LAHORE: Chinese Consul General in Lahore Zhao Shiren has said four corridors are being added to the flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as both Islamabad and Beijing have agreed to it during Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s recent visit to the country.
Speaking at a seminar here on Sunday on impacts of the policies adopted at the 20th congress of the Communist Party of China that elected President Xi Jinping as its secretary general for another five-year term, he termed Shehbaz Sharif’s maiden visit as premier “unprecedentedly constructive and successful” as both sides agreed to adding four new corridors — digital, industrial, green and health — to the CPEC project.
Replying to questions about the “slowed down” pace of work on the CPEC in the recent past, the diplomat said he would not blame anyone, in China or Pakistan, for it, but could assure [Pakistanis] that from now on things would speed up.
He said the project would benefit both China and Pakistan, but it would be more beneficial for the latter. He urged Pakistanis that being on the driving seat, they should take ownership of the project, while Chinese could only facilitate them in this regard.
Foreign affairs expert Muhammad Mahdi lamented that the first phase of the CPEC could not be completed because of ‘ineptness’ of the previous [PTI] government. He said all political parties needed to make a commitment with the CPEC in their respective manifestos for the next elections so that the project could not be harmed again.
About the anti-CPEC propaganda, he said the Western world is also being taken on board on the project, while premier Sharif made it clear during a reception hosted by the US ambassador that Islamabad would go with the country that would come forward and help Pakistan at this critical time.
He said China has so far given Rs30 billion in aid — the largest by any country — for the flood victims, while it’s also expected to announce the biggest relief for Pakistan at the Paris Club meeting.
Jawed Salim Qureshi, the chairman of an agricultural research organisation, stressed on transfer of technology in the agriculture sector, particularly for major crops like cotton, wheat and maize, to enhance the yield and cut cost of production for the local farmers.
Comparing the data on the wide agricultural production gap between China and Pakistan, he said old seeds of various crops were failing to give desired results and there’s need for introducing new ones. He said if there was any obstacle in government-to-government cooperation, then avenues of business-to-business cooperation should be explored to accelerate local farm productivity as the private sector did not require subsidies but facilitation.
Former additional secretary Nazeer Husssain said the CPEC was targeted by the vested interests through thousands of “fake” articles published in the print media and called for an effective response to such propaganda. He said the civil society must be taken along for sustainable Pak-China relations. Chinese diplomatic and economic help would also be needed for stability in Afghanistan, the route to Central Asia, he added.
Dr Amjad Magsi from the Punjab University said China’s vision of building a human community with a shared future is gaining support from more countries and will play a vital role in promoting world peace and development.
Dr Khalid Jalal from a UK-based university regretted that the previous government in Pakistan showed a lack of commitment to the CPEC. Referring to the Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s troubleshooting role in relations between the two countries, he said Islamabad could not yet decide on the post-Bajwa scenario with regard to sustainability of the CPEC.
Dr Qais Aslam, Dr Waheed Ahmed Khan, Tayyab Aijaz Qureshi, Sajjad Mir, Javed Nawaz, Yasir Habib, Dr Hussain Paracha and others also spoke on the occasion.
Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2022