Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Wednesday accused his predecessor Imran Khan of not only halting progress on the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) but also damaging ties with ‘all-weather ally’ China.
Addressing a ceremony here to mark a decade of the signing of the CPEC, Sharif also said that the mega project helped Pakistan progress in the region and the world. “The CPEC is all about a story of hard work and untiring commitment between the leadership of Pakistan and China,” he was quoted as saying by the state-run APP news agency. He said the CPEC played a key role in transforming the development landscape of Pakistan with the launch of several projects. The Chinese government and companies made investments of USD 25.4 billion in various projects, he added.
Sharif, however, regretted that the previous government led by Imran Khan created misconceptions about the project which resulted in its slow implementation. “The Prime Minister regretted that the previous government not only halted progress on the CPEC but also left no stone unturned to damage this relationship which is higher than the Himalayas. He, however, said that the present coalition government had made sincere efforts to further strengthen the relationship with China,” state-run Radio Pakistan reported.
The prime minister thanked President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government for supporting Pakistan especially when it awaited the staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He hoped that the agreement would be given final approval during the IMF’s board meeting on July 12.
The USD 60 billion CPEC is the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative or BRI – a multi-billion-dollar initiative launched by President Xi when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.
India has strongly protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
India is also critical of the BRI, which drew global concerns over China’s debt diplomacy of extending huge loans to smaller countries for unsustainable infrastructure projects.