Making CPEC Transparent

While announcing the date to make Long Term Plan for CPEC public, being a politician, Ahsan Iqbal, naturally, is lauding the Projects and speaks very highly of the benefits that the project will shower on Pakistan. But it seems that it is just another dream that Minister for Planning and his party want us to see. The real news is that China in its last meeting has bargained hard with Pakistani side and Pakistan has already given in more than it will secure through the project. Such contradictory news regarding who will get what out of the CPEC casts shadows on the process of the transparency.

The news report on the minutes of the 7th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) highlights the hard terms imposed on Pakistan, as Islamabad has caved into the demands of Beijing. Notably, in the energy and transportation sectors under CPEC, China is in no mood to give concessions to Pakistan. It then makes CPEC and all related projects a pure business deal, and one should not be surprised if China comes hard on Pakistan in this regard.

The reason that Islamabad has revised its earlier position on the strategic ML-1 considering the demand of China to reduce the speed to 160 km/hour from the earlier decided speed of 260 km/hour shows that Islamabad has failed to convince the Chinese officials on having expertise in the area. Among many other projects where typical Pakistani approach is on display is the Lahore-Matiari power transmission Line. The Chinese firm working on the said project had slowed down the pace of work as the company developed differences with the government on over the size of a revolving fund. Lack of commitment, seriousness, and not willing to present itself to public accountability are the qualities that the present government is showing as far as the CPEC is concerned.

The problem with the government approach to the plan is it raises more questions than it answers. The government needs to make public all the crucial minutes of important meetings, as Ishrat Hussain also suggests it so that suspicions, fears, and negative propaganda against the project can be countered.

The plan also needs to be made public, as it will allow the people to hold the government to the promises it makes and to ensure accountability in the development phase of this multi-billion project. Such move will also exert constant pressure on the government and relevant departments to complete their part of the development project on time.

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