KP, Centre in verbal duel at meeting on CPECKP, Centre in verbal duel at meeting on CPEC

ISLAMABAD: The aggressive position taken by the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government against the federal government for ignoring its concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) led to an animated discussion between the two at the Prime Minister Office on Friday.

More than one participant of the meeting convened by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to address apprehensions of political parties in KP and Balochistan over the corridor pointed out in background discussions that a heated debate took place between KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and federal ministers.

Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif and Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal also attended the meeting.

At one point, according to a participant, one of the federal ministers taunted Mr Khattak that “instead of focusing on your own province, you and your government are spending all your energy on making the CPEC controversial and, in the process, creating problems for the federal government”.

An irritated Khattak replied: “Don’t worry about my province; I know how to do my job.”

On another occasion, the PTI delegation, which also included its parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Shah Mehmood Qureshi, sought a direct answer to their questions from the prime minister instead of Ahsan Iqbal.

The federal ministers also felt tense when a politician from KP told the prime minister that instead of clearing doubts his cabinet members were creating confusion about the corridor.

The KP chief minister said that there was lack of information about the CPEC vis-à-vis the Punjab CM who was directly involved in talks with the Chinese. “At least let us know what is happening on ground. We are not only interested in roads, but also economic zones,” Mr Khattak was quoted as saying.

Later talking to Dawn, Mr Qureshi said: “For the time being the KP government has accepted reassurance given by the prime minister about the fair distribution of investment which will be made under the CPEC. However, the PTI, along with other political parties from KP, made it clear that they would be satisfied only after the agreements reached during the meeting are implemented on ground.”

He said the PTI told the prime minister that in the absence of a meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) on the matter, ineffective parliamentary committee on the CPEC and futile discussions in parliament, “we were left with no option but to give protest calls”.

Mr Qureshi welcomed the prime minister’s decision to personally monitor implementation of the project, but said that “we have told the government that we need certain timeline and financial plan for whatever projects it intends to carry out in KP”.

PML-Q Senator Mushahid Hussain, who also attended the meeting, said all stakeholders were needed to be taken on board at every stage. “I think the prime minister has taken the right decision to be part of the special committee (set up during Friday’s meeting) which will regularly review its (corridor) progress.”

He said the KP government had certain reservations over the CPEC which the federal government tried to address and one should hope that due to regular meetings of the special committee there wouldn’t be much in the implementation of the corridor projects.

“The positive outcome of Friday’s meeting is that all political parties have agreed to collectively work for trouble-free implementation of the corridor which is not only beneficial for the country, but also for the entire region,” Mr Hussain said.

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