated that if the route is changed or altered then the federal government will be held responsible for every kind of unrest.
He said the deprivation of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was at peak and that Islamabad was not paying heed to the sufferings of smaller provinces.
Iftikhar claimed that the rulers have ignored the people of Gwadar in terms of development activities. "Rulers must take people of Gwadar into confidence before taking any decision", the ANP leader stressed.
The economic corridor
The project is part of Beijing's “Belt and Road” plan to expand its trade and transport footprint across Central and South Asia. It will give China easier access to Middle Eastern oil via the deepwater port of Gwadar.
The project generated controversy with political leaders particularly of smaller provinces alleging the project has been altered to benefit Punjab.
The route apparently under its original plan ran from Gwadar to Quetta, then up to Zhob before veering east towards Dera Ismail Khan.
The government was criticised for having changed this route to go straight east from Gwadar towards Khuzdar, then slightly northeast to cross the River Indus near Ratodero and connect with the road network in Sindh.
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The government strenuously denied that any route changes were made, arguing that two routes are being pursued, and on the request of the Chinese, the second route is being built first simply because it is cheaper to do so.
Know more: Sound bytes: 'Economic corridor will have multiple routes’
The central route will link Gwadar, Khuzdar and other areas on way to Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar, while the eastern route will connect Gwadar to Ratodero, Sukkur and Karachi and upward to cities in Punjab and from there to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and then Khunjerab Pass.
Then there have been security concerns over much of the plan, which relies on developing Gwadar — control of which was passed to a Chinese company in 2013.
The port lies near the mouth of the Gulf of Oman, east of the Strait of Hormuz through which much of the Middle East's crude production passes.
But linking Gwadar to the rest of Pakistan and on to the western Chinese city of Kashgar, 3,000 kilometres (1,860 miles) away, would involve major infrastructure work in Balochistan. This is one of Pakistan's most unstable provinces and has been dogged for over a decade by a bloody separatist insurgency.
Ethnic Baloch rebels, who oppose Gwadar's development while the province is not independent, have in the past blown up numerous gas pipelines and trains and attacked Chinese engineers.