CPEC could become second East India Company and divide country – Pakistan leaders

CPEC East India Company

ISLAMABAD:  A number of Pakistani leaders showed their concern for lack of transparency in the huge deal with China and feared that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could turn into another East India Company if the country’s interests were not actively protected.

CPEC is being pursued as a national strategic project in Pakistan under the supervision of its all-powerful ministry, with no oversight from the civilian government. No documents and agreement regarding the huge $51 billion project have been put in public domain. Many Pakistan neglected provinces and neighbouring countries like Afghanistan and India have voiced their concern about the project.

Another East India Company is in the offing; national interests are not being protected. We are proud of the friendship between Pakistan and China, but the interests of the state should come first,” Senator Tahir Mashhadi, chairman of the Pakistan Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development, said when some committee members raised the concern that the government was not protecting the rights and interests of the people.

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The East India Company was the British trading mission sent to India, which became the precursor to the British colonial presence in the subcontinent, eventually gaining power and overthrowing the Mughals who ruled India at the time.

Pak Senator Mandokhail said that a sense of deprivation was being instilled in smaller provinces. “We do not want the CPEC at the cost of the federation,” he added.

Senator Mandokhail also accused the Planning Commission of prioritising Balochistan very low on its list, given that it has not representation in the commission itself.

Following a briefing by Planning Commission Secretary Yousuf Nadeem Khokhar, a number of committee members also expressed concern over the fixing of power tariff for CPEC-related power projects by the Chinese.

“It will be very harmful for us if we have to bear the entire burden; will this [project] be a national development or a national calamity? Whatever loans taken from China will have to be paid by the poor people of Pakistan,” Mr Mashhadi observed.

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Highlighting the status of CPEC-related power projects, the Planning Commission secretary said that the Matiari-Lahore transmission line project had “not been scrapped” and was being pursued by its Chinese sponsors.

At this, Senator Usman Khan Kakar pointed out that Nepra had fixed the power tariff for the project at 71 paisas/unit, while Chinese investors were demanding much higher 95 paisas/unit.

“The government has filed an appeal before Nepra, seeking the increase despite the fact that the burden will be borne by poor consumers,” he said.

The secretary also informed the committee that the Gadani power plant complex had been shelved due to the lack of a dedicated jetty.

He said that the infrastructure being established in Gwadar would only benefit the Chinese and Punjab governments, not the local community. “The people of Balochistan will only get one benefit from this project, which is the water supply,” he said, adding that no electricity or railway projects had been planned for Balochistan under the CPEC.

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Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Senator Sirajul Haq said that like certain other parts of the country, Fata and AJK were also being neglected in the CPEC. “There is nothing for both areas in the CPEC,” he said and suggested that a 35km road was built to link Muzaffarabad to the CPEC so that the people of AJK could also reap its benefits.