Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif approved formally the alignment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on Friday in Islamabad, while presiding over a meeting on the economic corridor, and directed that Chilas be connected through a tunnel through Babusar Top and this route be connected to Muzaffarabad; for distances could be reduced by using latest technologies to build tunnels and bridges. He also directed the preparation of a feasibility for a Havelian-Islamabad road to be made to provide a short route from Gilgit, Mansehra and Abbottabad. The Prime Minister also approved the building of a Muzaffarabad-Mipur Road, reducing the distance between the two by 150 km and giving Mirpur access to the GT Road at Dina. Mian Nawaz was also told that the alignment for the Lahore-Karachi Motorway would start at the Babu Sabu Interchange on the M2, passing though Khanewal, Multan, Sukkur, Khairpur and Dadu.

Mian Nawaz also said that the corridor was the future of the country. Now that the projects have been approved, Mian Nawaz must proceed to the next step, that of execution, which means that the relevant contracts are awarded. The corridor was agreed on during the Prime Minister’s visit to China, but he must not allow that to end in apathy, after the initial burst of enthusiasm.

It is also important for him to take a personal interest in the gas pipeline to Iran. Not only is that project vital to Pakistan in its own right, as it will provide the gas that will be used to help overcome the energy crisis in Pakistan, but it will also be part of the corridor with a due extension of the pipeline to China. It must be noted that Mian Nawaz came to office on a plank of an ‘economic explosion’. Thus his consciousness of the economic implications of the economic corridor is to be expected. It would only be in the fitness of things for the gas pipeline to be given the same kind of attention.

Pakistan must also be prepared to face pressure on the economic corridor, because of Indian concerns. Pakistan must keep in mind that both projects are not seen as purely economic in nature, but both are vital to Pakistan’s national and economic interests, and thus cannot be abandoned, or even modified to suit any foreign policy, but our own.