The CPEC controversy

Malik M Ashraf

While there are no two opinions about CPEC being a harbinger of a transformational change in Pakistan, the South Asian region and beyond and China also greatly benefitting from this mega-initiative, some political elements in Pakistan are hell-bent to generate a controversy over the scope and the benefits that would accrue to different provinces of the country. First the ANP started a route change controversy in complete disregard to the agreements and the modalities agreed between the two countries in regards to the implementation of CPEC and the decision making process in respect of determining the alignment and the areas through which the network of roads under the CPEC had to pass. The controversy also had parochial overtones.
Then the PTI jumped into the fray to generate a new controversy over the prioritization of the construction of the eastern route of the corridor which traverses through Punjab and Sind. A well orchestrated campaign was launched to create misgivings about the mega-initiative and promoting the notion that going for the eastern route first would deprive Balochistan and KP of the benefits of CPEC. Some circles even claimed that contrary to the claims of the government the western route under CPEC did not exist at all.
The government in its repeated interface with the political leadership of the country through APCs and briefings made relentless efforts to address their concerns and fears. It also arranged CPEC summit in August in Islamabad which was attended by Chief Ministers of all the provinces and other stakeholders wherein all relevant details of CPEC and the projects to be undertaken were laid bare before them to their entire satisfaction.
Those trying to foment this controversy are actually trying to promote their own political agendas rather than looking at the things from a national perspective and our relations with our great friend China which has, since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, played a significant role in the economic development of Pakistan and boosting its security. Such is the likely impact on the prospects of economic prosperity of the region that countries like Iran and Turkey have also expressed their desire to join the undertaking.
The detractors of CPEC are persisting with their harangue notwithstanding the fact that several projects under the CPEC including the western route according to its original alignment have already been set rolling. The rattling noise and the unending controversy that smacks of politicking, has certainly annoyed our Chinese friends. During the last week, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad had perforce to issue two statements which more or less were rejoinders to the critics of the CPEC. The first discourse strongly repudiated a statement that contended that the Chinese ambassador had told the Chief Minister and KP government that western route did not exist in CPEC. The statement dubbed it as untrue and misreporting. The embassy reminded the critics that on November 12, 2015 the fifth meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee(JCC) of CPEC had approved the principle of “ one corridor with multiple passages” aiming at directly benefiting the socio-economic development of Pakistan, especially the western and north western regions and providing effective connectivity to Gawadar port. According to the statement of the embassy the monographic study of transport approved by JCC clearly mentioned that Burhan-D I Khan-Quetta-Sorab section would provide much needed connectivity between major points of CPEC and would connect western areas of Pakistan.
In the second statement the embassy pinpointed that under the CPEC sixteen projects were in hand in Balochistan, eight in KP, thirteen in Sind and twelve in Punjab and that China had already invested $14 billion in 30 early harvest projects and 16 of them were already on the roll. The clarifications given by the Chinese embassy are beyond any reproach and should be enough to set at rest the misgivings being aired by the political elements. What a shame that at a time when the enemy is feverishly engaged in harming Pakistan by all possible means, particularly to sabotage CPEC, some political elements consciously or unconsciously are acting as its accomplices.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

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