By S. M. Hali
China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was envisaged during the state visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in May 2013. China’s close relations with Pakistan can be gauged from the fact that although Pakistan had just undergone general elections but Premier Li Keqiang decided to visit Islamabad; since Sino-Pak relations are not between governments but the people of both nations. The Chinese Premier, Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister, President Zardari and PM designate Nawaz Sharif reached consensus on planning and constructing the CPEC. During Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to China in July, 2013, the construction of CPEC was reiterated and important steps were taken to execute the project.
China and Pakistan established the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) on the Long-term Planning of CPEC and set up three working groups of energy, transportation infrastructure and comprehensive planning in JCC. JCC has to date held three meetings. Both sides have reached initial consensus on the planning and construction of the Economic Corridor, based on a series of discussions and consultations.
It is unfortunate that some politicians find it expedient to protest, alleging a change in the CPEC route. The critics claim that there was a design of the “original line” of CPEC going through Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but the current CPEC mainly goes through Punjab and Sindh and bypasses the above two provinces.
It must be understood that the CPEC, which starts from Kashgar, Xinjiang, runs throughout the whole Pakistan, finally reaching Gwadar Port in the south, is not merely a highway or a road. The Economic Corridor, which will cover the populated and major areas of Pakistan, comprises a network of energy projects, transportation infrastructures and economic zones along it. The construction of these projects will promote the flow of goods, information, and other resources, including people. The Economic Corridor will bring more opportunities for cooperation, more projects in energy and transportation infrastructure sections, more jobs opportunities to the two peoples.
According to the minutes of the 1st meeting of CPEC joint working group on transport infrastructure, the alignment of CPEC was agreed to start from Kashgar in China, through Khunjerab, Thakot, Mansehra, leading to Islamabad and afterwards joining Lahore and Multan, it goes up to Sukkur. At Sukkur, the Corridor is divided into two branches, first via Dera Allah Yar, Khuzdar, Nag, and Panjgur up to Gwadar. The second branch goes up to Karachi either via M-9 or M-7 and connects Gwadar by coastal highway.
The purpose of building CPEC is to bring benefits to all the people of the whole Pakistan, including Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Notably, some projects in the two provinces are already well under way. For instance, in Balochistan, the building of flagship project of Gwadar port, including the construction of east-bay expressway and International Airport have commenced. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the KKH Phase II is being advanced. The Attabad Lake, resulting from an avalanche had washed off portions of the original KKH; hence it is being bypassed for continuity of the KKH. Feasibility studies on upgrading of Main Line 1 and Havelian Dry Port project are under way. Both sides have successfully built Gomal Zam Dam, Khan Khwar Hydropower Station, and Duber Khwar Hydropower Station. Tarbela Dam Phase IV is now under construction and projects such as Suki-Kinari Hydropower Station and Keyal Khwar Hydropower Station are to be built. The projects under construction and to be built in KPK will yield the capacity of more than 9000MW, which will greatly ease the electricity shortage and bring tremendous benefits to the local people.
Those portions are being given priority, where basic infrastructure already exists but ultimately, after completion, entire Pakistan will benefit from it.
The need of the hour for Pakistanis is to be united and concentrate on providing security to the workers so that the project can get underway. If we create controversies then like the Kalabagh Dam, we will miss the boat. CPEC is much larger than Kalabagh Dam and is expected to bring prosperity to the people of Pakistan and must be pursued diligently without raising unnecessary controversies.
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The 68th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily