The two-day CPEC Summit, being hosted by the Dawn Media Group in collaboration with the Ministry of Planning and Development, kicked off at Karachi’s Bagh-i-Jinnah on Monday.
Various speakers, including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing, addressed the conference on the first day of the event.
While addressing the summit, PM Abbasi remarked that while the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was unheard of merely three years ago, the world acknowledges it as a reality today.
The prime minister and all of the other speakers discussed the importance of CPEC with the attendees of the summit.
Representatives of all four provinces discussed the importance of the joint initiative with reference to the development that it has brought to their particular region.
'CPEC is not a debt trap'
Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal in his address talked about the progress and development made in the country during the tenure of the PML-N's government.
"This event proves that Karachi is changing," he said, adding that when the PML-N came to power in 2013, the city was known for target killings and extortion.
"This is an age of development and growth, with the speed of an electron," he remarked.
Talking about the Belt and Road initiative, he termed it a huge opportunity. "Pakistan will become a hub of development with the help of this project.
"We made regional connectivity a key component of our Vision2025 project," he said, terming CPEC the biggest flagship project of the One Belt One Road initiative.
"China extended its hand towards Pakistan when no one wanted to invest even 10 dollars."
Addressing the reservations about CPEC, Iqbal said: "There are lobbies that are not happy with CPEC — it is not a debt trap."
"Some say China will become the East India Company; they haven't read history. China seeks partnership. There is nothing to fear for Pakistani businesses [...] this is propaganda."
"Long live China-Pak friendship," Iqbal concluded.
'CPEC is a reality'
"We look upon CPEC as a partnership between two governments," said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi — the event's chief guest — at the inauguration of the summit in the morning. "It is a new form of cooperation."
"Three years ago CPEC was unheard of — today it is known globally. The BRI initiative of Chinese President Xi is a project for generations," he said, "Recently, we discussed security and connectivity with Afghanistan, which also recognises CPEC as an opportunity."
"CPEC has now become a reality — two power projects under the initiative have been completed and the third one is about to be finished."
'CPEC not only about economic growth'
For the past 40 years, China has made every effort to develop and grow its economy, said Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing in his address.
"We've combined socialism and market economy to benefit people."
"China wants to see its relationship with Pakistan serve as an example for its relations with other states," said Jing while speaking on the CPEC.
"We look at CPEC as a significant project. I'm proud that after five years of implementation, it [CPEC] has contributed to Pakistan's development."
"CPEC is not just about economic growth; we want to develop a community."
'CPEC is not about roads and motorways; it's about connectivity'
Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif addressed the summit in the session 'View from Punjab'.
"CPEC has helped strengthen the federation of Pakistan; today, Pakistan is a happening place and CPEC has proven that it is a country where people's money is safe," he said.
"CPEC has been a turning point in Pakistan's history," he said, adding: "Those who doubt intentions of the Chinese are enemies of Pakistan."
He negated the impression that CPEC was limited to one area or province, saying, "Together with Sindh, Balochistan, KP, FATA and AJK, we will build a better tomorrow."
"China is one of Pakistan's most reliable friends. Once the Chinese were convinced that people of Pakistan rightly deserved their support, then came President Xi's vision of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which came to be known as CPEC," said Shahbaz.
Praising China's support further, the Punjab CM said there has been no conditions or mantra of "do more" — a reference to the often repeated demand from the United States — from the neighbouring country.
"CPEC is not about roads and motorways; it's about connectivity."
'China and Pakistan have enjoyed great relations for past 5 generations'
Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Murad Ali Shah addressed the summit in the session 'View from Sindh'.
"The past five generations of the Chinese leadership and previous Pakistan governments have all had a great working relationship with each other," the CM said.
He added: "When China stood isolated on the world stage, it was Pakistan under the leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that staunchly supported its neighbour. Today, China Pakistan Economic Corridor has seen light of day because of President Xi Jinping and PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari's vision."
Speaking about the development taking place in Sindh under the CPEC plan, CM Shah said: "CPEC has resulted in the optimal utilisation of two commercial ports and the opening of Keti Bunder. The development of our commercial ports is in line with the CPEC plan, and Sindh pledges its full cooperation and facilitation in this regard."
"Sindh had started working towards renewable energy projects long before the formal launch of CPEC and it remains the the only province which has a land grant policy for renewable energy parks," the CM said, adding that the long-term vision of the Sindh government has produced "turning results."
He elaborated that Sindh currently contributes 930 megawatts of wind energy to the national grid, "a large chunk of which comes from three early-harvest CPEC projects."
He also told the audience that an additional 300MW generated through wind power projects would be added to the grid once the projects are completed in October 2018.
‘KP’s hospitality being extended to economic friendships through CPEC’
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Secretary Hassan Ansari, who was representing the KP government at the summit, said that the province is responsible for the production of 15pc of Pakistan’s natural gas output.
“In hydropower, KP has the potential of producing 30,000MW of energy. There are a number of fruits that grow in the province around the CPEC route,” Ansari briefed the attendees of the summit.
Ansari also said that two hydropower projects in Chitral are part of the CPEC framework.
‘One can’t imagine CPEC without Gwadar’
Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo, who claimed to be representing the people of Balochistan and not the provincial government, said, "CPEC could not be conceived without Gwadar.”
Bizenjo said that Balochistan constitutes 43pc of Pakistan, and is home to Reko Diq, the second largest copper reserve in the world, and many other minerals.
“The people of Balochistan are hopeful that CPEC will grow and when it does, they will get to grow with it,” he explained.
Objectives of CPEC
A symposium, “The dynamics of economy and finance”, preceded the inauguration ceremony.
The discussion featured, among others, former State Bank governor Ishrat Husain and former finance ministers Shaukat Tarin and Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.
It’s one of the biggest events to be held in the country on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor aimed at educating the public about the objectives of CPEC and its umbrella project, the Belt and Road Initiative.
The highlight of the second day will be a session titled “The view from China”. Yao Jing is slated to be the main speaker.