Pak minister slams daily for leaking China economic corridor plan, calls it fear mongering

Pakistan’s planning minister Ahsan Iqbal has said he was appalled by the Dawn newspaper’s report on the long-term plan for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

world Updated: May 16, 2017 19:48 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
CPEC,Dawn Leaks II,China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
Workers walk past a billboard showing pictures of Chinese President Xi Jinping (centre) with Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a two-day visit by Xi to launch the economic corridor linking Pakistan's port city of Gwadar with western China.(AP File)

Pakistan's planning minister Ahsan Iqbal has slammed a report in the influential Dawn newspaper revealing what it claimed to be the “original plan of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)”.

Claiming the documents were being made public for the first time, the English language daily said the plan revealed Chinese intentions and priorities in Pakistan for the next decade-and-a-half. The report gave details about large-scale agricultural projects, a massive surveillance system for cities and fibre-optic connectivity.

Iqbal, who plays a central role in CPEC, described the article as “Dawn Leaks II,” a reference to the earlier leak by the newspaper about differences on tackling terror groups that had led to a fallout between the army and the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, before they eventually patched up a few days ago.

“I am appalled by Dawn Leaks II. CPEC long-term plan story based on working documents to distort final draft taken up with NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission, the state planning body of China) yesterday in Beijing,” he posted on Twitter.

He added Dawn had not approached him or his ministry for fact-checking. “Definite angling in story to malign CPEC by promoting fears,” he tweeted.

Iqbal said the long-term plan could not have been disclosed by the Pakistan government without consulting the Chinese.

He described the Dawn report as “half cooked” in a race to break the news first.

Dawn had published the plan for CPEC with high amount of detail.

Two versions of the plan, one running to 231 pages, are with the government, it reported. A shortened version, which has 30 pages with only broad descriptions of the plan, was circulated to Pakistan’s provincial governments to obtain their assent.

According to the details, thousands of acres of agricultural land will be leased to Chinese enterprises to set up “demonstration projects” in areas ranging from seed varieties to irrigation technology, and a system of monitoring and surveillance will be built in cities from Peshawar to Karachi, with 24-hour video recording of roads and busy markets for law and order.

A national fibre-optic backbone will be built for Pakistan, not only for internet traffic but also for terrestrial distribution of broadcast TV, which will cooperate with Chinese media in the “dissemination of Chinese culture”.

The Dawn reported the plan envisages a deep and broad-based penetration of most sectors of Pakistan’s economy and society by Chinese enterprises and culture.

Its scope has no precedent in Pakistan’s history, in terms of how far it opens up Pakistan’s economy to participation by foreign enterprises.

First Published: May 16, 2017 13:18 IST