From Noor Aftab
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
From Print Edition
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The official map of three alignments of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is lying with the ministry of planning and development but it is yet to be shared with the political parties that have expressed reservations over alleged change in route of this multi-billion mega project, reliable sources told The News.

“The official map of CPEC was supposed to be shared with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before the first All Parties Conference on the project on May 13. But later it was decided to make it public at some later stage to show that no change has been made in the route of CPEC,” the sources said.

A senior official who requested anonymity confided to this correspondent that he has seen the map of the original route soon after the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on CPEC on July 5, 2013.

To a question, he said no one has seen the original map after an official made an announcement in the standing committee that some changes have been made in the original route. “The government has taken the position that no change was made in the original route but instead an interim arrangement was made to use the existing infrastructure for short-term as to make the corridor functional within the shortest possible time.”

The official record showed that the National Highway Authority (NHA) chairman in his briefing to the Senate Standing Committee on Communications stated that the reason behind the interim arrangement was available infrastructure, security and population.

The sources claimed that the Chinese technical experts continued to hold talks with the Pakistan officials on the issues directly related to security in the planned alignments of CPEC till the first week of May.

They said the Pakistani officials assured the Chinese authorities that some 10,000 highly trained security personnel would provide foolproof security to the relevant officials who would work on the CPEC project. In a bid to build consensus on the mega project, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has again called an All Parties Conference (APC) on CPEC that is likely to be held on May 28 (Thursday). The first APC on CPEC took place on May 13. The sources said the Chinese government is keen to get access to the Gwadar Port through at least one alignment of CPEC in the next two years due to which the Pakistan government has decided to work on the Western alignment where it can benefit from the existing road infrastructure.

The Eastern alignment will pass through Thakot-Mansehra-Islamabad-Lahore and Multan. From Multan, the route will be linked to Hyderabad through Rohri and Dadu. The Hyderabad-Karachi portion will be linked through M-9. Karachi will then be linked to Gwadar through N-10 along the coastal line. The Central alignment will pass through Gwadar-Dera Ismail Khan via Quetta route.

Despite repeated attempts by this correspondent for last two days, minister for planning and development Ahsan Iqbal declined to give any official comment on this issue.