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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Special Committee on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor raised on Monday serious doubts about CPEC’s western route and decided to submit its report to the upper house soon.

At an in-camera meeting mainly attended by senators belonging to opposition parties, the committee decided to call senators from the treasury benches at the next sitting to convey its concerns.

The meeting discussed issues relating to the CPEC toll regime, proposed economic zones, local and Chinese investments, etc.

“The government is telling lies regarding the western route of the CPEC because nothing is being done on it,” PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar told Dawn after the meeting.

Although an official notification issued by the Senate Secretariat on Sunday contained a list of the participants of the meeting, including Minister for Planning and Development Ashan Iqbal, Mr Babar claimed the minister did not attend it.

“In fact it was an internal meeting of opposition leaders in the committee to chalk out a strategy to resist the government’s ignorance and slackness towards the western route of the corridor,” he added.

He said it had come to the notice of the committee that only a single lane or double road had been proposed for the western route, contrary to the six-lane road planned for the eastern route of the corridor. “How the western route will cater to heavy traffic to be originated from Gwadar with a single lane or double road,” he asked.

Mr Babar said the committee had been informed that work on the eastern route and the Gwadar Port was being carried out on a fast-track basis, but the project would remain ineffective unless the western route was made on a par with the eastern route. He said four berths of the Gwadar Port had been constructed and the remaining six would be completed by the end of this year.

“We believe that the CPEC is heading towards a big controversy as the government has kept the nation in the dark regarding development of the western route,” Mr Babar said.

Senator Nauman Wazir Khattak of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said that no member from the treasury benches had attended the meeting and the committee decided to present its report to the Senate soon. He said the area beyond Dera Ismail Khan and Zhob was a hilly terrain and asked how it was possible for the National Highway Authority (NHA) to construct a four- or six-lane road on hills as promised by the government.

“This will remain neglected and after a year and so the NHA will come up with an excuse that it cannot construct road on hilly areas,” Mr Khattak said.

He said that once the Gwadar Port was fully operational more than 55,000 containers would be on the corridor and a crude oil tanker would be rolled out after every minute from Gwadar. “Will the western route be able to bear such load of heavy traffic?” he asked. He said the government did not know how much toll would be recovered from the CPEC and what share China would get from it.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2016

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