A political conundrum is going on in Pakistan with the ousting of Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. It was expected that after such a major blow to the civilian government, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project would be affected as it had been claimed by the former Prime Minister that the project was a gift to him by President Xi Jinping. Yet, there seems to be no real sign of any damage to the project.

Several onlookers were waiting for a reaction from the Chinese and also an affirmation of whether or not Panamagate was a conspiracy to impact CPEC. Maulana Fazlur Rehman claimed the same while announcing his support for the PM. Qaumi Watan Party’s Chairman, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, was also of the opinion that CPEC and FATA reforms have been delayed due to the Panama issue. Looking back, it seems the Panama Papers crisis was not a conspiracy to derail anything; it was just something that happened, and was very characteristic of Pakistan’s tumultuous political landscape.

In a statement on July 29, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Lu Kang reiterated that ousting of the PM is Pakistan’s internal matter and does not have any effect on the CPEC project. Bilateral ties will remain the same and China stands ready to work with Pakistan.

What needs to be remembered here is that CPEC is not the brainchild of PML-N. Its working does not depend on their presence in the government. It is no secret that the initial sketch of the project was prepared by China with DG ISI General Ihsanullah Haq during Musharraf’s government. The Chinese see it as an investment: They will not let it fail, no matter who is in power.

However, senior officials who coordinate with the Chinese side for CPEC are of the opinion that the project was compromised in the course of the last two months, though they have not provided any reason why. All they point out is that it had not been prioritised. The Panama case might have caused distraction but it is the job of the government to ensure the fulfilment of plans. While the focus was on the former PM and his family, there is no reason why the rest if the government machinery should become lazy, unless everyone takes direction straight from the top.

If anything, the problem lies in the lack of a good framework guiding Pakistan’s role in the project. The policy framework towards the locals is unfair, the influx of Chinese labour will impact jobs, and large amounts of subsidies have been asked for by the Chinese government. Some regional issues also need to be resolved: Gwadar and the hostility in Balochistan, and revolutionising the trucking industry. But these issues have no real correlation with the Panama case.