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CPEC may be hit by political changes in Pakistan, says Chinese expert

BEIJING: A Chinese expert has admitted that the recent political developments in Pakistan would affect the $50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) because some “variable factors” would come into play. The expert also said that some political parties in Pakistan have cast doubt on some specific items in their economic cooperation with China.

Writing in the state-backed Global TimesLan Jiang, a professor with the China West Normal University, said, the “disqualification of Nawaz Sharif would likely bring some uncertainties to the ongoing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. Pakistani political parties have some disagreements on the project, especially whether the east or west route of the project should be given priority.”

He also expressed concern that some part of the $50 billion CPEC project might come under investigation and face uncertainties if the ruling party loses the next election in 2018. “The CPEC project would face some uncertainties if the next election in 2018 leads to a ruling party change,” he said.

This view flies in the face of a recent assertion by the Chinese foreign ministry, which said that the unseating of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif would not affect the project. “We believe the China Pakistan cooperative partnership will not be affected by the change in the situation inside Pakistan,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said on July 29.

Doubts have now surfaced in Beijing even though the new interim prime minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has been handpicked by Sharif to keep the seat warm for a few weeks until his brother, Shahid Abbasi, completes the formalities to be elected as prime minister.

Jiang also expressed concern that some aspects of CPEC may be investigated if the next general elections in 2018 throw up an opposition party in power in Pakistan. In addition, as opposition parties are incredulous about PML-N‘s behind-the-scene manipulation in project negotiations, the possibility of reviewing some projects’ negotiation processes and conditions cannot be ruled out if an opposition party takes power.
The article noted that Shahbaz Sharif, who is expected to be the next prime minister of Pakistan, has “built more friendly ties with the Pakistan military”. This is a significant statement coming from a Chinese expert because the military is known to be watching over CPEC’s implementation and suppressing any sign of opposition to it.
 Nawaz Sharif supported the east route for the economic corridor covering the provinces of Punjab and Sind but opposition parties favor the west route that passes through less-developed provinces like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, he pointed out.
“But political differences on the CPEC route will not hinder bilateral relations as no political parties in Pakistan use anti-China sentiment as political stunt and all of them are working to advance the sustainable development of China-Pakistan ties,” Jiang noted.
Times of India.com
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