China is looking to expand its cooperation in Pakistan beyond federal and state-level governments and engage with various political parties in the neighbouring countries to ensure smooth execution of China Pakistan Economic Corridor () projects that have overshot its deadline.
CPEC, often described as the crown jewel of China’s ambitious international connectivity project Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has faced opposition from various political parties across Pakistan, delaying its implementation.
This has made Communist Party of China (CPC) launch party-to-party engagements with Pakistan’s political class rather than solely depend on the governments of the day to push CPEC projects.
“CPC attaches great importance to exchanges and cooperation with Pakistani political parties and will give full play to the advantages of inter-party relations to reach the consensus among parties and make the contribution of party-to-party exchanges to build a closer China-Pakistan community of shared future in the new era,” Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong said recently.
“We are ready to work with Pakistan’s political parties to make good use of the CPEC Political Parties Joint Consultation Mechanism, actively promote coordination between CPEC and Naya Pakistan Vision, and strengthen exchanges of ideas, policies and peoples so as to create a good political and public environment for the high-quality development of CPEC,” Nong said at a webinar hosted by Pakistan-China Institute (PCI) in connection with the upcoming CPC centenary celebration.
His comments came even as the Imran Khan government had stalled certain projects under CPEC on suspicion of corruption by the previous governments. Following this, the opposition (which was previously in power) has created obstacles in the execution of most CPEC projects.
Nong said China wants the two countries to support each other on issues concerning their core interests and major concerns. “We are willing to support Pakistan’s political parties to devote themselves to developing Pakistan and consolidating the political foundation for China-Pakistan cooperation,” he said at the webinar.
Prime Minister Imran Khan in a letter to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on June 8 had requested to give another 12 months to Pakistan to pay back $1 billion Islamabad had borrowed from Beijing last year at an interest rate of 1%. Islamabad has requested Beijing to forgive debt liabilities owed to China-funded energy projects established under CPEC.
In a recent setback to CPEC, Saudi Arabia announced that it will move its refinery project from Pakistani port city of Gwadar to Karachi.
Gwadar Port has not yet been connected to areas of northern Pakistan with highways and railways, which necessitated the Saudis to relocate their proposed refinery to the economic hub of Pakistan.
Leading Japanese media platform Nikkei Asia quoted Tabish Gauhar, special assistant to the Pakistan prime minister on power and petroleum, as saying the proposed refinery along with a petrochemical complex is now expected to be set up in Karachi.