Minister refuses to speak on CPEC in presence of nationalist leader

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PESHAWAR: The lengthy speech by Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal on `China Pak Economic Corridor -Myth and Reality` at Islamia College University here had an unpleasant start when he refused to speak in the presence of Pakhtunkhwa Ulasi Tehreek leader Dr Said Alam Mehsud.

Dr Mehsud had earlier briefed the provincial government and leaders of political parties on CPEC and rights of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa connected with this project being termed by the PML-N minister the `game-changer in the region`.

Dr Mehsud and his team, holding files, had come prepared to raise some questions at the seminar where they had been invited by the ICU, which had organised the discussion.

However, Dr Mehsud got up and told the large gathering mostly students of the university that they had been asked to leave since the federal minister had refused to speak in their presence. `We are leaving because Ahsan Iqbal has refused to speak if we are here. They myth is gone. This is the reality,` he said ironically.
Some of the students even raised slogans against this discourteous behaviour but Dr Mehsud and his team left the venue peacefully.

Soon Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal came to the stage and started his speech with `Vision-2025` which focused more on having a future where economy of the country would be among that of the top 10 countries in the next 10 years.
He also assured the Islamia College University of providing the grant of Rs1 billion that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had earlier announced for the ICU during his visit.

He also clarified how those few people, who raised hue and cry about neglecting Pakhtuns in the CPEC, were wrong since Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were frontline provinces and geographically it was not possible to bypass those provinces in interlinking Gwadar with Central Asia and China.

The minister said that he had a four hour long sitting earlier at Governor`s House in Peshawar to explain the CPEC and remove misconceptions that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was ignored in the project but some people did not get it while many understood his point of view.

Although he told the participants that he would be ready to answer and satisfy those, who had critical questions, and wanted to clear their minds on CPEC, the minister made such a long speech, having more focus on how Pakistan was envisioned under `Vision-2025`, that by the time he started talking on CPEC many of the participants were yawning and looked exhausted.

With Dr Mehsud and his team having all the documentary details of the CPEC gone, the students looked lost at the details the minister was giving about Pakistan`s geographical position and advantages that needed to be taken from its location than just raising slogans of Pak-China friendship.

Mr Iqbal said that Pakistan needed to become a robust economy than taking pride in just being an atomic power since times had changed. `Now quality, productivity and innovation are new currencies,` he added.
Finally coming to the topic of the seminar, `CPEC-Myth and Reality`, he said that it was a fusion of China and Pakistan and meant `one belt, one road`.

It consisted of reviving the old Silk Route and establishing a maritime silk road. `It is unique because it would be bridging the land and sea routes,` he added.

The minister said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were very important for regional connectivity. `To integrate Central Asia or for the Gwadar to be outlet for Central Asia, tell me how come we can neglect Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa? It is not possible geographically to bypass these provinces,` he added.
He said that CPEC was a long-term framework so in next 15 years Pakistan needed to produce energy to run Economic zones and industries.

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