WEB DESK: To some extent, the government’s claim that construction of western alignment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is not being neglected stands verified.
The members of the Parliamentary Committee on CPEC visited the Gwadar Port and flew over some segments of the route over the weekend. Senator Mushahid Hussain, who led the committee, praised the FWO and NHA for their work, saying the CPEC has opened up “new opportunities for development of remote areas of Pakistan through road connectivity”.
Contrary to the impression being bandied about by some of the Opposition leaders, particularly some stalwarts from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, the visiting members toured three segments of the western route, including the 1.5-kilometre long bridge on River Kech.
The entire route is expected to be completed before the end of next year. Maybe, the government would have been spared of accusation of dragging feet on the western route construction. Perhaps not; there is no mention whatsoever of funds for the western alignment in the PSDP documents.
Whatever work has been carried out on this single-carriage route it is funded by the Asian Development Bank. That there should be imbalances of allocations for the CPEC routes was something that the opposition was not prepared to accept. Its pressure seems to have worked.
After his meeting with ANP chief, Asfandyar Wali, the prime minister agreed that the western route will be dual-carriage; he also set up a land acquisition committee for the route and identification of sites for industrial zones. The debate – should the CPEC routes cater to the needs of existing population centres, or will they generate their own cities – now seems to be tilting in favour of the latter.
But this debate is not going to go away anytime soon; while constructing routes is Pak-China government-to-government task rest of the projects fall in the category of private sector investment, and in there the water knows where to reside.
The $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a multi-sectoral project to be completed in 15 years. It includes energy, extensive network of all-weather roads, industrial zones and most importantly development of the Gwadar Port. No question the project enjoys across the board political support yet given the enormity of work involved and its strategic importance it is bound to occasionally experience bouts of stresses and strains. The host country, Pakistan, got to put in place adequately trained and job-oriented manpower and mechanical infrastructure to match up with the Chinese part.
If that is being done; as of now there is not much in sight. But that is a must for the timely completion of the CPEC project. Then there is the need to have an effective security umbrella for the entire project, which includes roads to go through rough terrain and restive regions. The visiting parliamentarians were told that 16 civilians and soldiers have lost their lives, though since June there were no such attacks as the law and order situation has improved. That corruption, both at institutional and individual levels, tends to flourish as projects of this size are executed – that would be taken care of under an agreement to be signed shortly between the two sides.
During his recent visit, the Chinese minister heading the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention, Liu Jianchao, told reporters that the CPEC would be “a symbol of good governance as it would be clean and transparent”. And last but not least, given the strategic significance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor it doesn’t sit well with India’s regional designs.
Despite repeated assertions both by China and Pakistan that the project is absolutely free of any defence and security dimensions the government in New Delhi has been opposing it both by words and actions. But, notwithstanding these stresses and strains the CPEC is well on the road and as it moves ahead it is bound to gain momentum out-running its detractors at home and abroad.