ISLAMABAD: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project was the subject of much debate and criticism on Monday at a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Communication.

So much so that at one point Senator Daud Khan Achakzai termed it a “a highway project between China and Punjab”, while others expressed dissatisfaction and anger over what they termed the unfair prioritisation of development of the eastern route of the CPEC.

“It is, in fact, the China-Punjab Economic Corridor, because it will mainly benefit Punjab and not the other provinces,” said Mr Achakzai, who is also the chairman of the committee.

Take a look: Senate committee slams NHA for slow progress on CPEC

Shahid Ashraf Tarar, who is currently officiating as both the communications secretary and chairman of the National Highway Authority (NHA), was present in the meeting but failed to allay members’ fears and concerns.

Standing committee dissatisfied with NHA chief’s explanation for prioritisation of CPEC’s western route

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is frequently inaugurating CPEC-related projects on the eastern route, such as industrial zones in Sialkot and Lodhran, but the western route only gets promises,” the chairman said.

He said: “It seems that work on the western route will not start even in 2025 and the expeditious nature of work on the eastern route indicates that the project is meant only for Punjab. This impression is not giving a positive message, rather it is increasing resentment among the federating units.”

If the sense of deprivation is not removed now the responsibility of any misfortune will lie squarely on the prime minister’s shoulders.

The committee supported the Sukkur-Multan Motorway, but stressed the need for taking up development and construction work on the western route. “There has been no progress on the Quetta-Chaman Road, Zhob-Mughal Kot Road and the Kachlak bypass,” he said.

Another member of the committee, Senator Usman Khan Kakar, said that ignoring the western route was not a good omen. “Unfortunately, 20 per cent of the country is preferred over the rest of the 80 per cent of the country,” he said.

Mr Tarar tried to satisfy the members of the committee by saying that an additional amount of Rs20 billion had been allocated for Balochistan. “Bids have been invited through newspapers for initiating work on western route,” he said.

The communications secretary said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would soon inaugurate two main highways: the N-50 (Kuchlak-Zhob-DI Khan) and N-70 (Multan-DG Khan-Loralai-Killa Saifullah).

“However, the secretary failed to satisfy the members of the committee,” said an official handout issued by the Senate Secretariat.

At the last meeting of the committee, the secretary had confessed that no funds had been allocated for the western route of the corridor so far.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2015


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