With the government, its allies and opposition parties at loggerheads over alleged changes in the route of the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad broke its silence on the project on Saturday and urged all quarters to resolve their differences.
“China hopes that the relevant parties in Pakistan could strengthen communication and coordination on the CPEC to create favourable conditions for the project,” the embassy said in a statement.
Asked to comment on recent developments on the $46 billion project, the embassy spokesperson said, “The CPEC is the consensus reached between China and Pakistan, and has won popular support from the two peoples. The CPEC faces Pakistan as a whole, and will bring development and benefits to the people of Pakistan.”
The spokesperson added that China was “ready to work with the Pakistani side to actively promote construction of CPEC projects, and bring tangible benefits to the peoples of the two countries”.
A two-member delegation of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf comprising former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and MNA Dr Shireen Mazari met the Chinese ambassador on Friday. Sharing details of his meeting, Qureshi told The Express Tribune that “we gave an assurance to the ambassador that we don’t have any issue with China and we are in favour of the CPEC”.
“We also assured that we will not do any politics on this project and will support its completion,” he said. “[But] we have reasonable doubts about the federal government. The PML-N government is not taking us into confidence on many issues,” he added.
Qureshi said it was pledged in an all parties’ conference (APC) that the western route would be completed first. He accused the government of retreating from this pledge. “Building just the road is not enough. Our demand for work on the western route includes development of infrastructure, rail tracks, fiber optics, LNG and uninterrupted supply of electricity,” he added.
Opposition parties are demanding the government take them into confidence while addressing their concerns on the government’s plan to execute the CPEC. During the recent session of parliament, not a single day passed without opposition parties’ protesting against the government’s approach on the CPEC.
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah wrote a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressing reservations on projects related to the CPEC and called the initiatives taken on the project ‘Punjab-centric’. He asked the premier to adhere to the decisions reached at the APC held over the project in May last year.
Qureshi said both opposition parties and PML-N allies were opposing the government’s approach on the CPEC. “We have doubts on the transparency. The government is not sharing with us details. We want to know the names of the companies involved with this project,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2016.