ISLAMABAD - Seeking the help of national political leadership to frustrate the nefarious designs of the forces working against China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Wednesday said the project is aimed at supporting economic progress of the entire region as it would help boost trade and improve connectivity.

To further allay the concerns of political parties, particularly about the route of the economic corridor , it was agreed in the meeting of the parliamentary leaders that a parliamentary committee comprising MPs from both the houses would be constituted to oversee the implementation of the CPEC and other related projects to the satisfaction of all the political forces in the country, informed a participant of the meeting.

On account of the Karachi carnage, Premier Sharif had to cut short the parliamentary leaders’ meeting, so it was agreed that another session on the issue would be arranged by the government in near future to address concerns of politicians belonging to smaller provinces, another participant of the meeting informed The Nation.

By and large, the participants were satisfied with the briefing of Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal, but as the meeting was truncated due to the PM’s emergency visit to Karachi, it was decided that another session of the parliamentary leaders would be arranged soon as the government did not want to see the project in any controversy, sources said.

Briefing the participants, Premier Sharif said some foreign forces which did not positively view the close working of Pakistan with China were trying to sabotage the project must realise that it was not against any country; rather it would be beneficial for the entire region.

He said the nation must stand united to foil the nefarious designs against the CPEC as these projects were not for a party or an individual, but for the country’s development.

He said the region is home to three billion people and the improved connectivity would help the area get out of isolation of the past. There was a need to enhance linkages with all countries and generate economic activity, he added.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said his government would do its best to remove all ambiguities about the economic corridor . He said he had always spoken about removing sense of deprivation.

Regarding Balochistan, he said quality roads are being constructed in the province that would link Gwadar with the rest of the country.

He said every party in power must work for the progress of Pakistan and endeavor to hand over the country to the next government in a better condition. He said projects under the corridor would be beneficial for the nation and the country.

The prime minister said his government believed in taking decisions on important national issues with consensus as it was a positive and democratic tradition. He was also appreciative of Ahsan Iqbal’s elaborate briefing to the political leadership and said it would help them better understand the concept and the trade corridor.

Nawaz Sharif said it was a tradition of his government to discuss all issues, challenges and future plans with the parliamentary leaders and representatives of all political parties. All democracies work in the same fashion and take important decisions after deliberations and with consensus, he added.

At the outset, the prime minister strongly condemned the gory incident of firing on a passenger bus in Karachi. The Ismailis, he said, were members of the most peaceful communities. He lauded their role in the progress and development of the country since its creation. He said the entire country was shocked over the tragic incident. The prime minister asked Maulana Fazlur Rehman to lead prayer for the victims of the bus.  Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal gave a comprehensive briefing to the participants about the economic corridor and said it was not only confined to a specific route, but also encompassed all areas of the country.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari said Pakistan People’s Party fully supported the economic corridor and urged the entire national leadership to support the project for the country’s bright future. Shah Mahmood Qureshi of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, terming the corridor a national project, congratulated the government over the progress made so far. Mushahid Hussain Syed of PML-Q said the briefing would help remove misconceptions about the economic corridor .

Earlier, during the briefing to the political leadership across the national spectrum, Federal Minsiter Ahsan Iqbal said a joint coordination committee for the CPEC will be set up to facilitate the formation of working groups of experts, draw Pakistan-China relations out of a political context and steer them towards a strong economic relationship.

The minister said, “The fundamental basis for the creation of the CPEC was to take Pak-China relations from a geo-political paradigm towards geo-economics.”

Iqbal assured the participants that all provincial capitals would serve as fundamental nodes for the CPEC, upon which the corridor would be constructed. He said Karachi, Quetta, Lahore and Peshawar were marked as nodes, so that no province could be deprived of the benefits of the corridor. “The time frame of the corridor will be from 2014 to 2030,” he said. He further said all the provinces will be consulted before finalising the sites for establishment of industrial zones under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. The aim of these industrial parks and economic zones would be to relocate industries in Pakistan from China.

The minister dismissed the impression that the route of CPEC had been altered to favour Punjab and ignore the other provinces.

Instead, he said, the working group which was responsible for demarcating the sites for industrial zones was yet to be formed. “After the formation of the said working group, all provincial governments would be asked to suggest the areas feasible for industrial parks in their provinces,” he said.

He mentioned that other four working groups on energy, communication network, Gwadar Port and infrastructure were already functional and comprised members from China and Pakistan.

The minister said CPEC was not just the name of a road or a route; rather it was a portfolio of projects having a complete framework. “The CPEC is an umbrella which includes the projects of energy, industry, Gwadar port and infrastructure worth 46 billion dollars,” he added.

Ahsan Iqbal said there would be three main alignments to access Gwadar up to Khunjrab that would pass through the eastern, central and western parts of the country.

He said the operational connectivity of Gwadar would be made by upgrading the existing road network and construction of missing road links.

He revealed work on Gwadar-Sorab missing link and on 650km road from Quetta, Qila Saifullah and Zhob to Gwadar was being carried out by Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) for two years.

The government will sign agreements with Asian Development Bank (ADB) Thursday (today) to upgrade N-50 from Dera Ismail Khan and Quetta besides N-70 from Loralai and Multan.

He said a portion of Karakorum Highway was being constructed with China’s assistance, while the N-85 and N-8 were being built with the Pakistan government’s own resources and in collaboration with Asian Development Bank (ADB).

About the priority projects of 10,700 megawatts under CPEC, the minister said Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park (1,000MW), Dawood project (50MW), Sukki Kinari (870MW) and Gwadar Coal Power Project topped the list.

He said Gaddani Power Project, Jetty infrastructure and Hubco project were among the second-line projects.  He said Pakistan and China had also agreed on further five billion dollars on the transmission of electricity. The minister clarified that no loans were being taken for completion of energy projects and added the entire process was being carried out transparently. He said no new motorway projects were being initiated under CPEC. He said the starting point of the economic corridor will be Gwadar.

Earlier, MQM leaders wanted postponement of the meeting in the wake of the Karachi carnage, but JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan and others opposed it and said that keeping in view the importance of the issue, it must continue. As the majority of the participants were in favour of continuing with the meeting, the prime minister and his team proceeded with the agenda of the meeting.

The meeting was attended by representatives and heads of political parties. The PPP delegation was led by former President and party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, PTI by Shah Mahmood Qureshi, ANP by Asfandyar Wali, MQM by Farooq Sattar, JUI-F by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, JI by Liaquat Baloch, BNP by Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini, PML-Q by Mushahid Hussain Syed, PkMAP by Mehmood Khan Achakzai, NP by Hasil Khan Bizenjo and QWP by Aftab Ahmed Sherpao. Senator Prof Sajid Mir, Syed Ghazi Jamal and Alhaj Shah Jee Gul from Fata and Pir Ejaz Hashmi represented their respective parties.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa CM Pervaiz Khattak, Balochistan CM Abdul Malik Baloch, Leader of House in Senate Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq, Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, Adviser on National Security Sartaj Aziz and senior officials also attended the meeting.