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A matter of CPEC and priorities: Extreme steps threatened if western corridor neglected

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Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on CPEC Chairperson Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed addressing a press conference at CM House. PHOTO: EXPRESS
PESHAWAR: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has threatened to take extreme steps if the federal government does not complete the western alignment of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on a priority basis.

This was said by Chief Minister Pervez Khattak at a news conference at his residence on Thursday following a meeting with Parliamentary Committee on CPEC Chairperson Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed and other leaders.

According to Khattak, it was mutually agreed at the all-parties conference on May 28, 2015 that the western route of CPEC would be built during the first phase on a priority basis. “However, it was later revealed the western route was not being constructed,” he said. “On the contrary, it’s only a road and a highway in place of the western route.”

Khattak added, “We do not need a road. The provincial government can make roads with its own budget.”

According to the CM, his government will vehemently reject the construction of just a road rather than a western alignment.

“K-P needs a proper corridor with all components including railway tracks, LNG transmission lines and electricity projects,” he said. “If these components are not provided then the industrial parks and trade zones can’t be constructed along with it.”

Left in the lurch

Khattak added the federal government has limited all the components to the corridor between Gwadar and Rawalpindi. “Hazara will not have industrial parks and trade zones as the components of the corridor are limited till Rawalpindi,” he said. “The region will not be the beneficiary of the route.”

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The CM said China is using the economic corridor project to develop its underdeveloped areas. “Many areas on the western route are underdeveloped, but have been ignored,” he said. “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif doesn’t look beyond Lahore, Multan and other areas of Punjab. We, on the other hand, care about the country.”

Khattak said extreme measures are justified as K-P is a war-torn region and the corridor could alter its fate.

Raising objections

The chief minister also voiced reservations over the no-objection certificates (NOC) required by foreigners to visit the K-P and asked the Centre to alter its policies. “If foreigners can visit Karachi where people are killed every day then why can’t they visit K-P, which is safer,” he said. “Foreign investors are willing to visit K-P but the federal government has created hurdles for them. No one has the right to stop someone from visiting our province.”

Khattak said the federal government should take steps to ensure the economic corridor passes through other areas if they think K-P is not safe.  “They should take the corridor [elsewhere] if they think we are terrorists,” he said. Khattak said the provincial government would do its best to oppose the change in the corridor.

Deliberations

According to Hussain, the K-P government invited him to convey their grievances to the parliamentary committee, Parliament and the prime minister. “CPEC is not just a road,” he said. “It is a concept of economic development which has special economic zones, pipelines, technical training institutes and opportunities for the youth.”

The senator said two important decisions were made the APC. The first was to construct the western route on a priority basis while the second was to constitute a parliamentary committee for CPEC.

The K-P government has invited Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal to the province to discuss the matter on January 6. Members of the parliamentary committee have also been invited to these deliberations.

Published in The Express Tribune

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