ISLAMABAD: Doubts expressed by the political leadership over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor were partially addressed by the government on Thursday and an all-party conference held at the prime minister’s office gave a go-ahead to the project.
The remaining concerns will be addressed by a bipartisan/bicameral parliamentary committee which the government agreed to constitute for a regular oversight of the project.
The government also agreed to set up joint working groups having representation of all provinces to give their views and suggestions on economic and industrial hubs to be built along the corridor.
All concerns over western alignment linking Gwadar with Khunjerab addressed
An APC on the matter held earlier remained inconclusive because of the Safoora Goth carnage having taken place on the same day.
Thursday’s meeting decided to first take up the corridor’s western alignment which would pass through Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa connecting Khunjerab with Gwadar to address concerns of the two provinces.
MNA Asad Umar, of the PTI, told Dawn, “Our concerns about project-wise details and three alignments of the corridor have been addressed.”
The government’s decision to constitute a special parliamentary committee and working groups is a way forward for forging political consensus.
He said his party would raise its concerns at the parliamentary committee and working groups about the nature of investment and actual terms and conditions under which the Chinese money would be invested.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who led the PTI delegation, highlighted the same issues.
Talking to newsmen after the meeting, MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar said his party had only agreed to the western alignment and it would give its input once central and eastern alignments would be discussed.
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said his party had agreed to the western alignment which was the real project.
ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan said the meeting had agreed to build the route for which his party had been campaigning.
The western alignment, passing through Thakot, Mansehra, Hassanabdal, Peshawar, D.I. Khan and Quetta, will connect Khunjerab to Gwadar.
It appeared that the efforts of Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal, who along with his special assistant Asim Niazi, had one-to-one meetings with heads of all political parties had paid off.
“The minister spent hours briefing parliamentary heads and chiefs of political parties at their residences on the nitty-gritty of the project,” a government source told Dawn.
The planning minister told the politicians that about $46 billion of Chinese investment would not be distributed among the provinces because it was meant for energy, road and rail projects.
He clarified that the Lahore’s Orange Line project was not part of the corridor.
Mr Iqbal said no new road would be constructed, but the existing road network would be improved for better interconnectivity so that the entire country benefitted from the project.
He said roads along the three major alignments would be upgraded for an improved North-South connectivity.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif thanked the political leadership for their support to the project which, he said, would help Pakistan achieve its cherished dream of becoming a developed country and would also benefit other countries in the region.
He said having a difference of opinion was a healthy tradition which helped to reach better decisions.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah of the PPP, Shah Mahmood Qureshi of the PTI, Asfandyar Wali of ANP, Farooq Sattar of MQM, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI-F, JI chief Sirajul Haq, BNP leader Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini, Mushahid Hussain Sayed of the PML-Q, Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the PkMAP, Hasil Bizenjo of NP, Ijazul Haq of PML-Z, Aftab Ahmed Sherpao of QWP, Senator Prof Sajid Mir, Syed Ghazi Jamal and Shah Jee Gul from Fata and Peer Ejaz Hashmi attended the conference.
Chief Ministers Qaim Ali Shah of Sindh, Pervez Khattak of KP and Dr Abdul Malik Baloch of Balochistan, Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq, Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Railways Minister Saad Rafique, Minister for Safron retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, Special Assistant to the PM on National Affairs Irfan Siddiqui, Special Assistant to the PM on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi, Special Assistants Barrister Zafarullah Khan and Khwaja Zaheed Ahmed also attended the conference.
Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2015