ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning Asad Umar has said there is nothing to hide in multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project which is a manifestation of the friendship between Pakistan and China but is against no one.
“We have nothing to hide in connection with CPEC; however, we can’t do anything if someone refuses to believe this,” Umar said on Wednesday while addressing a seminar on “Role of Parliaments in cementing regional integration” at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS).
Also Read: East, West and CPEC
Last month, US President Trump’s aide on South Asia Alice Wells had warned Islamabad that it faced long-term economic damage with little return if Beijing keeps pursuing CPEC which, according to her, would profit only China.
CPEC, heralded as a game-changer by both Pakistan and China, “is going to take a growing toll on the Pakistan economy, especially when the bulk of payments start to come due in the next four to six years,” Wells said at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on November 22.
However, on the same day, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing angrily spurned US criticism of his country’s multi billion-dollar infrastructure push in Pakistan as he publicly gave point-by-point reply to the objections raised by Wells.
Talking with reference to the project, Umar said CPEC is around $70 billion project but most of the loans are granted at a negligible interest rate. The minister, however, clarified that the problems of Pakistan are supposed to be resolved by Pakistan through hard work.
The National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, who was invited as the chief guest at the seminar, said Pakistan is ready to facilitate neighbouring countries so that they also benefit from CPEC.
Qaiser said the economic, trade and cultural ties among the countries in the region were centuries’ old. Immense opportunities are available for promoting cooperation among countries of the region in trade and other sectors, he added.
He said Pakistan wants to increase effectiveness of CPEC as a means to further progress and prosperity of the region. The NA speaker said Pakistan is going through a war like situation in the last 30 years and its economy has suffered a lot due to Afghan war and the war against terrorism.
Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing said in the next phase of CPEC, special economic zones would be built in Pakistan. He said China would now invest in building vocational and training centres and in research in agriculture and livestock sectors.
Most of the CPEC projects are investment of Chinese companies and not loans to the Pakistan government, he clarified. Jing said CPEC was launched because of the friendship between Pakistan and China, adding that China wants progress and development all across Pakistan.
He said China would succeed in eradicating poverty among its people in the next year.
Parliamentary Committee on CPEC Chairman Sher Ali Arbab said Pakistani population is huge and it is a challenge as well as an opportunity. “We have to take the lead for achieving prosperity for people of Pakistan and for the region.”
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said the next phase of CPEC was relocation of Chinese industry to Pakistan. “China has offered one billion dollars for socioeconomic development in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and certain areas of Sindh,” he said.
(With additional input from APP)
(This news/article originally appeared in The Express Tribune on December 19th, 2019)