ISLAMABAD: The country’s political leadership extended support to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project on Sunday, but remained deadlocked over details and its way forward.
As a multi-party conference (MPC) convened by the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) concluded in the evening, it was clear that differences over the implementation of the flagship programme continued to persist.
Representatives of over 20 political and nationalist parties rejected the presentations made by two federal ministers in an effort to address the concerns of smaller provinces over the execution of the CPEC project, and decided to seek Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s direct intervention.
The MPC titled “CPEC and Gwadar: Future prospects for Balochistan” was attended by leaders of more than 20 political parties, including the PML-N.
A declaration comprising 13 resolutions adopted at the conference asked the government to implement the decisions taken at the MPC held on May 28 last year in which the prime minister had committed that the western route of the CPEC would be built first.
In his closing remarks, BNP-M president Akhtar Mengal said their case had been presented before the national leaders and now it was their responsibility to come to the aid of the province.
“If you again put dust on this quagmire, it will be difficult for you to invite the people or the parties of Balochistan again to Islamabad in future,” he warned.
Mr Mengal said there would have been no need for convening the MPCs had the country’s institutions been strong enough to deal with the matter. In an apparent reference to the army, he said there was only one strong institution in the country, which “uses stick” against politicians and judges and “fires bullets on people”.
He asked the participants to look at the events which forced the people of Balochistan to either go abroad or on mountains. He said the country had carried out its nuclear tests in Chaghi district in 1998, but since then no-one had gone there to see the conditions in which the people of the area were living.
He said that while Balochistan was not getting its due share in the CPEC and revenues, the provincial government was spending Rs25 billion on the security of Chinese workers.
“If the Constitution can be amended to make the army chief the chief executive and then president of the country why it could not give our rights to us?” he questioned.
“Have you not established military courts by amending the Constitution and after cutting your democratic hands? It’s up to you to decide, whether you want the Constitution or the country?
Remember that the Constitution can be changed or amended, but a country can be created or broken only once,” he said, in his reference to Railways Minister Saad Rafiq’s remarks that nationalist parties should keep themselves confined to the Constitution.
“Please take us along and do not drag us as we know how to walk,” he said. “Now it depends on you. Do you want Pakistan to become a country or a graveyard?”
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said people who talked about their rights should not be dubbed “traitors”.
Mr Khattak, who belongs to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, complained that he had never been consulted by Islamabad on the CPEC project.
Referring to one of his meetings with the Chinese ambassador, the KP chief minister claimed that he had received some “information” which he could not disclose.
PkMAP president Mehmood Khan Achakzai said the CPEC would not be a viable project without good relations with India and Afghanistan. He stressed the need for unity between the Baloch and Pashtoons living in Balochistan so that they could jointly fight for their rights.
Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party called for implementation of the 18th Constitution Amendment in letter and spirit to resolve the issues being faced by smaller provinces.
Secretary General of Jamaat-i-Islami Liaqat Baloch asked the prime minister to act before it got too late. He suggested that the model of Gulf states could be adopted where outsiders did not have the right on land.
Aftab Sherpao of the Qaumi Watan Party said there was nothing in the CPEC for the people of KP and Fata who had rendered sacrifices for the country’s defence in the ongoing war on terror.
Shahzain Bugti of the Jamhoori Watan Party asked the government to withdraw the cases registered against the Baloch people during the Musharraf regime.
In an effort to pacify the agitating participants of the MPC, particularly from the nationalist parties, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal made a powerpoint presentation, claiming that there had been no change in the plan that had been agreed upon at the MPC in May last year.
He said that out of the $46bn, over $35bn was being spent on energy projects whereas the remaining amount would be spent on upgradation of roads and other infrastructure.
Mr Iqbal said there was no discrimination against any province in the execution of the project. He said only $6.9bn was being spent on energy projects in Punjab whereas power projects worth $7.1bn would be carried out in Balochistan and worth $11.5bn in Sindh.
PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq assured the conference on behalf of the prime minister that the decisions of the May 28 MPC would be implemented. At the same time, he advised Mr Mengal to seek time for a meeting with Mr Sharif.
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman asked the prime minister to convene an MPC in Quetta specifically on the Balochistan issue as he had announced last year.
PML-Q’s Mushahid Hussain proposed formation of a committee under the prime minister and consisting of all the four chief ministers and three services chiefs to regularly monitor the progress on the CPEC project.
Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui of the MQM said the country’s main problem was lack of trust among the provinces, adding that those with people’s mandate should be given powers.
Former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who formed his own party last month, said the country could face a dangerous situation if the people of Balochistan were denied their rights.
Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2016