ISLAMABAD: During a special committee meeting of the Senate on Wednesday, serious questions were raised pertaining to the implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project's western route on priority basis.
Voicing their concerns, parliamentarians stated that the government is not clear on the matter of implementing the decisions reached during an all-party conference (APC) on May 28 and raised several questions in this regard.
During the APC in May, participants from all parties reached a consensus on the CPEC project and had pledged to take full political ownership.
In the Senate's meeting today, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said that in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2015-16, it was claimed that projects part of the western route are in fact ongoing highway and road projects that have been under way since years and are not part of the CPEC project.
He added that even if these projects are completed, they will not be the same as the envisaged Gawadar-Kashgar corridor, in the CPEC project, which can be used by heavy 24-wheeler vehicles.
Babar further said that in order to develop the western route, the Gawadar-Kashgar road must be designed for heavy transportation so that in can be used for international connectivity and not mere patch work of links which will be used by locals only.
He said that compared to this route, the eastern route comprised of motorways from Gawadar to Sukkur to Multan and then to Lahore and further. He explained that the different specifications of the two routes will automatically dictate the transporters' first choice, resulting in the use of eastern route as the only use.
Discussing the budget, Babar said that Rs359 billion were allocated for the CPEC project in the 2015-16 budget. Out of the amount, Rs185 billion have been allocated for highways and motorways that come under the corridor project.
The amount is to be spent on the Karachi-Lahore Motorway, the road connecting Gawadar with the coastal highway and the Havelian-Thakot-Islamabad section which is common to both western and eastern routes.
Spokesperson for former president and Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari further said that a clear cut and formal reply to the questions raised will help resolve the issue of whether the government was sincere in implementing the western route on priority basis.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping's much talked-about visit to Pakistan earlier this year, Pakistani and Chinese officials signed a series of more than 50 accords to inaugurate the multi-billion dollar CPEC, which will create a network of roads, railways and pipelines linking China's restive west to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan.
Unrest has been a major source of concern for the project. The military soon after the inauguration of the project during President Xi’s visit had announced setting up a 10,000-strong special force for protecting the projects to be carried out under the CPEC and the Chinese workers associated with them.
The Chinese have been seriously following the security situation in the province. Chinese Vice-Minister for Security Dong Haizhou visited Pakistan in June for security-related briefings.
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During his visit to Balochistan, Gen Sharif said the overall security situation in the province had noticeably improved.