QUETTA: A multi-party conference (MPC) rejected on Saturday any alteration in the master plan of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and urged the federal government to stick to its original route to maintain national unity.

The participants of the conference, presided over by Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and attended by the representatives of almost all opposition political parties, categorically declared that any modification in the plan would make the project controversial like the Kalabagh dam.

The conference welcomed the expansion of economic ties between Pakistan and China and fully backed the project and assured the people of Balochistan to support their struggle to protect the coast and resources of the province. It said without participation of the Baloch people no progress was acceptable in the country.

A declaration adopted at the conference condemned those elements who were using words like ‘anti-state’ for the people who raised voice for their rights and said that rights of the smaller provinces would be protected by all means.

Asfandyar Wali urged the prime minister to implement the original plan, instead of making it controversial.

He claimed that the Baloch and Pakhtuns areas were being excluded from the project, but said: “We will not allow modification in the route.”

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah said that the project was important, but reservations over it were very serious. “It is our responsibility to act wisely to resolve the matter amicably to satisfy the people of all four federating units, instead of safeguarding the interest of a particular area.”

He claimed that if the project was properly implemented it would not only stabilise the economies of Pakistan and China but also benefit Central Asian states.

The PPP leader regretted that the prime minister had been saying that some groups were obstructing the project but actually his government was hindering the plan by trying to modify it.

Acting organiser of the BNP-M Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldani said: “We are not against progress, but at the same time we did not want development which turned Baloch people into a minority because development projects without the consent of natives would harm their interest.”

National Party secretary general Dr Yasin Baloch asserted that without Gwadar seaport and airport the economic corridor plan was useless and emphasised that a short route should be adopted for the project.

Balochistan National Party (Awami) Asif Baloch lamented that the Baloch leadership was not taken into confidence before signing the agreements related to the resources of Balochistan. “Such accords are not binding on us.”

Ammal Kalmati of the BNP-M said he was an elected member of the Balochistan Assembly from Gwadar, but the federal government did not take him into confidence before signing the agreement. The only chief minister who was present at the signing ceremony belonged to Punjab, he added.

Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani of the JUI-F, Reza Mohammad Reza (PkMAP), Maulana Qadir Luni (JUI-Ideological), Jaffar Khan Mandokhel (PML-Q), Abdul Khaliq Hazara (Hazara Democratic Party), Wahid Bazai (JUI-Sami), Bilal Anwar Kasi, president of the Balochistan Bar Association, and Rahim Kakar, president of the Anjuman-i-Tajran declared that they would not compromise on the original plan.

They said the best and short route of the economic corridor was Gwadar-Khuzdar-Quetta-Zhob-Dera Ismail Khan-Kashghar.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf was represented by Nawabzada Hamayun Jogezai at the conference.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2015

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