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CPEC to be controversial if grievances not addressed

To go with story 'Pakistan-China-economy-transport, FEATURE' by Guillaume LAVALLÉE In this photograph taken on September 29, 2015, Pakistani commuters wait to travel through a newly built tunnel in northern Pakistan's Gojal Valley.  A glossy highway and hundreds of lorries transporting Chinese workers by the thousands: the new Silk Road is under construction in northern Pakistan, but locals living on the border are yet to be convinced they will receive more from it than dust.    AFP PHOTO / Aamir QURESHI


PESHAWAR: The Corridor Front, a grouping of various political parties and civil society organisations, on Thursday warned the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would become controversial like Kalabagh dam if the federal government didn’t address grievances of smaller provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan about it.

Corridor Front convener Dr Said Alam Mehsud told reporters at the Peshawar Press Club that the grouping would force the federal government into giving due share in the CPEC project to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and country’s northern areas.

He said KP, Balochistan and country’s northern areas had totally been ignored by the centre in the CPEC project with its focus being on the development of the largest province of Punjab only.

Accompanied by ANP-Wali provincial president Fareed Toofan, Awami Workers Party provincial president Shahab Khattak, Fata Lawyers Forum president Rahim Shah, and representatives of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Nazriati and Mazdoor Kisan leaders, the Corridor Front convener said the grievances of smaller provinces on the CPEC project was a serious issue and therefore, it was duty of all politicians to raise voice about it.

Corridor Front leader says project’s benefits diverted to Punjab

He said among provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was worst affected by terrorism but the federal government had never tried to mitigate its misery.

Dr Said Alam said the CPEC had promised progress and development for the people of KP but the project’s due benefits had been diverted to Punjab.

“The CPEC is now China-Punjab Economic Corridor,” he said.

He said the Corridor Front had planned public meetings in Thakot Hazara on Aug 20 and in Lakki Marwat on Aug 28.

“The public meetings held in Karak and Bannu were very successful. The people’s response was beyond our expectations,” he claimed.

Dr Said Alam said the recent killings in Quetta suicide bombing had shocked the entire nation but it was illogical on part of the government to call it an attack on the CPEC.

He said the Chinese government should stop funding the CPEC project unless Pakistan’s federal government ensured provision of due share in it to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and northern areas.

“We will hold sit-in outside Chinese Embassy and parliament in Islamabad and outside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister’s House to get our demands accepted by the government,” he said.

He asked KP CM Pervez Khattak to fulfil his commitment with the people of the province and avoid helping the federal government in acquiring land from Havelian to Thakot for the corridor.

“For the time being we are demanding resolution of the issue by the federal government. If the KP government betrays us, we’ll start staging demonstrations against it,” he warned.

Dr Mehsud said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had deceived the nation nine times during the last 18 months by providing wrong information about the CPEC and that currently, he was avoiding disclosing the factual position of the multibillion-dollar project.

“We urge the army chief to ensure that Pakistan Army will remain neutral in case the people of smaller provinces and northern areas take a unified stand for own rights in the CPEC project,” he said.

The Corridor Front leader said the government’s indifference had caused unrest among the people of smaller provinces, who were unwilling to compromise rights on the project.

He also urged political leaders, especially Sirajul Haq of Jamaat-i-Islami, Aftab Sherpao of Qaumi Watan Party, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI-F and Asfandyar Wali of ANP to play due role in protecting rights of KP in the CPEC project.

Fareed Toofan said the federal government was harassing the Corridor Front leaders through law-enforcement agencies but such tactics won’t work and that they would continue raising voice against injustices.

He said the silence of Pakhtun leaders on the CPEC issue was very meaningful and in case of any bargain, the people won’t forgive them.

Shahab Khattak said the prime minister should prove himself to be the prime minister of the country and not of Punjab only. -DN


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