China warned establishment against ‘new experiment’ ahead of 2018 polls: Ahsan Iqbal

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Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal addresses a press conference. — Radio Pakistan/File
 Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal addresses a press conference. — Radio Pakistan/File   

  • Ahsan Iqbal accuses PTI of scandalising the game-changer project.
  • Beijing had asked establishment not to interfere in elections, claims minister.
  • China feared “experiment of change” will harm CPEC, he says.

Lashing out at the former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led government for harming the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal on Saturday revealed that Beijing had warned the then establishment against any “new experiment” ahead of the 2018 general elections.

Speaking during Geo News programme Jirga, the PML-N leader said, “China — in a diplomatic manner — had tried to convey [a message] to the then establishment to avoid any new experiment as it would derail CPEC.”

The then establishment, however, assured Beijing that whoever would come into power will not create obstacles in the path of the mega infrastructure and connectivity project.

Beijing had asked the establishment not to interfere in elections as “any experiment of change will not be beneficial for Pakistan and will destroy the CPEC”, the planning minister added.

Responding to a question, the minister stressed the need for continuity of policies for progress and development of a country.

Launching a fresh salvo against the former ruling party, the PML-N minister accused PTI of scandalising the game-changer project. Corruption allegations were leveled against the project and the western media highlighted the controversial statements made the PTI leaders, he added.

Murad Saeed leveled baseless corruption allegations against him involving the CPEC and embarrassed the Chinese state-owned company.

Perhaps, it happened for the first time that China’s state-owned company issued a condemnation statement against the minister whom it was working with.

He said that the PTI-led government had ruined the sentiment developed by PML-N through baseless allegations, delays in visa renewal of Chinese workers and other tactics.

It is pertinent to mention here that the PDM-led government has been blaming the former ruling party for persuading negative policies regarding mega projects and discouraging international investment. They had been claiming that work on the China-funded project, especially on CPEC had been halted during the PTI’s tenure.

The incumbent coalition government led by the PML-N has constantly criticised the PTI for not working on CPEC.

Addressing a ceremony to mark a decade of the signing of CPEC a few days earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the mega project helped Pakistan progress in the region and the world.

He regretted that the previous government created misconceptions about the project which resulted in its slow implementation.

Back then, the planning minister had said that unfortunately the project was scandalised by the previous regime and was totally ignored.

He said, even the investors left Pakistan which caused huge damage to the game-changer CPEC project, the minister said adding that the incumbent government made efforts during the past one year and got the project back to the rhythm.

“For the last one year, we tried our best to get CPEC back to rhythm and gain investors’ confidence,” he added.

The minister said that CPEC was not given proper attention after 2018 and the projects that were left by the previous region during past four years were accorded priority during past one year by the incumbent government.

Ahsan 'clarifies'

Later, Ahsan Iqbal in a statement on social media said that his statement about China in a TV interview is out of context and needs clarification.