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Government facing criticism over lack of progress on CPEC route

The Government is facing criticism by the opposition parties including Tehraeek-Insaaf , inside and outside of the Parliament regarding the alleged changes in the route of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Inside the National Assembly, the government faced strong criticism from some backbenchs about the growing tussle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, urging the PML-N government to stay neutral in the row between the two countries instead of siding with the Saudi monarchs.

And, outside the parliament, the nationalist forces condemned  the government for allegedly keeping the smaller provinces unaware about the multi-billion dollars corridor project by diverting all the benefits to Punjab province. Interestingly, the political parties that stood in defense of the ruling government against the PTI’s sit-in have now aimed their guns at the federal government.

During a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on the CPEC, presided by Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, government faced huge criticism.

“We expressed our concerns that no industrial zones are being established along the western route,” Pakistan Tehreek-Insaaf’s leader Sayyed Shibli Fazraz clearly stated. In Addition he said that the minister had told the meeting that no industrial zones were being set up along the western route in the short term, but they were planned under the long-term arrangement.

“Sites for economic zones are being decided by the Chinese at places which are commercially viable,” the PTI leader quoted the minister.

The PTI leader condemned strongly that if the area along the western route of the CPEC remained incapable of working successfully forever, it means there would be no industrial zones and other development like building the roads and other infrastructure meant for the project.

“If the government wants to make the areas along the western route of the CPEC economically viable, economic zones must be established there on a top priority basis,” he added.

The minister elaborated to the participants of the meeting Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of CPEC in Beijing and claimed that all provinces including KPK, Balochistan and Sindh, were happy over the progress made on the project.

Mr Faraz said that although the government claimed that planning and other spadework on the route had been completed and the physical work would begin next month, there was nothing on the ground so far. He told that some of the other opposition leaders are having the same view that they are having nothing for their areas in CPEC.

Qaumi Watni Party President Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao clearly told, “First of all the government would have to improve the power transmission lines network in the province and then the additional electricity can be added to the provincial grid.”

The minister said that 11,000 megawatts would be added to the national grid by 2018, including 5,000MW under the CPEC, adding that this was the biggest investment in the history of the country in the energy sector.

In addition he told that Thar coal would be used for generating electricity for the next 400 years and two transmission lines were being installed between Matiari and Lahore and Faisalabad, which would take electricity from the south to the national grid, benefiting the entire country.

The minister told there was an agreement on providing priority to construction of the western route as well as uplifting the Karachi-Torkham railway line which would cost $8 billion.

According to him “This will be the biggest railway modernization project.

The Planning Minister Mr Ahsan Iqal stated that the industrial zones proposed by the provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan had been accepted by the federal government and a feasibility study would be carried out for the purpose.

He said “Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta will have rail-based mass transit systems as part of the CPEC,”

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed explained the participants of the meeting that CPEC was already on the path of completion and in 2017 it will be able to implement all of its projects, in consultation with provinces, were being pursued according to the specific timeframe and all impediments to the project had been removed.