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Govt reviewing CPEC agreements: PM
By Tariq Butt/IANS October 08, 2018
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QUETTA: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that his government was reviewing the multi-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) agreements, promising to address Balochistan’s reservations by giving the province its due share.

“The Centre will work with Balochistan as a partner,” he said during his meeting with members of the Balochistan cabinet. “We will not make any such promise for which we may have to make excuse later on.”

Imran lamented that the previous “experienced” rulers caused damage to Pakistan and took massive loans. Noting that the country was currently facing financial issues, he said, “We hope that we will soon get rid of this difficulty.”

He said that Pakistan’s progress was linked with the development of Balochistan. He added that the completion of Kachhi canal would bring an agricultural revolution in Balochistan. Imran said that of the 363 kilometre-long canal starting from Taunsa Barrage at Indus River, 281 kilometres lies in Punjab and 80 kilometres in Balochistan.

The premier requested Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan to adopt the new local bodies system, which is going to be introduced in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). He said the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) managed to bag two-thirds majority in the KP as resources were allocated to the lowest tier of the government.

“There has been massive development in KP villages as the basic living standards of people have improved,” he said adding that there is an urgent need for human development programmes in the province.

Pakistan has recently announced that Saudi Arabia will not be made part of the CPEC framework and the kingdom’s proposed investments would fall under a separate bilateral arrangement, days after Islamabad said Riyadh will be the third “strategic partner” of the project.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar said that there was no decision to bring a third country, like Saudi Arabia, under the framework of the CPEC.

The CPEC envisages linking China’s Kashgar in Xinjiang to Pakistan’s Gwadar port. The project — a key component of Beijing’s Belt and Road programme — is opposed by India as its planned route goes through the Kashmir region. Many countries including India suspect the project is China’s geostrategic ploy.

Bakhtiar said there could be many offshoots of the CPEC where third countries could be involved in a trilateral arrangement for infrastructure development.

“Saudi Arabia is not to become a collateral strategic partner in the CPEC. This impression is not true,” he said, adding that third country participation in the CPEC was not limited to Saudi Arabia but other countries could also become part of the business and investment ventures arising out of the project.

“The framework between China and Pakistan is bilateral and Saudi Arabia is not entering that framework as a third-party investor, rather the base of CPEC will be broadened and its pace will be expedited,” he said.

Bakhtiar was responding to questions about the possibility of Saudi Arabia becoming part of the Joint Working Groups or Joint Coordination Committee on the CPEC.

He expressed ignorance when asked how the cost of the Main Railway Line (ML-I) had been reduced from $8.2 billion to $6.2 billion as claimed by Railway Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed.

“I have noticed this that Rashid is making some efforts (to reduce cost) but not to my knowledge. Nothing has come in front of me to suggest that the cost has come down.”

In response to a question, Bakhtiar said the CPEC portfolio currently stood at about $50 billion, of which about $6 billion was government-to-government loan and remaining in Independent Power Producers mode mostly in the energy sector. About $29 billion worth of projects were currently in progress.

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