Islamabad, Oct 18: Several Pakistani lawmakers have warned the government that the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could turn into another East India Company if the country's interests were not protected. "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 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.
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.
Following a briefing by Planning Commission Secretary Yousuf Nadeem Khokhar, a number of committee members voiced their fears over what they perceived as the utilisation of local financing for CPEC projects, instead of funding from the Chinese or any other foreign investment.
They also expressed concern over the fixing of power tariff for CPEC-related power projects by the Chinese. Since only one of three Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) members of the committee was present at the meeting, most of the criticism went unanswered, the Dawn reported.
Even Senator Saeedul Hassan Mandokhail, the lone PML-N senator in attendance, endorsed the committee chairmans complaints. The meeting was informed that a major portion of the CPEC depended on local finances rather than Chinese investment.
"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," Mashhadi observed.
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. The secretary also informed the committee that the Gadani power plant complex had been shelved due to the lack of a dedicated jetty.
He also said that the 6,000MW project was not part of the CPEC. Senator Kakar said that despite the fact that the project was not part of the CPEC, Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong had recently claimed that the Gadani power plant had not been scrapped and was indeed a part of the corridor.
"Why is this project, which does not even exist, being counted in our account?" he asked. He said that the infrastructure being established in Gwadar would only benefit the Chinese and Punjab governments, not the local community.
He said that no electricity or railway projects had been planned for Balochistan under the CPEC. 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.