ISLAMABAD: A meeting of the country’s top political leadership has agreed to set up a special bicameral parliamentary committee for regular oversight of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
Meant to address the queries of parliamentary parties about the alleged change in the CPEC’s route, the meeting was cut short as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had to leave for Karachi, where earlier in the day at least 43 members of the Ismaili community were killed in a terrorist attack.
“The meeting failed to achieve the desired results as it mainly remained restricted to the briefing and participants weren’t provided enough time to ask questions,” Aftab Sherpao, chief of Qaumi Watan Party, told Dawn.
Political parties’ meeting marred by lack of time for Q&A, PM’s premature departure
MNA Asad Umar of PTI also complained of the paucity of time for addressing lawmakers’ queries, a task that fell to Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal. “The meeting continued for just under three hours, two of which were consumed by the minister who lectured gathered politicians on the importance of economic development for the country.”
However, according to Senator Mushahid Hussain of the PML-Q, the minister tried his best to apprise participants about the nitty-gritty of the corridor. “Personally, I’m fully satisfied with the briefing, and any remaining queries will be addressed after the parliamentary committee consisting of members of both houses of the parliament is formally constituted to examine the project on a regular basis.”
Mr Hussain, who represented his party in the meeting, said he was the one who had suggested the formation of the special committee and asked for arranging special visits to the corridor for politicians, both of which were unanimously accepted.
Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar informed the participants that the committee would be formally constituted through a resolution during the next session of the National Assembly.
During the briefing, Ahsan Iqbal praised the CPEC as the PML-N government’s greatest achievement, dubbing it a “game-changer” for the country.
During the brief Q&A session, ANP Chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, addressing PPP Co-chairman Asif Zardari who was also present, said the project had actually been kick-started under the previous regime, a participant of the meeting told Dawn.
Mr Zardari also claimed credit for the Chinese investment which was flowing into the country as part of the corridor. According to a source, who was present at the meeting, Mr Wali also wanted further clarification on the exact route and the economic hubs that will be built alongside.
In the limited time reserved for questions, Asad Umar raised a few questions which ruffled the government’s feathers. Talking to Dawn, he said, “I asked the government how, on one side you claim the CPEC is a national project, but yet have never invited provincial governments, particularly the PTI-ruled KP, whereas the heads of private companies have been actively engaged throughout the process.”
Mr Umar also asked if Lahore could have an orange line (intra-city railway) then, what about the long pending mass-transit system for Karachi.
After the meeting, a PTI press statement raised three questions, to be addressed by the government.
Firstly, the government needs to explain the exact route and the sequence in which it will be developed along with a timeline for the development of each route. Secondly, what are the specific projects included in the CPEC and their province-wise distribution? And thirdly, details of the investment needed for each of these projects, the sponsors involved; the debt and equity breakdown of each project as well as the source and terms of both equity and debt for each one of these projects.
“Nobody is against the CPEC, but it’s the government’s responsibility to come clean on its all accounts which is the only way forward for smooth implementation,” Mr Umar said.
In his opening remarks, the PM said that foreign forces, which opposed Pakistan’s close relationship with China and the CPEC and were trying to sabotage the project, must realise that it was not meant to be against any country. “The nation must stand united to foil the nefarious designs against the CPEC as this project is not for a party or an individual, rather for the whole country.”
The government would do its best to remove any ambiguities about the economic corridor, the PM said, adding that he had always spoken about removing the sense of deprivation while focusing on building a consensus.
The meeting was attended by representatives and heads of political parties. The PPP delegation was led by Asif Ali Zardari, the PTI by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the ANP by Asfandyar Wali, the MQM by Farooq Sattar, the JUI-F by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the JI by Liaquat Baloch, the BNP by Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini and the PML-Q by Mushahid Hussain Syed.
Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2015