The government looks to be countering the complete indifference shown by its top leadership on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as it finally announced that it would be bringing up the funding issue in the next bilateral Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) on November 6. Given that this is the first time the sitting government is engaging China in negotiations for the $9 billion Main Railway Line (ML-1) and the DI Khan to Zhob motorway project on the western route, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf cannot deny its complete failure to continue work on many of the projects under the CPEC banner.

It is unclear why the government has changed its mind regarding CPEC, from ignoring all projects for a year, to a sudden rejuvenation of interest, but it is hoped that the ruling party’s interest in finally commencing work on these projects is actually genuine, because any backtracking now will increase the risk of alienating one of our closest friends and neighbour. The delaying tactics over the past year necessitated that the Prime Minister’s last visit to China had only two major items on the agenda; Kashmir and CPEC. If Pakistan wants greater support from China in a wide range of diplomatic issues – with Kashmir and the FATF grey list primary among them – then we must realise that this is a give and take relationship.

It remains to be seen whether this meeting will only focus on projects that haven’t yet been initiated; massive projects such as the Orange Line Metro Train in Lahore lie incomplete and the government has not given any indication or deadlines as to when these will be completed. It will be positive if the federal government announces the progress (if any) on these projects and gives a realistic timeframe for their completion.

CPEC’s biggest issue from the get-go however, has been a complete lack of transparency. Both the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the current PTI government have failed to disclose important details about financing the project and its different components. The stated reason for this has been respect for the Chinese, however this answer is not nearly good enough, especially considering that the government has used CPEC’s secrecy to its advantage; we will never truly understand when all projects have been complete because we no longer even know which ones are still under consideration. Greater transparency is the only way to urge this government to start work on a massive project that can potentially change the economic and diplomatic situation of the region and the world at large.