Thursday, July 30, 2015

Development controversy: Balochistan backtracks on CPEC route stance

By Mohammad Zafar

Published: July 29, 2015
PHOTO: AFPBoth CM and Kaiser Bengali say route controversy now stands resolved. PHOTO: FILE
QUETTA: Less than three days after his government issued a scathing report on the government’s plans for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch appeared to have backtracked on his stance and welcomed Chinese investment in Balochistan through the CPEC. His chief economic advisor and author of that report, Kaiser Bengali, went even further and said that the CPEC route controversy has been resolved.
The chief minister made these remarks while hosting a delegation from the China Peace Development Foundation in Quetta on Tuesday. “The CPEC will bring economic and financial improvement in Balochistan and Pakistan,” Dr Malik said, adding that his administration would always welcome ‘people-friendly’ investment.
At the meeting with CPDF’s Ji Ping, Kaiser Bengali, an economist and head of the chief minister’s Policy Reform Unit, said the controversy over the CPEC route had been settled at an all parties’ conference chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The more conciliatory stance regarding CPEC is a remarkably fast volte face on the part of the Balochistan government, which has been protesting what it believes is a route taken by the federal government that will bypass most of Balochistan and thus prevent it from capitalising on what it feels is its best chance of closing the infrastructure gap with the more developed parts of the country. Indeed, Bengali himself was the lead author of a report titled China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: The Route Controversy, issued by the Balochistan government on Saturday.
Balochistan’s argument has been that the federal government’s focus on the eastern alignment would rob Balochistan of the chance to develop its own infrastructure.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2015. 

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