ISLAMABAD - Keeping in view the growing concerns of political parties, mainly representing the smaller provinces, on Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (CPEC), Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has asked his team to satisfy all the stakeholders as he doesn’t want to see this economic game changer project land in controversy.

It is in this backdrop that Nawaz Shairf has directed National Highway Authority to expedite work on the Western Route of CPEC, besides upgrading it to a four-lane dual carriageway.

Sources in the Prime Minister’s House told The Nation that political parties with their stronghold in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were raising hue and cry over ignoring Western Route of CPEC continuously by the government and shifting the industrial zones to the central route mainly passing from the Punjab.

The leadership of these political parties, including allies of PML-N at the Centre as well as in Balochistan, time and again asked the government not to ignore the Western Route which could provide the shortest access to Gwadar Port to China.

Sources in the ruling PML-N said that in the face of the mounting pressure from these political parties, including JUI-F, ANP, QWP, PkMAP, NP and even PPP, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, at a meeting with his close political aides, discussed the issue of growing criticism of the government’s preference to other routes and ignoring the Western Route which provides the shortest distance to Gwadar Port.

The prime minister, the sources said, was of firm stance the government must not let this mega economic project land in controversy and discussed plans with his comrades to allay the concerns of those raising figures on it or making it controversial.

It was decided at the meeting that the matter should be tackled on political as well as technical grounds. The Prime Minister has taken it upon himself to satisfy the heads of various political parties and take them into confidence on the fairness and transparency in the execution of the project while on technical side concrete steps would be taken to show the commitment of the government towards developing the Western Route on priority basis.

The sources further said the meeting with Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan was part of the prime minister’s move. In the coming days, after his return from abroad, he would be meeting with the JUI-F chief and the nationalist parties’ leaders from Balochistan to allay their concerns regarding the execution of CPEC and its associated projects.

Meanwhile, the prime minister, before his departure for Malta, directed the National Highway Authority to upgrade the DI Khan-Mughal Kot-Zhob Section of N-50 to a four-lane dual carriageway after negotiating funding from the Asian Development Bank within one month. In case required funding from the Asian Development Bank is not available, additional funding from Public Sector Development Programme shall be provided as per requirements.

The prime minister has also ordered acquisition of land for the entire western alignment of CPEC for a six-lane, limited access motorway, at this stage to avoid any complications at a later stage.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has constituted a committee to identify the potential sites for future industrial zones along the Western Route. The committee shall comprise the Board of Investment chairman, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan chief secretary, Chief Secretary, Chairman National Highway Authorities, a BS-21 officer as representative of the Finance Division, a BS-21 officer as representative of the Ministry of Industries and Production, a BS-21 officer as representative of the Ministry of Water and Power, a BS-21 officer as representative of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources the Board of Investment and secretary who will also be the secretary of the committee while the Board of Investment chairman will be its convener.

The committee shall submit its report to the prime minister through the finance minister within 15 days.