ISLAMABAD: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to convene a multi-party conference (MPC) to chalk out a strategy against what it terms ‘non-provision of basic infrastructure’ along the proposed western route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

“We will soon call a meeting of all stakeholders and opposition parties to decide how to resist the centre’s move” against smaller provinces, especially KP, Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak told a press conference at the KP House on Monday.

He said that all the benefits of the corridor were being transferred to Punjab, while the western route would have nothing like in terms of utility services such as gas, electricity, telecommunication and rail links.

“It is not a western route but merely a road, because it has no such infrastructure that would improve the condition of neglected provinces such as KP, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan,” he added.

Ahsan Iqbal to meet chief minister to ‘address concerns’

Asked whether the KP government would block the CPEC if its demands were not met, the CM said: “We will go by whatever decision is taken at the MPC.”

He said that neither the KP government nor the PTI was against the eastern route, but rather, demanded that both routes have equal facilities. “If there will be no infrastructure for the western route, how can economic zones be established there,” he said.

Mr Khattak said that the chief ministers of Sindh, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan had also not been taken on board with regards to the CPEC. “We believe that there is something fishy that the centre is trying to hide,” he said.

The KP chief minister demanded that the federal government should convene the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to discuss the CPEC and address the concerns of neglected provinces and asked for the nitty-gritty of the CPEC to be discussed in parliament.

Mr Khattak accused the centre of not allocating a single penny for the western route of the CPEC in the federal budget for 2015-16.

When asked whether PTI’s MPC would be separate from a similar conference called by Baloch leader Akhtar Mengal on Jan 10, the KP chief minister said PTI would also take part in Mr Mengal’s MPC.

Speaking at the press conference, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that if economic zones were not established along the western route, no one would invest in KP, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Asked why the PTI had not raised these concerns in a meeting of a parliamentary committee specially formed for the CPEC, Mr Qureshi said PTI leaders Asad Umar and Shiblee Faraz represented the party on the committee and had always raised their concerns before the committee.

GOVT RESPONSE: Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, responded to some of the points raised by the KP chief minister, saying that he would meet Mr Khattak on Wednesday and try to address his concerns.

Instead of pleading its case before the media, the KP government should raise its concerns at the appropriate forum. The minister dispelled the impression that China had given $48 billion in cash to Pakistan for the CPEC. Rather, this was the value of projects being initiated or launched under the CPEC.

He claimed that the KP government had been misled by an NGO, which had led to a resolution being passed by the KP assembly.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2016


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