ISLAMABAD: Senator Raza Rabbani of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has accused the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government of trying to weaken the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

Speaking in the Senate on Monday, he referred to reports that projects related to the CPEC were being revisited and diluted. He also wondered if China had been taken into confidence before offering to Saudi Arabia to become a partner in the economic corridor project. He sought to know what was Beijing’s response, if it had been taken in the loop.

He also referred to the statement of Adviser to the PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood about putting CPEC projects on hold, the army chief’s visit to China and the Chinese ambassador’s meeting with the adviser on commerce.

Raza Rabbani says it appears PTI government is trying to weaken the project

Mr Rabbani, who is a former Senate chairman, said parliament should have been taken into confidence before inclusion of a third country in the CPEC. He said the prime minister had not yet informed the nation what had happened in Saudi Arabia. He said reports also suggested that Saudi Arabia had been offered to establish an oil refinery in Gwadar. He also asked if Balochistan, which shares border with Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, was taken into confidence over the issue.

National Party Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo, while commenting on the matter, said that the federal government did not have the right to hand over projects like Reko Diq to Saudi Arabia, since such projects fell under the Balochistan government’s jurisdiction.

“Is there no one in the Balochistan government or the province to take such decisions? Does the Balochistan government cease to exist? Does the government not know about the dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia?” he asked.

“You are trying to turn Balochistan into a conflict zone,” Mr Bizenjo said while announcing that until the government explained how these decisions were made, the National Party members would hold an hour-long protest sit-in outside the Senate every day. He also asked what expertise Saudi Arabia had in the field of mining.

Walkout

Senator Mushahidullah Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was up in arms in the House when Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry entered. He asked the minister to tender an apology for his objectionable remarks made in the National Assembly. “We will walk out if he does not apologise,” he threatened. He also raised the issue of a grade 20 officer stealing the wallet of one of the members of the Kuwaiti delegation.

The opposition walked out in protest when Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar tried to wind up discussion on supplementary budget with Leader of the House Shibli Faraz informing the House that the finance minister was busy with a Saudi delegation. He asked the opposition to let the minister of state wind up discussion, assuring that the finance minister would respond to all related questions himself.

“Let him conclude then, I am leaving and come again when it’s done”, Raza Rabbani said before leaving the House in protest. He was joined by all opposition senators.

Mr Rabbani on this said the prime minister had also come to the House, but left without taking any question.

The chair after opposition’s walkout stopped the minister of state from winding up discussion and it was decided that Finance Minister Asad Umar would wind it up today (Tuesday). The Senate also adopted recommendations to the supplementary budget.

The House will meet again today (Tuesday) at 3pm.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2018