China has waded into the heated debate in Pakistan over proposals for the US$ 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The proposed route of the infrastructure mega-project – set to including road and rail development, gas pipelines and fibre-optic cables – has sparked a war of words between the country’s federal government and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
The CPEC, will run from northwest China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region, through Pakistan to the port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, and China has promised the Pakistani government heavily-subsidised loans of around US$ 11 billion for the project.
Tensions, however, have been raised, following criticism of the Pakistani government’s alleged rerouting of the corridor in favour of the Sindh and Punjab provinces, at the expense of the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
In 2014, the first CPEC project was a 60-km motorway, running through the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, but this has done little to ease the concerns of the PTI.
The party’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, “Building just the road is not enough. Our demand for work on the western route includes development of infrastructure, rail tracks, fibre optics, LNG and uninterrupted supply of electricity.”
A PTI delegation recently visited the Chinese embassy to complain that it was not being taken into the government’s confidence on important CPEC issues, and suspected the government was not honouring its pledges on the route.
In response, a spokesperson from the Chinese embassy reminded all parties that, “The CPEC is the consensus reached between China and Pakistan, and has won popular support from the two peoples. The CPEC faces Pakistan as a whole, and will bring development and benefits to the people of Pakistan.”