ISLAMANAD - In what seems to be a deviation from the original route of Pak-China Economic Corridor, the government on Thursday said the existing motorways would be used to connect the north and south of the country.

Speaking at a seminar that was attended by members of opposition parties, foreign dignitaries and experts, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said in the first phase, the existing Motorway from Lahore to Peshawar will be linked with Motorway from Lahore to Karachi as part of the economic corridor.

He said that Pak-China economic corridor will put the entire region on the track of economic development adding that Gwadar would be made a smart port city having commercial and tourist facilities like Singapore or Dubai.

But Senator Haji Adeel who represents Awami National Party (ANP), strongly opposed the changes in route of the corridor arguing that the original route of Pak-China Economic Corridor passes through Gwadar, Quetta, Zhob and Dera Ismail Khan.

"We will not tolerate the alignment in the original route. The route should spread across the country and only few cities should not be preferred. We will take to streets and will protest the changes in the route," the ANP leader said.

He said the economic corridor should benefit the whole country particularly the smaller provinces and warned that any attempt to get political mileage of the project would prove a disaster.

But Ahsan Iqbal said that new road infrastructure would be built on BOT basis (Build Operate and Transfer) which, he said, was necessary adding that changes are made only for positive outcomes.

He clarified that the corridor would spread over entire Pakistan from south to north having several projects of energy, infrastructure, health and clean drinking water adding that there would be two phases of infrastructure development under the China-Pakistan economic corridor.

He said in the first phase, the existing Motorway from Lahore to Peshawar will be linked with Motorway from Lahore to Karachi, linking south and north through series of motorways. And the second phase, he said, would involve road connectivity from Gwadar to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

He said Karakorum Highway was being upgraded up to Havelian with Chinese assistance while N-85 will also be completed within three years linking Ratodero with Gwadar.

The seminar was attended by political leaders representing Balochistan and members of Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam (JUI-F) who said that exclusion of parts of Balochistan would further aggravate the sense of deprivation among Baloch community.

It is to be mentioned here that Senators belonging to Balochistan have already raised their eyebrows over the change in the route. The Senate Standing Committee on Communication in its recent meeting had warned that if the route of corridor was not set as Gwader to Quetta-Mughal Kot and DI Khan then they would raise the issue on the floor of the Upper House.

Federal Minister for States and Frontier Region (SAFRON) Lt Gen (retired) Abdul Qadir Baloch said that the economic corridor would bring prosperity in the country and would play a pivotal role in uplift of socio-economic condition of people across the country.