ISLAMABAD - The government yesterday continued to face criticism inside and outside the Parliament after opposition forces, including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, joined heads to press the government over their reservations regarding the alleged changes in the route of China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Inside the National Assembly, the government faced strong criticism from some backbenchers about the growing tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, urging the PML-N government to stay neutral in the row between the two countries instead of siding with the Saudi monarchs.

And, outside the parliament, the nationalist forces lambasted the government for allegedly keeping the smaller provinces blind about the multi-billion dollars corridor project by diverting all the benefits to Punjab province. Interestingly, the political parties that stood in defense of the ruling government against the PTI’s sit-in have now aimed their guns at the federal government. 

Syed Khurshid Shah, leader of the opposition in National Assembly, yesterday met leader of nationalist forces regarding the changes made in the corridor projects

A seven-member delegation of Awami National Party (ANP), led by former Senator Afrasiab Khattak, met Mr Shah in his chamber to take him on board regarding their agitation plans over the CPEC.

Mr Shah assured the visitors that he will continue to raise the concerns of smaller provinces in the house and will pressurise the government to establish the same projects of CPEC in other provinces as are being executed in Punjab.

Similarly, Senators of Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and lawmakers of the PTI were heard chatting with leader of the opposition and PPP leaders denouncing the federal government for behaving more like a provincial government than a federal one.

“This is not what we have expected from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He should not tilt towards Punjab,” ” Senator Usman Kakar of PkMAP said. “He should act as a national leader.”

ANP leader Afriasiab Khattak told reporters outside the parliament that the controversy over the CPEC projects has united all political forces, warning of a long political agitation if rights of smaller provinces were usurped.

Flanked by senior leaders of his party, including Senator Shahi Syed, Secretary Information Zahid Khan, former MNA Bushra Gohar and President National Youth Organziation Khushal Khan Khattak, Mr Khattak said Premier Sharif had to decide whether he is a Punjabi politician or a national leader. He criticized the Premier over inaugurating energy segments of the CPEC in Sialkot and Sahiwal but ignoring the rest of provinces.

The controversy over route change in the original shape of the CPEC has touched off a new round of debate with almost all political parties pointing fingers at the ruling government for not keeping the promise made to politicians during multi-party conference held on May 28 last year.

On Thursday, head of Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam (JUI-F), the ally of the ruling PML-N, has called a multi-party conference to develop consensus over the corridor project, inviting all political parties to attend the gathering.

Similarly, Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal) has also convened an all parties conference (APC) on January 10 in the federal government to pressurise the federal government to give due share to Balochistan province in the corridor project.