ISLAMABAD: Leaders of opposition parties criticised the government on Monday for its failure to allay their and the provinces’ concerns about the lack of development and non-establishment of industrial zones along the western route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The criticism against the federal government came during a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on the CPEC, presided over by Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal.
“We expressed our concerns that no industrial zones are being established along the western route,” Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Syed Shibli Faraz told Dawn after the meeting.
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 as telling participants of the meeting.
The PTI leader, however, deplored that if the areas along the western route remained unviable forever, it meant there would be no industrial zones or other development like building of 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 demanded.
The minister briefed participants of the meeting on the recently-held Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting of China and Pakistan on CPEC in Beijing and claimed that all provinces, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh, were happy over the progress made so far on the project.
The minister also claimed that decisions regarding all projects being executed under the CPEC were being made by the Chinese government.
About road projects on the western route, 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 said some other opposition parties’ leaders and even Minister for Housing Akram Khan Durrani, who belonged to the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, and some parliamentarians from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, held similar views that there was nothing for their areas in the CPEC.
Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) president Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao told Dawn that he saw nothing on the ground on the western route of the CPEC.
Talking about the power projects proposed for KP under the project, Mr Sherpao said that additional electricity could not be injected for the province as the existing transmission lines could not bear the additional load.
“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,” he said.
During the briefing, Mr Iqbal claimed that the government had achieved consensus among provinces and the Bhasha dam would be a part of the CPEC.
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.
He said 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 said that there was an agreement on giving priority to construction of the western route as well as upgrading and dualisation of the Karachi-Torkham railway line which would cost $8 billion.
“This will be the biggest railway modernisation project,” he said.
Mr Iqbal informed the committee that 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 the Sindh government’s proposal for an additional port at Ketti Bandar had also been accepted by centre.
“Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta will have rail-based mass transit systems as part of the CPEC,” the minister said.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed told the participants of the meeting that CPEC was already on the road of consolidation and 2017 would be the year of its takeoff as all key projects, in consultation with provinces, were being pursued according to the specific timeframe and all impediments to the project had been removed.
On the recommendation of some members, it was decided that there would be a comprehensive briefing by the Ministry of Water and Power on the energy plan till 2020.