Chinese First Trade Convoy

The first trade convoy carrying Chinese goods for export under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project is negation of the statements by many leaders as the convoy used western route.

Starting its journey from Kashghar, the trade cargo of 80 containers carrying Chinese export goods entered Balochistan via Zhobe which is the bordering city with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and reached Gwadar on Saturday. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif along with Balochistan chief minister and governor, Maulana Fazlur Rehman inaugurated the Gwadar Port on Sunday while ambassadors of many countries also attended the ceremony.

The prime minister while inaugurating the Gwadar Port once again remarked that the enemies of CPEC were the enemies of the country. Since its inception, the status of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) got controversial as many political parties and their leaders expressed concerns over the alleged shares of the provinces in the project. The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is in the forefront in opposing the project raising concerns over the western route. The controversy reached its peak when the provincial government announced to challenge the CPEC in the court. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) senior leader and Speaker Provincial Assembly of Kyber Pakhtunkhwa Asad Qaisar even filed a petition in Peshawar High Court to seek due share of the province.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s claim and major concern is that the shortest possible trade route for the project should be developed first, which they think is the western route. The provincial government also says that industrial zones along the route should be planned equitably, so that the benefit from the CPEC may be distributed equally among all the provinces.

Similarly Balochistan wants its exclusive ownership of all the resources on its land, including Gwadar Port and its allied facilities. However according to the strategic as well as constitutional experts, the Balochistan’s claim of giving exclusive ownership rights of the natural resources on its soil including Gwadar Port will have to face problems. According to them, the natural resources and strategic projects like ports cannot be the exclusive property of any province. Such assets and strategic resources are a national asset and the whole nation has the right to benefit from it. However, they say that province where these natural resources and projects are situated should be given priority over the use of these resources and assets.

Keeping the political parties’ concerns over CPEC in view, the Chinese government has to come forward and urged the parties’ leadership to reach consensus on the issue as this project is not only beneficial for the people of Pakistan but also for the entire South Asian region. The Chinese government hoped that the relevant political parties in Pakistan could strengthen communication and coordination on CPEC to create favourable conditions for the development projects.

The concerns raised by the PTI led government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa forced the Chinese ambassador to clarify on the matter as he held meeting with PTI Chief Imran Khan on October 18 this year. Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong in his meeting with PTI chief has categorically stated that CPEC served the socio-economic interest of Pakistan’s all regions, hoping it would help improve the living conditions of the people across the board.

According to media reports, the Chinese ambassador also said that CPEC was meant to serve socio-economic interests of Pakistan across the board. All the regions including those in KP would benefit from it. The ambassador also introduced the specific projects being undertaken in KP, making it clear that the passage going through western part of Pakistan to Gwadar was definitely part of CPEC. He expressed the hope that this could help clarify the basic facts about CPEC.

However despite assurances from the federal government as well as from the Chinese ambassador, the KP government including Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak continued opposing the project until he says his concerns are addressed regarding western route.

The KP chief minister even threatened that the CPEC won’t pass through the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa if its due shares were denied. Khattak while addressing the ‘Corridor Convention’ arranged by Pakhtunkhwa Ulasi Tehreek (PUT) in January this year warned that his government won’t allow the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to pass through the province if the centre denied the due share in its route to the latter. He said if KP didn’t benefit from the CPEC, the federal government should divert its route away. “If KP doesn’t gain from the (CPEC) project, nobody will be able to get anything from the whole project,” he said.

According to the experts, at a time when the first convoy of the Chinese export goods reached Gwadar by using the western route, the federal government should now call an all parties’ conference and take them into confidence that their due concerns would be addressed. The experts say that those who were opposing the project or raising concerns regarding western route should sit together with the federal government and evolve a future strategy to make this project a success story and game changer for Pakistan.

(Source: The News)

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