There was a unique consensus among the top representatives of the federal and provincial governments in Beijing over all the elements of historic China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC), courtesy of the hospitality of the time-tested friend, which is unfortunately rarely witnessed in Pakistan.
Warm hugs, double handshakes and triple embraces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Pervez Khattak with their sworn political rival, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal, the glimpses of which were publicly released through different outlets and on various forums, spoke about phenomenal successes all of them together achieved for their areas in particular and for Pakistan in general.
It was a good sign that they set aside their petty political agendas and differences and joined hands for a national cause that, all agree, is a game-changer for Pakistan. It may be genuinely hoped after this remarkable outcome of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting that especially Khattak would avoid fueling frivolous politically-motivated doubts and controversies about any part of the CPEC while in Pakistan. He is also expected to exhibit the same spirit, glee and vows that he demonstrated in Beijing where he was an active participant like Ahsan Iqbal and all others of crucial deliberations.
There was not a single moment or point where Khattak and Murad Ali Shah disagreed with the key point man of the federal government on the CPEC, Ahsan Iqbal, while representing and arguing for more projects for their provinces under the CPEC.
There had hardly been any deviation from the CPEC projects that were started after they were comprehensively discussed and agreed between federal and provincial representatives more than once at the highest level. But still the KP chief minister at times kept kicking up dust to bash the federal government of his rival party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and to please his political boss, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, without any cogent reasons. Khattak was constrained to do so because the PTI doesn’t approve any act, decision and move, regardless of its nature and importance, taken by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
However, in a way Khattak plainly admitted that his raising of objections to certain parts of the CPEC was in fact his politics, when he was quoted as telling a Chinese journalist that no one had any objection to the construction of central route of the CPEC, and that since the people of KP were not well aware, an All Parties Conference (APC) was convened for that purpose.
Khattak’s improper moves and statements had caused severe consternation to the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, forcing it issue a strong, elaborate rejoinder once to rebut his claims. This was an extraordinary statement as China is not in the habit of doing so.
After impressive presentations were given by the Sindh and KP chief ministers to the JCC, China agreed to enlarge the CPEC spending to $54 billion from $46 billion including six projects recommended by them. This was the singular reason behind the exceptional achievement and satisfaction of Khattak and Murad Ali Shah in Beijing.
Khattak can now show to the KP people that he got approved for the province 1700-megawatt run of the river electricity project, circular railway track between Peshawar-Charsadda-Nowshera-Mardan and Swabi and establishment of a special state-of-the-art economic zone along the Pakistan Motorway. He has sadly been slamming the federal government accusing it of turning the CPEC into a Punjab-specific venture. This was a fundamentally untrue assertion because the giant projects are meant to benefit all the provinces and whole of Pakistan.
Murad Ali Shah or his predecessor has hardly ever been as staunchly critical of the CPEC as Khattak had been. However, he can now take pride in telling his people that he got included in the CPEC three major projects of Sindh - Karachi Circular Railways, Keti Bandar Power Park and sea port and special economic zones.
While the launch of CPEC had caused a storm in different countries specifically India, some elements in Pakistan too have been indirectly playing in their hands by mindlessly scandalizing the grand unprecedented initiative Pakistan has never been blessed with since Independence.
India had gone to the undiplomatic extent of protesting to China against the CPEC. However, Beijing always snubbed New Delhi on this count. Both Pakistan and China rather want India to join the CPEC because it is for the development and progress of the entire region and not for specifically Pakistan.
China deserves full marks as it has remained undeterred in the face of conspiracies and determined to go ahead with the completion of CPEC projects come what may at a fast pace. Simultaneously, the Nawaz Sharif government has made the execution of the outstanding plans its single point agenda to implement it with unparalleled acceleration. No amount of plots and political hullaballoo has discouraged and dissuaded it from this trajectory.