KARACHI: Even before its launching the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) became a hot topic in Pakistan and since then there’s no lack of controversies surrounding the project.
The visit of the Chinese President in 2014 was postponed due to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s sit-in, who was coming to Islamabad for the signing of agreements.
The 46 billion dollar projected included network of highways, industrial zones and up-gradation of railways and the Gwadar Port.
Considering the massive economic benefits of the CPEC, the political parties demanded political oversight on the project after which an all parties’ conference was held and the participants agreed to form a parliamentary committee for the purpose.
The smaller provinces complained of being ignored specially the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was unhappy and even the chief minister threatened that without inclusion of Western route the CPEC won’t be allowed to pass through KP.
It does not stop here; social media provided a platform to those elements creating controversies out of the mole hill to disillusion the masses about the CPEC.
Several times, Chinese Embassy spokesman has to intervene in the middle of a debate to set the record straight.
Commenting on the matter, Wali Zahid, a noted journalist said the Chinese Embassy is very sensitive about what is being said in the media and especially social media regarding the CPEC. The government machinery, which should ideally be taking care of misinformation in the media, has failed to perform its duties.
Deputy Chief of Mission, Muhammad Lijian Zhao, has become the prime source of information on the CPEC, using Twitter to clear the air on several issues.
Responding to criticism that China is using prisoners as labour to save costs, he tweeted, ‘This is nonsense. The person spreads rumor like this has a hidden agenda’.
When asked why the Embassy feels the need to counter the propaganda, Zhao replied: ‘just try to clarify and present the facts and true picture to the public’.
Chinese officials have been regularly meeting with the senior political leadership of all the parties and taking them into confidence.
For those who accuse CPEC projects of corruption, there is one Chinese saying: Gauge the heart of a gentleman with one's own mean measure.— Muhammad Lijian Zhao (@zlj517) December 19, 2016
Understanding the importance of social media and the smear campaign against China, Ambassador Zhao is vigilant and prompt to address any such thing. He has gained good number of followers in the recent months.
Good question. Come to Gwadar free zone, & enjoy 23 year tax holiday. No where else you could do that in this land. Investors are queuing... https://t.co/ZRG2f5W8wN— Muhammad Lijian Zhao (@zlj517) December 15, 2016
The Planning Commission is in fact a coordinating agency among the provincial governments, ministries and other autonomous bodies but we are trying hard to fill the information vacuum, said the spokesman Asim Khan Niazi.
The CPEC is a huge project and it is immensely productive for the country, said he adding that enemies of Pakistan are funding to hurt it.
We are planning a one stop communication for the journalists and the masses, and a lot will change in this regard, he added.