Conceptually speaking, characterisation of the CPEC as a game changer, an epoch making step towards eternal strategic partnership between China and Pakistan, a catalys for economic revolution in Pakistan and an engine to propel shared regional economic prosperity, is decidedly beyond reproach. No person in his right mind can dare to contest these claims on any rational basis. For a resource-constrained Pakistan, direct foreign investment of US$ 46 billion in the projects under the umbrella of CPEC, undoubtedly presents the best ever chance to nullify the effects of the missed opportunities of the past, embarking on the path of sustained economic growth and changing the economic profile of the country geared to equitable sharing of the gains by all the federating units and the masses. For China also the CPEC is a pivot of its strategy to revive the old silk route and gain easy access to the Arabian Sea for expanding its commercial interests globally. It certainly promises a win-win situation for both the countries and the entire region.
In view of the signing of agreements and MOUs with China during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jin Ping to Pakistan concerning projects under CPEC, the government rightly made it a point to give this mega-undertaking national ownership by taking all the political entities on board and enlisting their across the board support. The Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal made an exhaustive presentation to the entire political leadership regarding the projects under the umbrella of CPEC clarifying that the Corridor would be a network of roads that would connect Gawadar and Kashgar passing through all the four provinces and that immediate focus of the two countries was on launching the early harvest projects, especially in the energy sector. He further informed them that the working groups formed by China and Pakistan would decide on the exact locations of the economic zones along the Corridor and the areas through which this network of roads would pass after considering their technical aspects and feasibility.
However, immediately after it a controversy was triggered regarding the change of western route by ANP followed by PTI government in KPK, notwithstanding the fact that the government through several briefings and APCs did clear the doubts and fears about the alleged change of route. The three routes finalised were also made public including the western route. The Chinese embassy in Islamabad is also on record to have corroborated the government position. The Chinese Ambassador reportedly met Imran Khan to discuss the issue and as per media reports the latter felt satisfied regarding the CPEC initiative.
But regrettably the KPK government and its Chief Minister are continuously trying to make the CPEC controversial and politicise it without realising the repercussions of such a self-serving approach. He has been threatening to boycott the project and not to provide land for the CPEC projects if KPK was not given its due share. Now with the approval of PTI Chairman, the KPK government through its Speaker has also filed a petition in the Peshawar High Court seeking direction from the court to the Prime Minister to honour his pledges made at the APC and give due share to the province. Talking to the media outside the court, he said that KPK government would go to any extent if due share was not given to the province in the CPEC.
The position taken by PTI lacks rationality, seems routed in its obsession to denigrate and embarrass the PML (N) government rather than its understanding of the sensitivities involved and the process of decision making in respect of the projects under CPEC. It is a misconception on the part of PTI and KPK government to assume that the government of Pakistan was solely responsible for deciding which project and route would be implemented first. The alignment of the Corridor, its routes and the prioritisation of the projects has been decided by the working groups formed by the two countries keeping in view the technical aspects and their feasibility as clearly indicated by the Planning minister in his briefing to politicians. China being the investor, understandably has a greater say in deciding the implementation of the projects with a view to ensure that money is productively spent to serve the interests of both the countries. This fact needs to be understood and accepted ungrudgingly. Work on all the routes and projects is to be carried out in different phases as the CPEC has a time-span of 15 years to be implemented in totality. The CPEC ultimately will benefit all the provinces.
It is pertinent to point out that the work on Western route is already in progress and a considerable portion of it has already been completed by the FWO. Simultaneously the construction of the eastern route which passes through Punjab and Sindh has also been started in view of the immediate feasibility of the route, as the existing network of roads and Railway infrastructure in these provinces can help in its early completion and providing a good base to both the countries for working on other projects. The most important factor in this respect is that China wanted to start work on this route in view of its early harvest potential and immediate feasibility, as also revealed by the Finance minister. The move is in consonance with the understanding between the two countries in regards to the prioritising of the projects and routes.
Making the CPEC controversial like Kala Bagh Dam would send wrong signals to the Chinese government and could also prove inimical to our national interests besides affecting relations between the two countries. Therefore perpetuating controversy on CPEC is totally wrong and must be avoided. The nation expects rational and visionary behavior from the politicians to winch the country out of the quick-sand it lies embedded into.
The logic of due share so vociferously propagated by the KPK government is also beyond comprehension. It is not about share from the national divisible pool where the provinces can talk about their due share. Here we are talking about Chinese investment of $ 46 billion and logically speaking it is simply not possible to spread all the projects in all the four provinces equally merely to assuage the political innuen does or showing aversion to the technical aspects about the feasibility of the projects. The elements trying to make CPEC controversial simply fail to comprehend the overall impact and the benefits that would accrue to the federating units when all the projects are completed. The Chinese are investing $ 34 billion in the energy projects and no matter where ever these projects are located, the electricity produced by them will be added to the national grid which will serve all regions of the country. The connectivity with Central Asian States ensured through routes under the CPEC corridor would generate lot of revenue for Pakistan on perennial basis in the form of transit fees which will find their in the national exchequer and ultimately to the divisible pool raising the share of the provinces.