EditorialOctober 28, 2017
AFTER suffering from a series of delays, the long-term plan, or LTP, for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor is now ready for finalisation at the seventh meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee to be held in Islamabad on Nov 21. At the last JCC meeting held in December 2016, the plan was discussed and both sides agreed that the “LTP shall be finalised and approved by March 31, 2017, at the latest” according to the minutes of that discussion. But that date came and went, and we were told that the document was awaiting the signature of the then prime minister who was a bit caught up in his Panama Papers-related entanglements. Then we were told that the LTP would be finalised during the One Belt, One Road summit held in Beijing in mid May. But the government delegation returned from the summit promising that the plan would be finalised in a couple of weeks. Since the details of the plan had already been published by Dawn while they were away, we were also promised that immediately upon its finalisation, the full LTP would be made public to dispel some of the anxieties caused by the particulars. Then the trail went cold.
This is the first time we have heard of the plan since then, and Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has again repeated his commitment to make it public after finalisation. Whatever may have been the reasons for the delay, the fact that we now have a date for finalisation is progress, and the minister must be held to his promise of disclosure. The LTP is the most detailed long-term plan that has ever been proposed for Pakistan, and its ramifications for the economy are deep and broad. Contrary to the image of CPEC as an enterprise involving roads and power plants, the LTP shows that the real nature of the engagement with China that is about to begin goes far beyond infrastructure investments and enhanced connectivity.
The real game of CPEC appears to be to prepare the economy, society and culture of Pakistan for a massive influx of Chinese investments and personnel. This could indeed prove to be a positive development, and provide the economy with a boost given the scale of the investments being contemplated. But the public has a right to know exactly what is being negotiated under this arrangement, and to assess and debate its merits. There can be no two opinions about this. As soon as the plan is finalised at the next JCC meeting, the clock will start ticking for Mr Iqbal to deliver on his commitment and make a full disclosure of all the contents of the LTP. A redacted or abbreviated version will not do. Full disclosure is what he promised, and that is what he must ensure.
Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2017