Islamabad -  Federal Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal has said that agreements have reached with China on railway Main Line-I (ML-I) and its ground-breaking will take place in three months.

“The CPEC is not a game-changer but a fate-changer and its success requires political stability and continuity of policies. Therefore, I request all the political forces and the movers and shakers of the system to be on the same page for economic development,” Iqbal said while briefing the media after the 52nd CPEC coordination committee meeting.

He said that during the coordination committee meeting, the status of CPEC developmental projects was reviewed.

He said that both China and Pakistan have agreed on the technical agreement of the ML-I and financial agreement in this regard will be finalized by March. The minister said that China will fund the project with soft loan and it will cost $8.2 billion. The project will be developed in phases and it will be completed in four years, he said.  “It is a big amount and it needs at least four years for its utilization,” he said.

When asked who was going to perform the ground-breaking, the incumbent government or the interim set up, he replied, “We are going to perform it”.

“Our friends are active and attempting for our early departure but as the prime minister has said that we are not going to leave a second before our mandated term,” he said.

He said that an agreement was also reached with China on the western route of the CPEC and work on Yarik to Zhob and Basima to Khuzadar will be started soon.

“I have directed the NHA to complete the land acquisition of the western route in three months,” he said. He said that agreement was also reached on phase-II of Karakorum Highway Thakot and Raikot sections.

Regarding the Karachi Circular Railway, the minister said that Chinese have cleared the project. “The federal government has provided all the help to reach an agreement with China.

Now the financial agreement will be finalized between China and the government of Sindh,” he said. The finance will be provided at the same pattern of Orange Line Train, he said. The minister said that the New Islamabad International Airport will be inaugurated by the end of March.

Regarding his recent arguments with Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Iqbal said that he respects the former interior minister. He said that “we are cautious about our security and every interior minister is concerned about it. But without making any compromise on our security, we also have to attract tourism and investment. If we make our visa process hard and expensive, then the investor instead of coming to Pakistan will prefer to go to Vietnam or another country with a cheaper visa and relax entry,” he said.

“Pakistan is a developing country and you cannot compare it with the developed world. We have to compare ourselves with India, Bangladesh and other countries of the region,” the minister said. “We cannot afford to close our doors for investors,” he said. Iqbal said, “we are not issuing visas to any persons who are dangerous for Pakistan.”

Regarding the fate of the CPEC in case the PTI wins the next general election, the minister said: “the country was taking off and the people are clever enough and they are not going to change the captain of the plane during the take-off stage.” “The PML-N will form the next government,” he claimed.



Fawad Yousafzai