Two senior functionaries in the Khan government, brought to power with a helping hand from the army, had made serious allegations against the Chinese …. Reports Dr Sakariya Kareem
With the Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Mushahid Hussain Sayed disclosing that General Qamar Bajwa had to rush to China over allegations made by the Imran Khan government ministers about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, the spat between the government and the military is now out in the open.
The Chinese have been furious at the continuous allegations made by the Imran Khan government over the project in which close to $60 billion investment had been promised. China has considerable stake in the project, shepherded by the army at the Pakistan end.
Two senior functionaries in the Khan government, brought to power with a helping hand from the army, had made serious allegations against the Chinese. First it was the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s advisor on commerce, textiles, industries and investment, Abdul Razak Dawood who called a halt to all the CPEC projects for a year. Talking to the Financial Times, published from London, he said the Nawaz Sharif government had done a “bad job negotiating with China on CPEC — they didn’t do their homework correctly and didn’t negotiate correctly so they gave away a lot.”
The statement caused anger in Beijing, prompting the army to step in. Within days of the Dawood statement, General Bajwa had to rush to Beijing to quench the fire.
The fact that despite the September 2018 controversy, another minister in the Khan government, the Communication Minister Murad Saeed made an even more serious allegation in February this year. He alleged a Rs70 billion corruption in a CPEC project — the Sukkur-Multan motorway. He accused the Sharif government of appropriating the money.
The Chinese responded strongly to the allegations and there were emphatic assurances from no less than General Bajwa. But the disquiet over CPEC refused to die. Then appeared news reports about key CPEC projects being put on the slow back burner. Although senior PTI Ishaq Khakwani denied the reports but not before adding that it was not out of place for a new government to negotiate some parts of the project afresh.
These news reports also alluded at the possibility of the Imran Khan government trying to keep the US humoured because of the FATF action and IMF bailout. The US has been outrightly sceptical about the project which, it said, would drag Pakistan deeper into debt, a possibility which China has consistently denied.
The signals coming from Islamabad and Rawalpindi were so divergent that Beijing called Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit China along with General Bajwa in October this year. The Chinese wanted an assurance from both of them on the CPEC. This was borne out by General Bajwa sitting on in all the key meetings the Prime Minister had with the top Chinese leadership.
But Mushahid Hussain’s statement shows that the conflict of perception about CPEC between the Khan government and the military is far from over .