ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal on Saturday challenged the politicians who have accused the government of altering the route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to substantiate their allegations with evidence.
Addressing the convocation of the Rawalpindi Medical College in the garrison city, the minister assured that "not a single inch of the originally proposed route has been changed" and that "such baseless allegations" were not in the nation's interest.
Iqbal said China's investment of $46 billion would prove a milestone for Pakistan's economic development and would change the outlook of the country's economy.
He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would brief parliamentary leaders on matters relating to CPEC on May 13.
The minister said that youth is the future of Pakistan and they have a major role to play in the development of the country.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent visit to Pakistan, Pakistani and Chinese officials signed a series of over 50 accords to inaugurate the CPEC, which will create a network of roads, railways and pipelines linking China's restive west to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan.
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 that the project had 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 allegedly 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.
The government has however 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 was being built first simply because it was cheaper to do so.