ISLAMABAD - The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs was told by the government on Friday that Gwadar Port would become operational in May this year after completion of the Khuzdar-Ratodero motorway project. "The strategically important Pakistan-China economic corridor would be made operational by diverting it on exiting motorway and road network because a large sum of the $12 billion funding is not available," Chairman of National Highway Authority (NHA) Shahid Tarar told the committee. The committee chairman Haji Adeel and other members had summoned top officials of the Planning Ministry for an urgent briefing after reports that changes had been made in the project. "Whatever we have done is with the consent of the Chinese authorities who told us that instead of waiting, the existing road network could be used for making Gwadar port operational at the earliest," Tarar said.

He stated Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan are all being linked as part of the economic corridor.

The NHA chairman disclosed that the 136 KM long Karachi-Hyderabad motorway's final agreement on built operate and transfer (BOT) is being inked next week and construction would commence in March this year.

"There is no major change in the final alignment of this corridor as it is touching all four provinces and GB," Secretary Planning Commission Hassan Nawaz Tarar told the committee.

Taking part in the discussion that followed, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the NHA chairman has candidly stated that the alignment of the corridor from Khunjerab to Gwadar via Mianwali, D. I Khan, DG Khan, Khuzdar and Turbat is for the long term. "In the short term, according to NHA, the new alignment from Khunjerab to Gwadar was being undertaken to utilise the existing communication network and to operationalise the Gwadar port ," Babar said.

He said that once the new alignment becomes operational it will, overtime, create its own vested interests and it will be impossible to revert to the initially planned alignment via D.I Khan and D.G Khan. Thus for all practical purposes the new alignment will become final and irrevocable.

The senator also said that the decision about the economic corridor's alignment is fundamentally a political decision and has to be addressed at a political level; stating that it cannot be addressed by bureaucrats attending today's meeting.

Senator Sughra Imam, a member of the committee, said when Gwadar Port was with the Singapore authorities nobody questioned it but people were now raising their voices when it is being given to the Chinese.