The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government finally broke its silence after the Chinese president’s visit over the proposed change to the Pak-China Economic Trade Corridor route. On Wednesday, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak announced at a press conference the provincial regime would protest against any such diversion which would exclude K-P.
Speaking at his official residence, Khattak expressed serious concerns over the transparency of the whole project; especially since the Centre is keeping the final map close to its chest.
He said the original plan was to make the corridor pass through Khunjerab onto Gilgit, Kohistan, Shangla, Battagram, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Haripur, Hassanabdal, Mianwali, DI Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Murad Jamali, Khuzdar, Panjgur and it would end in Gwadar. However, if the proposed changes are implemented, DI Khan would be removed altogether and Layaah, Bhaakar and Multan would be added. Some of these changes came to light after the Chinese president’s trip earlier this week.
Going the long way
Khattak said the realignment of the project would increase the distance by over 600 kilometres. “DI Khan should not be excluded otherwise K-P will protest against the changes.” He added about seven to eight new towns were planned to fall along the corridor’s original route, but changes would not even leave one of them on the new path.
Khattak rubbished the federal government’s assertion that multiple routes had been planned for the Pak-China corridor. He said the proposed project was being planned since the 70s.
“With great difficulty, a single road was built and we had to wait 45 years for another,” said the chief minister.
He said deals worth $27.7 billion were signed between Pakistan and China. Of the total, Punjab’s share was $11 billion, Sindh $9 billion, K-P $2.7 billion and there was not even a single mention of Balochistan, said Khattak.
Khattak said K-P deserved double or triple the amount of its allotted share.
He stated K-P and Balochistan were not consulted and the provinces were not represented in working groups of the trade corridor. He said if the federal government had made the effort to consult K-P beforehand, these issues would not have existed altogether.
Khattak said his province was searching for investors who could finance hydroelectric projects of about 5,000 megawatts, but the federal government was running after more expensive power sources. “We have feasibility reports for these projects ready.”
Behind closed doors
Khattak raised concerns over the secretive Pak-China deals, saying it was strange that state level talks involved just two parties which decided all details without open competition and bidding.
“There is more than meets the eye,” said Khattak, adding these developments could have taken place at half the cost.
He said K-P raised this issue on the platform of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and the federal government promised them a briefing which never took place.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2015.