PESHAWAR - Political parties’ leaders and lawmakers from Southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Monday warned of strong agitation campaign if the region was ignored in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

Speaking at a joint news conference of a special committee on CPEC comprising elected representatives and leaders of various political parties from southern region at press club here on Monday, ANP Senior leader Senator Afrasiab Khattak said that the proposed western route under CPEC was incomplete without inclusion of southern districts of KP.

He said that this route has much significant due to close proximity with neighboring Afghanistan and Central Asian States therefore it should not be ignored.

Despite allocations of $35 billion for energy projects of the total $46 billion of CPEC, he regretted, no mega energy project except Suki Kinari hydro power project (HHP) on Kunhar River in Manshera has been launched under the economic corridor in KP. He asked the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government not to extend support until the southern region was not given their due rights and share in the projects.

PTI MNA from Kohat Shehryar Afridi, PML-Q central leader Salim Saifullah Khan, KP Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Imtiaz Shahid, PTI MNA from Lakki Marwat Col (Retd) Amirullah Marwat, GG Jamal, MNA from tribal region, PML-N Provincial General Secretary Rahmat Salam Khattak, former provincial minister Mian Nisar Gul, MPA from Karak Malik Qasim Khan, PTI Woman MPA Zareen Zai and other leaders of other political parties from southern region attended the press conference.

Afrasiab Khattak said the expansion of Indus Highway along with gas, oil and other natural resources of southern region, including Karak, Kohat, D.I.Khan, Hangu, Tank, Lakki Marwat, should be efficiently exploited under the CPEC.

He urged the government to pay attention toward western route, which is less developed as compared to eastern route.

He further said that the route is much viable and secure for launching projects in energy, gas, oil, infrastructure and other sectors. He said the CPEC western route should pass through KP, Fata and Balochistan to end deprivation and backwardness of the region, which was badly affected by terrorism and militancy.

Saleem Saifullah said the eastern route is much developed than the western, therefore the government should give maximum focus on western route to bring economic prosperity and development in the region. “We are not against the launching of projects on eastern side of CPEC but region under western route should not be deprived of their due share and rights,” he demanded.

He said they were elected to power by masses for raising their issues and problems on the floor of parliament. “We will not tolerate any injustice with terrorism-affected people of KP, especially southern region,” he added.

He said if the western route has been developed then it will give further boost to trade and economic relations with Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republic countries. He warned that if the government had failed to give due share and rights to southern districts of KP they will launch mass agitation campaign against it.

Shehryar Afridi said that misperceptions were created by the government about western route that it was not secure and unfeasible for launching projects under the CPEC. He viewed the people of southern region, had rendered matchless sacrifices in ongoing war against terrorism, therefore, they should not be deprived of their due rights. He demanded the government to prioritise the western route, especially inclusion of southern region under CPEC.

To a question, Afridi said they had raised voice on several occasions on the floor of parliament regarding western route. He, however, said they did not provide actual facts and figures regarding the CPEC project. He expressed the fear that if the government continued its discrimination with unprivileged and backwards regions then the anti-state forces will take benefit from the situation.

PTI MNA said they will go to any extent and will strongly agitate if the rights were not given to people of southern districts of KP. He, however, said they will hold meetings with Chinese ambassador, Prime Minister, JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, KP Chief Minister, and others before launching of their protest movement.