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Pakistani senators oppose change in China economic corridor plan
Publication Date : 12-06-2014
Pakistani senators protested on Wednesday the change of the route of the multi-billion dollar Pak-China Economic Corridor project, allegedly bypassing areas populated by Baloch and Pakhtun people, on the desire of China.
They also severely criticised the alleged criminal negligence and corruption in two water supply projects in Quetta and Karachi.
The protests emerged at a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue presided over by Nasrin Jalil of the MQM on next year’s budgetary proposals.
During the meeting, Fateh Mohammad Hassani quoted Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI as saying that the highly populated areas of Baloch and Pakhtun along the route to Gwadar port had been excluded from the corridor.
The planning commission claimed the change was made based on the request of the Chinese ambassador.
Hassani said the maulana had also taken up the matter with the Chinese ambassador who declined to have played any role, saying the change in the route was the prerogative of the government of Pakistan.
Planning and Development Secretary Hassan Nawaz Tarar confirmed that “the proposal (to change the route) was on the table” because the Chinese said they could not finance a longer route.
Later, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal joined the meeting and confirmed a change in the plan for the corridor project with a different spin.
He said two different routes namely eastern route — Karachi-Lahore-Gwadar and western route (Islamabad, D.I. Khan, D.G. Khan and Gwadar) — were part of the corridor project.
Iqbal said the government was following the eastern route because it was one of the few early harvest components of the corridor project that could be completed in four to five years on build-own-operate (BOT) basis because of the commercial viability of some of its sections.
For example, he said, the Karachi-Hyderabad, Karachi-Sukkur and Karachi-Lahore sections of the eastern route could be easily developed on BOT basis while some other sections could be covered by public sector financing or other borrowing models.
The minister said the government would move to the next phase after reaping the economic benefits from the first phase and by that time, the economy would be strong enough to take on big projects.
On the other hand, he said, the western route required heavy international borrowings which the country could not afford while under an IMF programme.
He said the first phase of the corridor project involving the eastern route would need a financing of about $35 billion while the entire project would cost $100 billion or so.
The senators criticised the government for accepting every demand of the Chinese government and investors even though the corridor was the cheapest logistical link and a very beneficial project for China.
Iqbal agreed, but said that economic cooperation between two friendly nations had to be a win-win situation; otherwise China could consider any other logistic route.