ISLAMABAD - The Awami National Party on Tuesday joined other nationalist and religious forces against the proposed change in Pak-China Economic Corridor with Asfandyar Wali Khan saying any alteration in the original route would be resisted with same force as his party opposed the construction of Kalabagh Dam.

An All Parties Conference Tuesday was convened by the ANP against the changes in the route of Pak-China Economic Corridor which it said was not only in defiance of the original route that passed through Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but also was an attempt to force out smaller provinces from the benefit of the corridor.

The event was attended by leaders of all political parties including the PTI, JUI-I, Aftab Sherpao, Balochistan National Party, National Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and members of human rights organisations and civil society activists.

No member of the PML-N or government minister turned up on the occasion although Aftab Sherpao jokingly said that the JUI-F represented the government by sending brother of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maulana Attaur Rehman.

Members of all political parties including Opposition Leader in National Assembly Khursheed Shah said that any change in the original route of the corridor would not be acceptable, adding the issue would be raised in both the Senate and the National Assembly.

“I don’t know what happens to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when he resorts to taking unilateral decisions without taking stakeholders in confidence. The smaller provinces and backward communities should not be deprived by changing the original corridor,” Shah added.

According to the ANP, the original route passes through southern district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Quetta and Gwadar adding that the PML-N government has made changes by connecting the corridor with Hazara region which it said was 1,000 kilometres long as compared to the original distance of the route.

“Everybody must listen that we are not against Pak-China Economic Corridor rather we want the project should be materialised. But in the same breath I must say that we’ll oppose any change in the route like we opposed the construction of Kalabagh Dam,” Asfandyar Wali Khan told the gathering amid slogans of ‘no alternative route’ by members of National Youth Organisation (NYO), the youth wing of the ANP.

He said that any attempt by the government to connect Gwadar with Karakuram Highway at the cost of ignoring KP and Balochistan would be dangerous for the federation. “The new route will first pass through Islamabad, Lahore, Multan and Sukkur, and then enter Balochistan. We are not ready to accept it. We’ll fight,” the ANP chief said.

Aftab Sherpao said during his visit to China recently, he said he was told there Beijing wanted to shift industries to Pakistan along the economic corridor in order to benefit from the cheap labour.

“This is the reason that changes are made in the original map. You see that economic zones are being established in some cities of Punjab along the corridor. It is not acceptable that one province should get lion share in the benefit of the corridor,” he said.

NP chief Senator Hasil Bizenjo was requested by the ANP to hold similar APC in Balochistan in order to inform the people about the intentions of the government regarding alteration in the original route of the corridor. “We all would turn up there. Please go ahead and hold APC in Quetta,” Asfandyar Wali said.

As the speakers were delivering speeches against alteration in the original route, some politicians were whispering that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was bracing for another PTI-like sit-in in case work on construction of the original route is not started. There was a unanimous declaration that there would be no compromise on the original route from Gwadar that passed through Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and that the APC strongly supported Pak-China Economic Corridor that will usher in new era of prosperity in the country.