ISLAMABAD: Some lawmakers expressed concern on Wednesday over the possible use of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by China to enhance trade with India.

During a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development, some lawmakers were of the view that China was investing in the CPEC project to explore new vistas of trade with different countries right from neighbouring India to Central Asian states and Europe.

Chairman of the committee Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi endorsed a point of view of a senator that with improved rail and road links with India through Munabao and Amritsar under the CPEC, China would expand its trade not only with Central Asian states and European countries but also with India to economically strengthen its eight underdeveloped provinces.

“China will definitely use the CPEC to expand trade with India because one who invests always watches one’s interests first,” Mr Mashhadi said.

He said China’s trade relations with India were far bigger than with Pakistan as China had inked $100 billion trade agreements with India last year.

“Irrespective of sour Pakistan-India relations, China will do trade with Indian through the CPEC,” Mr Mashhadi said.

Members of the committee asked railway authorities to lay rail tracks called ML-2 and ML-3 that link Pakistan with Iran and Afghanistan and Central Asian states.

“These projects must be on the priority of China to reach these destinations,” Senator Saud Majeed said.

However, railway officials informed the committee that they were focusing on improving the existing rail tracks called ML-1 from Karachi to upcountry as a majority of the people lived in the areas falling in alignment of ML-1.

Senator Sirajul Haq said that the government should give priority first to those projects which were beneficial to the people of Pakistan and then it should safeguard interests of China.

He was of the view that if the people of less developed areas in Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) did not benefit from the CPEC, they would have no other option but to take up arms to earn their livelihood.

“If economic conditions of ignored areas are not improved, people living in those areas will be compelled to fight against anybody for only Rs2,000,” the Jamaat-i-Islami chief said.

The officials of Pakistan Railways informed the committee that all rail projects being executed under the CPEC were planned by both Pakistan and China and the former alone could not go for any project on its own.

“Both countries have joint working groups which plan and finalise projects,” they said.

At this, Senator Haq said that recently some of his colleagues had visited China for discussions on the CPEC where they were informed by Chinese authorities that Pakistan had the sole right of planning and decision-making about CPEC projects and China had nothing to do with it.

Senator Mohammad Usman Khan Kakar said that Pakistan Railways had not taken even a single step forward.

“We have not gone beyond what we inherited from the British rulers,” he regretted.

He suggested that plans for new railway tracks in Sindh and Balochistan (ML-2 and ML-3) must be implemented immediately because these were the routes which would make Pakistan economically strong.

“We have abundance of natural resources like gold, copper, silver, marble and granite in these areas which can be marketed to Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asian states through rail routes,” he said.

The committee was informed that a majority of electricity generation projects started by the government would be completed between 2018 and 2020.

Published in Dawn November 17th, 2016

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