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Pak Senate expresses doubts over China Pakistan Economic Corridor

A ship is seen anchored at Pakistan's Gwadar deep-sea port on th

Islamabad: The Pakistan Senate has accused the Nawaz Sharif-led PML-N Government of concealing facts about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, and warned the latter that failure to satisfy Parliament on all aspects of this vital economic project is creating serious doubts not only in their minds, but also among the residents of three of the country’s five provinces – Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh.

Taking the government and especially Federal Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal to task recently, the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development, Senator Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, told the former, “You have failed to satisfy almost the entire committee because you too seem to be uncertain about many issues relating to the CPEC. Members of the committee are patriotic Pakistanis and they are concerned because, a huge investment is involved in the CPEC.”

An unrelenting Senator Mashhadi further said the government’s strategy for the 46 billion dollar project, which also includes construction of eastern and western routes, railway links, and establishment of economic zones and power plants remains unconvincing and unclear

“In fact, the government is concealing facts …,” claimed Senator Mashhadi.

Apart from Senator Mashhadi, Senators Salim Mandviwala, Hasil Bizenjo, Sherry Rehman and Mohammad Mohsin Khan Leghari maintained that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) inked between Pakistan and China with regard to the CPEC was unclear, and did not accept Minister Iqbal’s contention that the Chinese would be irked if critical questions were asked, and this could place the future of the entire project in jeopardy.

Senator Usman Khan Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party also criticised the government for giving the impression that work on the western route of the project has commenced, when actually the case was that even alignments of the said route were not in place.

Referring specifically to the Lahore’s Orange Line train project, Minister Iqbal said that it was not part of the CPEC project.

However, according to a media report, the architecture, construction and operation of the train project has been entrusted to Beijing and its estimated completion time is 27 months.

Minister Iqbal said that the federal government has not allocated any funds for the train project and added that the government in Pakistan’s Punjab Province is executing the project from its own budget and resources.

About investment in energy and transport infrastructure, the minister said Chinese private companies would set up energy projects in accordance with the government’s energy policy.

Critics of the CPEC have also pointed out other lacunae such as commercial operations at the Gwadar Port remaining dormant for almost nine years because of differences between the Gwadar Port Authority and the Port Singapore Authority International; or the fact that details of the agreement related to the handing over of the Gwadar Port to Chinese not being revealed; or need for the Pakistan Planning Commission to allocate major portions of the capital amount for CPEC power projects which have nothing to do with trade corridors.

Questions have also been raised about trans-shipment operations not commencing at Gwadar as also the fact that the United States might consider reducing financial aid to Pakistan in the wake of China emerging as an alternative economic partner to Islamabad.

The CPEC is considered to be an extension of China’s ambitious proposed 21st century Silk Road initiative, and is considered central to China-Pakistan relations.

While economic opportunities and development will largely benefit Pakistan, the CPEC’s importance to China’s geopolitical and economic goals is reflected by the inclusion of the project as part of China’s 13th five year development plan.

Should all the planned projects be implemented, the value of those projects would be equal to all foreign direct investment in Pakistan since 1970, and would be equivalent to 17 percent of Pakistan’s 2015 gross domestic product.

Infrastructure projects under the aegis of CPEC will span the length and breadth of Pakistan, and will eventually link the Pakistani city of Gwadar in the southwest to China’s north western Xinjiang Province via a vast network of highways and railways. (ANI)

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