Since its advent in early 2015 China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign and domestic policy. It is quite natural that it attained that status. With an ever belligerent India becoming a serious concern, the strategic edge offered by CPEC – a closer and more integrated relationship with China – became an obvious priority. On the local front, “early harvest” projects, especially in the field of energy generation, offered Pakistan a solution to it perennial power shortage woes. Transport infrastructure to link the nation and a deep sea port at Gawadar to provide further economic opportunities and strategic depth rounded out what was already a very beneficial bilateral agreement.

With its military, economic and social gains obvious it was expected that CPEC would not devolve into lethargy and disarray as many other ambitious projects had done in the past. We were assured emphatically by the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that the project will be treated with a gravity and diligence it deserves. To their credit, all opposition parties of that time supported the project, and despite some wrangling over the route and exact specifications most cooperated with the authorities to make this project a reality.

Given such unanimous political support and the promising start to the various projects under the economic package, it is inexplicable that in many parts of the country CPEC projects have ground to a halt.

The National Highway Authority (NHA) informed the Senate that the western route of CPEC, which was supposed to be completed by this month, lays in limbo as the same story of governmental neglect, mismanagement and lack of will has played itself out again. It claims that the government had not released the entire fund allocated under the Public Sector Development Programme, as the finance ministry slashed it to recover interest on other loans. Several contractors haven’t been paid their dues, which has led them to abandon many sections of the western route despite having completed a majority of it.

This is an alarming situation, which does not paint a flattering picture of the executional performance of the present government. It is hoped that the newly formed and extensively authorized China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority (CPECA) under the chairmanship of retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa can jumpstart these projects back to life. The CPECA has been constituted to solve exactly these sorts of problems, and considering the report of the NHA, it has its work cut out for it.