ISLAMABAD - Pakistan will take China into confidence at the highest level on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as Islamabad and Beijing try to neutralise the aftershocks of US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Alice Wells statement on the mega project.

Senior government officials told The Nation that Prime Minister Imran Khan was ready to visit China if needed to assure Beijing of Pakistan’s commitment to the CPEC.

“On this issue, we stand with China. CPEC is vital to Pakistan and we cannot let it fall victim to statements,” said one official.

Another official said that already a diplomatic campaign had been launched to counter the US push against the CPEC.

“From the PM to Ministers, everybody has give a statement on the CPEC. Even the Opposition parties have supported China. Pakistan is willing to give more assurances to China,” he added.

Alice Wells earlier spoke critically of the multi-billion-dollar collaboration and warned it would eventually worsen Islamabad’s economic troubles and benefit only Beijing.

Senate Committee rejects US statement as ‘interference’

Speaking to an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars last week, Alice Wells said that the US offered a better model that would improve the fundamentals of Pakistan’s troubled economy.

She also raised questions about the transparency and fairness of CPEC projects as well as related Chinese loans Islamabad has received.

China and Pakistan later urged the US ‘to sift fact from fiction’ before questioning their bilateral infrastructure development programme, which Beijing is funding under its global Belt and Road Initiative.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, said Wells lacked ‘accurate’ knowledge and relied primarily on Western media ‘propaganda’ to level the accusations.

“I would like to remind my American colleague that if you are really making this kind of allegation, please be careful, show your evidence, give me evidence; we will take action,’ he said.

He said that China and Pakistan were determined to ensure the infrastructure project is free of corruption.

Beijing has invested around $ 20 billion in Pakistan over the past five years to help upgrade and build ports, roads and power plants, effectively ending nationwide crippling electricity outages.

Most of the money has come as direct foreign investment, while some has been in the form of soft loans and grants.

The overall investment of CPEC is estimated to grow to around $60 billion by 2030.

Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee - under the Chairmanship of Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed - unanimously passed a resolution rejecting the US statement on CPEC as “unacceptable interference in Pakistan’s sovereign right to exercise policy choices that best protect and promote its national interests.” 

The Committee received an hour long in-camera briefing by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on CPEC, situation inside Indian Occupied Kashmir, the Kartarpur Corridor, Pakistan’s role in mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as formulation of a comprehensive and long term Kashmir strategy.

The resolution on CPEC termed the statement of Alice Wells as “uncalled for, unwarranted and unprecedented” and termed the US statement as “promoting fiction and presenting a biased perspective on CPEC.” 

The Senate Foreign Affairs Committee strongly urged the government to make it clear in “unequivocal terms that Pakistan will not tolerate any dictation from any country that seeks to undermine the time-tested Pakistan-China relations.”

During the briefing, the Foreign Minister made it clear that he would soon convene a meeting of Apex Kashmir Committee so that a comprehensive and sustainable Kashmir strategy can be formulated, in consultation with Parliament as well as the Opposition.

Senator Mushahid Hussain made it clear that on the issue of Kashmir, the whole nation speaks with one voice and it was at the initiative of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee last year that an international Kashmir conference was convened in the British Parliament in February 2019 where the Foreign Minister as well as the entire Parliamentary Committee participated and spoke with one voice and on one platform on Kashmir.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the government was planning to send delegation abroad which will include representatives of the Parliamentary Opposition and Foreign Office is also planning to hold an international conference on Kashmir at various locations within Pakistan and abroad.

Both these initiatives were welcomed by the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

In other business, the Senate Committee also took note on the public petition complaining against Pakistan’s Consul General, Barcelona, Spain and it took strong exception to the contents and language used by the Pakistani Consul General based in Barcelona terming it an unacceptable “Character assassination” and language not befitting a diplomat of Pakistan against fellow Pakistanis. 

The Committee ordered Foreign Office to make inquiry into the matter and asked the Foreign Office to present a compliance report by December 15, 2019.

The Committee also took note of other matters particularly the issues of Pakistani prisoners in foreign countries and instructed the Foreign Office to provide early redressal to the grievances of these Pakistani prisoners languishing in jails abroad.

The meeting was held under the Chairmanship of Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed at the Parliament House and attended by Senators Muhammad Javed Abbasi, Dr Asif Kirmani, Nuzhat Sadiq, Seemee Ezdi, Atta ur Rehman, Abdul Rehman Malik, Sherry Rehman, Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, Mian Muhammad Atteq Shaikh, Sirajul Haq, Sitara Ayaz, Dr Shahzad Waseem, Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Special Secretary Moazam Ali Khan alongwith senior officers from Foreign Office, Hafeezullah Sheikh, Additional Secretary, Senate and others.