Imran Khan seeks 'significant shift' in infrastructure projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan would tell the Chinese leadership that his government wants a "significant shift" in the infrastructure projects under the controversy-hit China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the country, according to a media report on Monday.

The $60 billion CPEC is the flagship venture of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a pet project of Chinese president Xi Jinping aimed at enhancing Beijing's influence around the world through China-funded infrastructure projects.

 Imran Khan seeks significant shift in infrastructure projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Image of Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan. Twitter/@ImranKhanPTI

The CPEC is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China's resource-rich Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with Pakistan's strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea. Imran is set to embark on his first visit to China on 3 November during which he is expected to call on President Xi as well as meet his counterpart Li Keqiang.

"During his meetings in the friendly country, Imran would inform the Chinese leadership that his government wanted to bring about a significant shift in the projects falling under the purview of the CPEC," the Dawn newspaper reported, quoting unnamed sources as saying.

Under the previous government there was an emphasis on infrastructure schemes, but the current government of Imran wanted projects involving agriculture, job creation and foreign investment take centre stage, the report said. Pakistan has already approached the International Monetary Fund for a bailout to stabilise the economy.

The US has said that the huge Chinese debt was responsible for the economic challenges in Pakistan, adding that it will review Islamabad's bailout plea to the IMF from all angles, including the country's debt position. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that the US thinks that part of the reason for Pakistan's financial crisis is Chinese debt.

India has protested to Beijing over the CPEC as it traversed through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Cash-strapped Pakistan has already announced plans to cut a $8.2 billion railway project between the Karachi and Peshawar the biggest under the CPEC by about $2 billion to reduce the debt burden.

Meanwhile, the report also said that due to suspension of funding to CPEC's infrastructure projects, the National Highway Authority's road projects worth over Rs 1 trillion have been adversely affected. Many projects in the energy sector have also been hit.

The affected projects include the 210km Dera Ismail Khan-Zhob road, the 110km Khuzdar-Basima road and a 136km portion of the Karakoram Highway. In a recent meeting about his visit to China, Imran said that early implementation of the CPEC projects would help realise the true potential of the economic ties between the two countries.

He emphasised the need for early establishment of Special Economic Zones in various parts of the country and hoped these zones would help the local industry grow, creating huge employment opportunities for the youth, the report said.

Updated Date: Oct 23, 2018 07:41:30 IST