Protests not against CPEC, PTI chief assures Chinese envoy

Published October 19, 2016
Chinese Ambassa­dor Sun Weidong meets PTI chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday.—INP
Chinese Ambassa­dor Sun Weidong meets PTI chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: Chinese Ambassa­dor Sun Weidong called on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan at the latter’s Bani Gala residence on Tuesday.

The gist of the meeting, according to PTI sources, was to dispel the impression that the party’s ongoing accountability movement against the prime minister was somehow meant to sabotage the China-Pakis­tan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The two men had a frank discussion over how Chinese investment was crucial for Pakistan’s future and prosperity, sources said.

The PTI leadership waxed lyrical about China’s ongoing support for Pakistan at all regional and international forums during the hour-long meeting. In particular, the sources said, PTI leaders talked about how China — through its powerful and unequivocal diplomatic efforts — was defending Pakistan against hostile nations.

The meeting was requested by the Chinese ambassador and also attended by PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, chief whip in the National Assembly Dr Shireen Mazari and chief spokesperson Naeemul Haq.

Insiders said that the PTI leadership explained the ins and outs of the party’s protest movement and its planned lockdown of the capital city on Nov 2. According to party sources, PTI leaders clarified that its planned siege of the city was not meant to derail the present government, the system or create chaos in the country.

There would absolutely be no threat to the diplomatic corps, since the sealing of the city was only meant to force the government into accepting a resulted-oriented investigation into the Panama Papers leaks, PTI leaders told the Chinese ambassador.

Every now and then, the PML-N leadership has targeted the PTI chairman, saying that his continued protests have delayed ongoing development projects being carried out under the banner of the CPEC. The government, all the way from the prime minister down to his cabinet ministers, could also be heard accusing the PTI chairman of delaying the planned visit of the Chinese president back in Sept 2014.

For independent observers, the meeting carried critical importance in the background of the PTI’s plans to shut down Islamabad and its continued reservations over CPEC routes. Only recently, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak had again voiced concerns over the way the federal government was ignoring the province in setting up economic zones under the corridor.

Earlier this year, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad — in an unprecedented move — had issued a press statement calling on the political leadership of the country to resolve their issues for the smooth implementation of the CPEC.

However, both the current and former ruling parties of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — the PTI and the Awami National Party — continue to claim and protest against what they call the unfair distribution of CPEC-linked investment that was flowing into the country.

“Certainly, given the billions of dollars in investment being pumped in by Chinese companies, China will always want political stability in the country,” commented a senior economic reporter, who has covered the regional economy for several decades.

Published in Dawn October 19th, 2016

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