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Change in ‘Pak-China corridor’ route angers Pashtuns, Balochs

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AT-KABUL: Infuriated by change in Gawadar-Kashgar corridor map, Pashtun nationalist leaders said that Punjab and China has signed some agreements that deprive Pasthuns and Balochs of their rights.

Chinese President Xi Jinping during his recent visit to Islamabad announced projects worth $28 billion in Pakistan. The projects are part of $46 billion investment in infrastructure and energy schemes known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

It is said that Pakistan is now trying to make changes to the original map of CPEC and instead want the route to connect Gawadar with Kashgar through Punjab province of the country instead of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan.

Asfandyar Wali Khan, the chairman of Awami National Party (ANP) said, “The original route passes through Quetta, Zhob and Dera Ismail Khan.” He added that the route was supposed to bring prosperity in terms of infrastructure development to the tribal belt, but now Punjab is trying to back down from its decision and make changes to the original plan.

Afrasiyab Khattak, a senior leader of the ANP, said the federal government wants the road to pass through Islamabad and Lahore and it is in the quest to leave Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan out of the project.

Rauf Lala, another leader of the party, told Radio Mashaal that changes to the original plan of the route has also infuriated the chairman of Pakhunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Mahmoud Khan Achakzai. “Achakzai has warned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of making changes to original route. If changes were made it will cost heavy,” Lala added.

Nabi Bangash, another member of ANP, said that the route should benefit marginalized areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, tribal belt and Baluchistan. “However, Punjab and Sindh are concerned over their own interests. Unfortunately the current government is Punjab dominated and only Punjab will benefit from the project,” he added.

Qaumi Watan Party leader, Salim Khan, said that Pashtuns are disappointed and thinking that as Chinese president is not visiting Pakistan but Punjab only and the decisions taken are against Balochs and Pashtuns.

He said that it was not the time to remain silent but Balochs and Pashtuns should forge unity to protect their interests.