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KARACHI: Former president of Pakistan and president of the PPP-Parliamentarians Asif Ali Zardari has said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a game changer with which the future of Pakistan is linked as our coming generations will continue to benefit from it.

Mr Zardari stated this while speaking to PPP MNAs, MPAs, and senators at Bilawal House here on Wednesday after a briefing given by Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on CPEC, with special reference to the province’s share in the mega economic project. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, PPP Sindh president Nisar Khuhro, former chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Naveed Qamar also attended the briefing.

Paying homage to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for initiating this concept, Mr Zardari, who is co-chairperson of the PPP, pointed out that it was Mr Bhutto who entered into dialogue with China and resolved border issues, acquiring K2 for Pakistan. He asked the federal government to take all provinces on board in taking decisions on CPEC projects and also start implementation of CPEC projects in all provinces at the earliest and complete them in the shortest possible period.

‘Every area being developed under it is our own’

“We have placed advertisement in history by pioneering the game-changer CPEC and as such have no concern as to who is trying to take credit through advertisements in the media,” he said. “Several books are needed to cover CPEC. Our future generations will continue to [reap] the fruit of this project.”

The PPP leader further said that more than 500 Chinese had completed PhDs on Pakistan and now they were communicating in Urdu. “We have to give ownership to CPEC and every area being developed under this project is our own,” he said.

Highlighting the importance of the proposed coastal city of Zulfikarabad, Mr Zardari said the sea had gulped 350,000 acres of coastal land and “we gave the idea of Zulfikarabad to reclaim this land but some elements started negative publicity” to scare away our future Chinese partners in the project.

Asif Zardari recalled that he conducted his first-ever diplomatic visit as president to China to follow up on the strong relations developed with the friendly country by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. “Shaheed Bibi also wanted a Marshall plan for our development and she planned 50,000MW power projects but the same were scrapped because her governments were dismissed in the middle of their tenures,” he added.

“We have followed an indefinite concept and our thoughts and ideas cover also the time when we will not be here.”

He said Turkey’s president Erdogan was thinking of entering into currency-swap agreements with other countries now while we signed such agreements with China, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Iran half a decade back.

Mr Zardari also appreciated the performance of Chief Minister Shah in getting four important projects of Sindh — Karachi Circular Railway, Keti Bandar Port and Power Park and a special economic zone at Dhabeji, Thatta — into the list of projects in the CPEC programme.

Earlier in his briefing, Murad Ali Shah said that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had stated in 1968 that it was only China which had the capacity and will to help us and he initiated the groundwork for CPEC.

He said that due to ill-planning by the Sharif brothers and their machinery, several projects from Punjab had been excluded from CPEC for not meeting the final criteria. However, he said the PPP government of Sindh had been able to include the Keti Bandar, Thar coal and wind power projects.

“Sindh is the only province whose two cities — Karachi and Sukkur — are part of CPEC while Karachi Circular Railway has also reached the Joint Coordination Committee of the two countries,” he added.

He said even after leaving the presidency, Asif Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari visited China to give a fillip to CPEC. Anti-PML-N movement

Meanwhile, the PPP leadership has formulated its strategy to launch a protest movement against the federal government in three phases.

In the first phase protest would be lodged in parliament, followed by public meetings in the second phase while the third phase would be a decisive political ‘long march’, according to sources close to the PPP leadership.

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Asif Zardari will be given entry in the current parliament through by-elections on the seats to be vacated by Ayaz Soomro in Larkana and Azra Pechuho in Nawabshah. They would soon vacate their seats to enable the party’s top leadership to enter parliament as per a decision of the PPP central executive committee (CEC). Since the return of Mr Zardari, it is learnt, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Asif Zardari had been in consultation with party leaders on the possibility of talks with the federal government over the four demands of the PPP, formation of an opposition grand alliance and launching of an anti-government movement.

At these consultations, according to sources, it was agreed that if the PML-N government accepted its four demands by the last week of January, the party would review its option of launching a protest movement but the strategy of forming a ‘grand opposition alliance’ would remain intact.

It was also agreed that if the federal government failed to accept their four demands, the party would start protesting in parliament and from the second week of February a mass contact campaign would be started by organising public meetings.

If the PML-N government still did not move, the long march could be started in February as per its schedule proposed by the PPP CEC.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2017