ISLAMABAD - Political leaders will next week begin a tour of proposed the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) sites to monitor the pace of work and ensure smaller provinces are not denied their share of the project.
The decision comes amid growing concerns that the country’s most backward provinces will be bypassed and fears that only one province — Punjab — will benefit. The multi-billion dollars economic corridor is Pakistan’s biggest ever infrastructure development project and will link the new port development at Gwadar with China’s Xinjiang province.
It is expected to give a significant boost to the country’s economy and Pakistan’s political leaders are anxious to ensure that their respective areas share the windfall.
The cross party parliamentary committee on the CPEC yesterday resolved to closely monitor the project’s development and how it benefits people throughout the country.
Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning and Reforms and Pakistan’s CPEC point-man, said that work had already begun on the Western route of the project. The area from Gwadar to Sorab linking Gwadar with Quetta will be completed by December 2016. His claim was challenged by some committee members who said the government has yet to allocate a single rupee to the route. Amid heated debate, Senator Mushahid proposed that committee members visit the construction sites so they could check progress themselves.
Hasil Bizinjo of the National Party accused the government of making false claims about the project and said that he has not seen any physical progress on the western route.
The earlier feasibility report plotted the western route passing through Baloch-dominated areas of Balochistan. Nationalist parties, however, later revealed the government had made last minute changes to re-route the corridor through Pashtun-dominated areas instead.
Ahsan Iqbal brushed aside the claims and said the original route plan was still intact. Significant funds would be allocated soon, he said.
In a bid to cool the tempers, Senator Mushahid intervened and said there would be greater transparency if committee members personally visit the sites regularly between now and March next year.
Decisions will be made in consultation with lawmakers and at their next meeting Chairman NHA will give a comprehensive briefing on the progress of all CPEC infrastructure projects, he added.