ISLAMABAD - An ‘estranged’ Baloch nationalist leader yesterday said that his party had certain reservations over the construction of much talked about China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Balochistan.

Sardar Akhtar Mengal, the head of his own faction of the party - Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal), gave these remarks in a joint press conference along with Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan and Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Pervez Khattak.

The opposition of the CPEC from a Baloch nationalist leader raises serious questions over the ability of the government to bring consensus of all parties and provinces on the different routes of CPEC, which is being described as the road to progress of the country.

“We have summoned an all parties conference (APC) in Balochistan next month and all the political parties have been invited where we will put allout reservations on the CPEC,” he said following his meeting with Khan at the KP House to invite his party for the APC.

Though Akhtar Mengal could not elaborate his points exactly that what kind of reservations he or his party on the CPEC yet he only mentioned that they had reservations over the connectivity of CPEC with the Gwadar Port and the deprivation of land ownership to the people of Balochistan through the construction of the corridor.

The head of BNP-Mengal said that his party wanted that the people of Balochistan should be given land rights and not deprived them of this right through the economic corridor. The corridor should be constructed there in Balochistan where there would be less development, he added.

“We are not against the development but the fruit of the development as a result of the CPEC should reach the local people of the province,” he said. We will put our reservations and fears about the demographic changes as a result of this project before the APC. Mengal said that he hoped that other provinces would endorse their point of view as Balochistan had supported them on the issue of Kalabagh Dam.

Chairman Imran Khan speaking on his turn said, “We want to keep Balochistan with Pakistan not by the force of guns but by providing justice to the people.” The incident of separation of East Pakistan is before us. He said that the construction of CPEC is the golden opportunity to keep the federation and the people of the country united. “If its routes were constructed transparently, the country will be united more, otherwise there will be disintegration,” he said.

Reminding that the KP Provincial Assembly has passed a unanimous resolution that the western route of the corridor should be constructed first as it was the shortest one, he questioned, “Why the government wants to keep the people in the dark on the routes of CPEC”. He added that PTI would attend the APC of BNP-M being held on January 10. He said that Mengal had valid points and their reservations should be addressed. “If the government wants to construct eastern route through Lahore, then it should also complete the western route,” he asserted.

Khan said that China was not giving a gift to Pakistan through this corridor but wanted to develop its western side that remained under developed, as it was far from seaport.

Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said that the construction of one route meant the laying down of electricity, LNG, oil and fibre optic lines along the road. If the government only wants to construct road on western side, they need not it, he said. While responding to questions, Mengal said that they were not part of the Murree Agreement about the change of executive head of the province in the mid-term.

Replying to another question, he said that 98 percent of Baloch sardars (heads) remained party of Pakistan’ establishment but why Balochistan is still under developed. He also questioned media why it did not focus on the coverage of dead bodies in Balochistan. “Whether the whole Pakistan is in Islamabad,” he said.