Economic passageway: Senators seek briefing on trade route by PM

Published: May 12, 2015
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Minister says he’ll quit if even a minor change in route proved. PHOTO: AFP

Minister says he’ll quit if even a minor change in route proved. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: 

In a bid to address ever growing concerns on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route, the minister in-charge on Monday said he would quit if there were a change in the project. However, he failed to satisfy senators who insisted on a briefing by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“I assure you that I will quit and not defend [the decision] if someone could prove that the route, as agreed on July 5, 2013 [during the PM’s visit to China], has been changed,” Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said while fielding a barrage of questions, particularly raised by members from Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Though senators from both sides of the aisle comprehensively spoke about the issue and expressed their concerns during a marathon session that lasted more than six hours, the opposition made an attempt to boycott the proceedings when the minister took the floor, demanding a clarification on the subject from the PM.

However, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani convinced the opposition not to boycott and later on he gave a ruling to constitute a special committee – comprising members from all parties and provinces – to discuss the corridor project.

“This is a national project and no one wants to make it controversial but there is a gap of information, therefore, a special committee be constituted,” Rabbani said.  The move was welcomed by the Leader of the House, Raja Zafarul Haq.

During his speech, Ahsan Iqbal gave a detailed background of Pak-China relations and said there was confusion that the CPEC was the name of a road.

“Instead it is the name of a portfolio or package, and Gwadar port [as well as] energy [and] infrastructure [projects] and industrial zones are its components,” he said. Iqbal, however, clarified that Orange Line Railway Project for Lahore city was not part of the CPEC.

“There is also a misconception among many – including some lawmakers – that Karachi-Peshawar motorway is a part of the corridor route, which it is not,” he said.

He said the western route of the corridor would be completed by December 2016 and “it is our top priority to complete this route at the earliest and make it operational.”

Iqbal said Chinese companies would invest $37 billion in energy sector and the government would have a purchase agreement with them. Ahsan Iqbal said Pakistan has already missed several trains but “today we all have to stand united so that we do not miss this golden opportunity.”

Senator Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini, Ilys Bilour, Saifullah Magsi and Dawood Khan Achakzai said they did not want to make the project controversial and the establishment should stop alleging that they were working at someone else’s behest.

Earlier, the house unanimously passed a resolution in connection with victims of the Naltar Valley helicopter crash and recommended that “in acknowledgment of the services of diplomats who laid their lives while on duty and the valiant Pakistani pilots and soldier who embraced martyrdom, the highest national honour be conferred on them.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2015. 

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Reader Comments (17)

  • Pakistan
    May 12, 2015 - 9:27AM

    So its proved that the route was changed on 5 July, 2013 when PM visited China….Because the feasibility studies includig route identification was done in Parvez Musharaf’s Regime.Recommend

  • Abdullah
    May 12, 2015 - 9:54AM

    PTI cannot see pakistan becoming a succesfull nation.Thats why khattak is having so much of problem.What have you done in KPK for us khattak.I will not waste my vote in 2018 by voting PTI.Recommend

  • Waseem
    May 12, 2015 - 11:19AM

    @Pakistan:
    Any reference that you can forward in favor of your statement? Or any other document that you are aware that existed and what was that route please expound…Recommend

  • Fayyaz
    May 12, 2015 - 12:17PM

    The original route was finalized about 3 years ago during PPP regime and from Ahsan Iqbal’s statement it is now confirmed that Nawaz Shariff changed it during his visit to China in 2013. The government’s spin masters are telling half truth and trying to fool the nation. NHA chairman also admitted in a senate meeting that funds were insufficient for the original route and it was therefore decided to use the existing infrastructure. The original route was shorter and passing mostly through Balauchistan. It would have helped the development of Balauchistan and pacified the insurgents. This route being closer to Afghanistan, would have provided the eastern provinces of Afghanistan a shorter access to Gwadur port. With the changed route, the distance through Iran to Chabahar port would be shorter and more economical.
    The changed route runs closer to Indian border and would benefit the Indian Punjab should it decide to use the facilities of Karachi port. The original route is also militarily a better option as it far away from Indian border. It also provides an alternate access for trade and logistics to the existing Lahore Karachi road/rail network.
    It appears that powers that are supporting the insurgency in Balauchistan have pressurized the government to change the orignal route. It may be coincidence but almost all the projects insisted by the present government are restricted to the are of Balkanised Pakistan as published in US Armed forces Journal. the original route must not be changed to safeguard the integrity of PakistanRecommend

  • Waqas
    May 12, 2015 - 12:45PM

    @Fayyaz safer if it goes through Balochistan? really? where do you live? I am not against it going from Balochistan rather in favor of it but your argument is incorrect. Secondly it is not one road rather network passing from all the provinces. I wonder how difficult it is to digest that?Recommend

  • Waseem
    May 12, 2015 - 12:46PM

    @Fayyaz:
    It has already been explained in the senate, in the press and the various briefings that the western route will be completed first and the deadline is Dec 2016. Now the western route is one which passes through Quetta and DI Khan. The work on it has already commenced. Yes, it is the shortest and also ultimately be linked to Central Asia through Afghanistan via Quetta. However the CPEC which is a corridor, not a name for a single route, would include two alternate routes which will pass through Sindh and Punjab as well. Now what is the problem? Either we missed some basic geography lessons in schools or driven by the propaganda!Recommend

  • Waseem
    May 12, 2015 - 12:52PM

    @Fayyaz @Pakistan:

    Isn’t it strange that while leaders/politicians do not shy from putting their names on a smallest of a development work to earn credit, both Musharraf and PPP govt.s did nothing to claim such a big project during their times! How difficult was it to sign an MoU and get a photo-op in press?Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    May 12, 2015 - 1:04PM

    @Abdullah:

    Please read the report by PILDAT ( it is semi-govt organization ) which has placed KPK second in terms of all set of parameters after Punjab, followed by Sindh & Baluchistan. So, you cannot say ” whay KPK has achieved in this 2 years “, before passing such comment.Recommend

  • Abdullah
    May 12, 2015 - 2:16PM

    @ishrat Salim..Had pti done something good we would be ahead of punjab.But we did not .So being happy that we are second is of no use.
    EDUCATION and justice is what we want.We dont get that.Let 2018 come and PTI will learn that the only way to become sucesfull is by fulfilling your promises not by dharnas.Recommend

  • raider
    May 12, 2015 - 4:05PM

    @Abdullah:
    you(kpk) have been far away from Punjab not even during recent past, but it had always been, it is not even due to any shrif, Punjab was even better during ch. pervaz elahi tenure, and even better in 70s after partition of one unit, however kpk had made some progress as indicated most reports and even surpassed Punjab in some departments in efficacy, give sometime to pti, party received a war torn with one of the most corrupt province but now you can better gauge the situation, instead being cynic, do and think something better, keep in mind pti is governing through coalition govt with porous boarder with writ deprived fata and facing menace of terrorism with sparse govt writ and sever rivalry from federation, almost nil support Recommend

  • roarwali
    May 12, 2015 - 4:10PM

    The route has definitely been changed; see the visuals of china tv and voa, the matter would get cleared. There is one solution if the route and initial plan changes, KPK and baluchistan people should not allow the route through their respective terrain. Enough is enough!Recommend

  • Common Pakistani
    May 12, 2015 - 4:12PM

    The same people who are protesting CPEC today are the ones protesting over Kalabagh Dam for 4 decades leaving us weaker and India stronger. Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    May 12, 2015 - 4:25PM

    @Abdullah:

    PTI has been in the govt for only 2 years now & PML N has been in govt in Punjab for 7 years now. Similarly, PPP has been inn govt for 7 years, yet PTI has emerged 2nd in such a short period. PTI govt in KPK is spending the highest % in education & health. But it will take time to put the house in order, which was in neglect by successive govt, for too long, but comparing PML N govt in Punjab PTI has done better than Sindh & Baluchistan in terms of edication & health. Give the devil its due.Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    May 12, 2015 - 4:37PM

    @Abdullah:

    Has PML N fulfilled any of their promises & election manifesto after getting elected ?Recommend

  • abdullah
    May 13, 2015 - 10:18AM

    @ishrat salim.For pti you need time but for implementation and fulfilling of promises you cant give time to PML-N ..The nation is in much better state than it was under the previous gov .Peshawar alone is not KPK ishrat.Get out of peshawar and you can see whats been done for KPK.
    And you should be thankful to army and PML -N for taking action against the terrorist otherwise security wouldnt be any better than under the previous gov.Though imran was against his brothers( TTP) being eliminated.Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    May 13, 2015 - 12:05PM

    @abdullah:

    PML N made false promises to the people to get elected, so, have courage to accept the fact. If we all accept such false promises by the politicians as normal & part of life, then no wonder we are in such a mess.What are you going to answer to Allah swt if we have such perception of politics in Pakistan. I have not singled out Peshawar as KPK, but the whole of KPK is in better shape than what it was before. But Yes! Lahore is singled out as Punjab as if it is Punjab, while most of S Punjab is in dire need of improvement, that is why that want separate province, which is a legitimate demand. The action by the Army has been unilateral & the govt has no choice but to support their action. The presence of Punjabi Taliban, which was always denied by PML N govt has now become a reality & its presence has been conceded by the provincial govt. These terrorists were under the patronage ( paid ) of the Punjab provincial govt, that is why there was no act of terrorism compared to the rest of 3 provinces. So, please let us wait for the JC & the consequences of the mega projects under this govt.Recommend

  • abdullah
    May 13, 2015 - 2:13PM

    @Ishrat..Forget punjab .PTI won in KPK .If you cant do justice to KPK resign.I cannot wait for another 3 years under this party which fools the uneducated people of KPK by promising that they will open schools.Where are the schoolsssssssssssss.And please dont mention the schools opened and funded by NGOs.

    Mention schools KPK gov has opened.and that shows why imran and the jamtei islami ( funders and supporters of TTP) dont want an educated and progressive KPK.

    And can you please mention the areas else than peshawar which are better off under this gov.
    or you are just another punjabi bro of mine trying to prove PTI.Come to KPK bro.Recommend

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