PESHAWAR, 22 February: A controversy has surfaced over the proposed changes in the route of Gwadar-Kashgar Economic Corridor and different political leaders have expressed their reservations over the issue in their own way. The Awami National Party (ANP) arranged an all parties conference (APC) in Islamabad few days ago where a unanimous resolution was passed against changing the route of the mega project towards Punjab.
The ANP information secretary for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Member Provincial Assembly Sardar Hussain Babak has shared some reservations of his party over the issue with TNN correspondent Usman Khan.
Sardar Hussain Babak: Not only the ANP but all other political and religious parties that attended the APC in Islamabad expressed their reservations over the proposed changes in the Gwadar-Kashgar trade route. The original plan of the mega project, which also includes a railway track, oil and gas pipelines, will provide a great economic boost to the poverty, unemployment and terror affected areas of FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Unfortunately, now a plan has been made to change the route of this mega project towards Mianwali in Punjab which is unacceptable to us. Whenever a prime minister is elected from Punjab he always tries to safeguard the interests of his own province.
TNN: Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal after a meeting with the JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on the issue had denied bringing any changes in the proposed route of the project. What’s your take on it?
Sardar Hussain Babak: There is no harm in giving briefing to Maulana Fazlur Rehman on the issue. However, the federal government should have shown some political maturity by inviting representatives from all the political and religious parties for a briefing to remove their reservations. The rift still persists as the Maulana is part of the federal government.
TNN: What will your party do if the federal government goes ahead with changes in the Pak-China Economic Corridor?
Sardar Hussain Babak: We have told the rulers to abandon this unfair plan, otherwise the ANP will offer such a resistance that the people will forget about the Kalabagh Dam movement.
TNN: The PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai during a press conference had said some politicians have raised this issue for political point scoring?
Sardar Hussain Babak: It is now an open fact that the changes, or proposed changes, in the trade route will deprive the Pakhtun belt from economic boost. It is hard to believe that Mr Achakzai would not raise his voice for the rights of Pakhtuns. It is understood that this mega project will provide job opportunities to about three billion people. So what is the fault of Pakhtuns. All the credit of protecting Pakistan from terrorism goes to Pakhtuns. They have been on the forefront in the war against terrorism. Tens of thousands of Pakhtuns from FATA have left their homes since last five-six months as internally displaced persons (IDPs) for the future of Pakistan. They have sacrificed their businesses and education of their children but our prime minister could not see these sacrifices for unknown reasons. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has always remained backward and now too our prime minister is reluctant to pass on the benefit of Chinese investment to Pakhtuns. We have also conveyed our message to the Chinese officials that the original plan of the Gwadar-Kashgar Economic Corridor should not be changed to achieve its objectives of overcoming the menace of terrorism by improving the economic condition of the terror-affected people.
Translation by Mr Aamir Khan