May 4, 2015
ISLAMABAD: A senior leader of the Awami National Party (ANP) has expressed consternation about the much-trumpeted China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, saying the government is already moving towards implementation of the modified route from western to eastern side of the country.
“We have learnt that the government has already started implementation on the project by diverting its route from the western to eastern side,” said ANP leader Haji Mohammad Adeel while talking to The Express Tribune. He stated that they have strong reservations about the government’s intention to change the original route, adding that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is also toeing the government line.
ANP and some nationalist parties of Balochistan have been raising hackles over their claims that the original route of the corridor from Islamabad to Gwadar has been changed from western side (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to Balochistan) to eastern side (Punjab and Sindh).
They allege that the two major political parties, the PPP and the PML-N (Pakistan-Muslim-League-Nawaz), are implementing this project to benefit only Punjab and Sindh, by bypassing the interest of the considerably underprivileged and small provinces.
“We have sent our delegation to Quetta to hold meeting with the Balochistan government and other political parties as we have planned to call another all-parties conference in Quetta this month,” said Haji Adeel.
He stressed that “we know there would be a long-term plan to construct a route from DI Khan, but we cannot wait for another 15 years till 2030 because these areas need immediate economic developments through such initiatives.”
He also questioned as to why the government did not make the original image of the multi-billion-dollar project public to remove the doubts in the minds of people. Adeel also wanted the K-P and Balochistan governments to stop working on the project in their respective provinces until the reservations are addressed.
The Multan-Sukkur motorway, he claimed, is to be constructed under the CPEC to appease the PPP, particularly opposition leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah, whose hometown is Sukkur.
The ANP leader said: “We are blamed for sabotaging the project at the behest of certain powers. But, I would say that Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal is sabotaging the project by changing its original route,” he noted.
However, while talking to The Express Tribune, Ahsan Iqbal dispelled the impression about any change in the corridor route, saying the government is working on three routes simultaneously: eastern, western and central alignment and the western aliment will be completed first.
He said some elements are misleading people to sabotage the mega project. “We have clarified this at all the forums, including in the National Assembly, Senate and parliamentary committees, but they don’t want to accept this project to promote their vested interest”, he added.
“We will complete the western alignment from DI Khan to Gwadar till December 2016,” the minister claimed. We will accommodate all the provinces including Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, he added.
“A joint working committee will be constituted within a month to identify and finalise the zones, which will be in consultation with all the stakeholders, including the political parties”, Ahsan Iqbal stated.
JI leader meets CM Malik
Meanwhile, Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General Liaquat Baloch met Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik in Quetta and discussed concerns of the smaller provinces over the CPEC.
Talking to the media, Baloch stated that the federal government should ensure that the corridor route must go via DI Khan, Zhob, Khuzdar and then to Quetta so that an opportunity must be created to address the poverty in these underdeveloped areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2015.