August 31, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10776

Pakistan's Planning Minister, As Beijing And Islamabad Celebrate 10 Years Of Work On The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC): 'We Hope One Day The Whole Of South Asia, Central Asia And The Middle East Will Benefit From The CPEC'

August 31, 2023
Pakistan, China | Special Dispatch No. 10776

In July 2023, China and Pakistan celebrated 10 years of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which comprises a range of infrastructure projects including roads, railways, bridges, ports, dry ports, to special economic zones (SEZs) that China is developing in Pakistan, and which was formalized on July 5, 2013. A recent editorial in an Urdu-language newspaper and an article from a Pakistani daily assessed the progress of CPEC, which is part of China's strategy to promote its influence in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, connecting further to the Middle East via Gwadar port, while marginalizing American influence in South Asia.

As part of the celebrations, Pakistan's then Minister of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal traveled to Beijing for the 12th Joint Cooperation Committee of CPEC held on July 11, while China's Deputy Vice Premier He Lifeng paid a three-day visit to Pakistan on July 30 to meet with Pakistani leaders.

In Beijing, Iqbal gave an exclusive interview to the Global Times, a Chinese government publication, in which he stated: "Normally, countries come close when they need to, and they get farther away when they do not need each other. But in the case of China and Pakistan, it has been always spring. There has never been autumn in this relationship."[1]

CPEC from Kashgar to Gwadar will help China reduce its dependence on the Indian Ocean (Image Courtesy:

Iqbal listed advantages of the CPEC projects, stating: "Everyone in Pakistan has benefited from the great contribution that has been made by the CPEC.... If there was a lack of electricity, factories would be closed and workers would be laid off; patients in hospitals and students in educational institutions would also be stranded."[2] He added that the Thar desert region of Pakistan, once a backward area, "has transformed into a source of energy for the country and local education, employment, hospitals and schools have also flourished."[3]

In the interview, the Pakistani minister rejected criticism that Pakistan was getting into China's "debt trap" diplomacy, arguing: "The propaganda (from the West) that the CPEC is a debt trap is all false. All the negative propaganda against the CPEC has a political element. It has no reality."[4] Expressing his support for China's strategic moves for wider influence in Pakistan and beyond, Iqbal further said: "I hope that the next phase will bring many dividends for the wider region beyond Pakistan and China. We hope one day the whole of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East will benefit from the CPEC."[5]

Following are excerpts from an editorial titled "10 Years Of CPEC" in the Urdu daily Roznama Jang assessing the importance of CPEC:[6]

"If This Project Had Not Been Stalled For The Last Four Years... Our National Economy Would Have Been Among The Fastest Growing Economies In The World Today Instead Of Being In A State Of Stagnation"

"The three-day visit of China's Deputy Vice Premier He Lifeng to Pakistan as a special guest in the 10-year celebrations of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is of significance in terms of this historic project and further expansion of relations between the two countries... Due to his role in the implementation of international economic relations and the Belt and Road Initiative [BRI], He Lifeng holds a prominent position among the Chinese leaders in the matters of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. As the chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission from 2017 to 2023, he has played an important role in the planning and implementation of CPEC in Pakistan.

"This visit of He Lifeng is part of high-level exchanges and negotiations between Pakistan and China. The goals of the Chinese vice premier's visit include bilateral support in international affairs and to search for new paths for economic and financial cooperation, and to further strengthen investment and trade relations...

"[In mid-July 2023, then] Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal paid a four-day official visit to China in connection with the 10-year celebrations of CPEC. On this occasion... it was agreed to speed up the implementation of the ML-1 [upgradation of the rail line between Karachi and Peshawar and establishment of dry port near Havelian] and Special Economic Zones so that the projects can be completed on time.

"The parties had also decided to hold regular meetings of joint working groups to review ongoing cooperation under the framework of CPEC and ensure implementation of all projects for the next phase, which are very wide in scope. These include industry, agriculture, science and technology, and social sectors. Earlier in May, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang also visited Pakistan during which the foreign ministers of China and Afghanistan [who met at a trilateral conference in Islamabad] reiterated their commitment to strengthen trilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and to jointly expand the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan.

"During the meeting, the three foreign ministers discussed ongoing projects like CASA (Central Asia-South Asia) 1000 project, the TAPI [Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India] gas pipeline project, and the Trans-Afghan Railway as well as the promotion of regional connectivity and economic development and prosperity in the region. They also made important decisions to facilitate people-to-people exchanges between the three countries and commercial activities and to promote trade corridor through the Gwadar port.

"These details clearly show that ten years ago in 2013, Pakistan started to stabilize the economy through the rapid upgrading of its basic infrastructure, modern transport networks, several energy projects and construction of special economic zones through the CPEC.  This project is the guarantee of the development and prosperity of not only Pakistan but the entire region, in which China has so far invested more than 25 billion dollars.

"If this project had not been stalled during the last four years [by Prime Minister Imran Khan]... our national economy would have been among the fastest growing economies in the world today instead of being in a state of stagnation. Therefore, at least now, at the national level, it should be ensured that whatever government is formed as a result of the upcoming general elections, it will include the timely completion of the CPEC projects as one of its top priorities and no interruption will come in this process."

"A Project That Has Not Attracted Attention In Pakistan Is The Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline – Iran Has Completed Its Share Of The Deal By Constructing The Pipeline Within Iran Up To The Pakistan Border"

In an article titled "10 Years Of CPEC," Pakistani analyst Dr. Naazir Mahmood noted that China's $25 billion investment in CPEC projects in Pakistan "so far has contributed a lot to maintain the economy" and assessed the progress of several projects as follows:[7]

"Besides improving the energy supply, CPEC has also tried to bring Xinjiang in China closer to Gwadar by improving overland communication through motorways, railways, and ports. From Gwadar to Kashgar, a nearly 2,500-kilometer corridor has been partially completed. Nearly $50 billion is required for the complete operationalization of this corridor including the extension and modernization of the railway tracks. Under CPEC, work on the Gwadar Port has been completed, but the port will remain under Chinese control for the next 40 years. Work on the mainline railway ML-1 from Karachi to Peshawar should have been initiated by now, but... the project is still under observation and study.

"The motorway from Karachi to Lahore is nearly complete, but work quality in Sindh has been below the mark with serious charges of corruption. The motorways in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Punjab display a much better quality of work than in Sindh. A journey from Karachi to Sukkur may prove instructive in this assessment.

October 9, 2019: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets President Xi Jinping in Beijing. The Imran Khan government, viewed as anti-U.S., was accused of stalling the CPEC.

"Similarly, the railway track from Havelian to Khunjrab has been approved but work in that direction is extremely slow. One of the most successful CPEC projects is perhaps the Hazara Motorway, which has revolutionized travel in this region. The travel duration from Islamabad to Mansehra has been reduced substantially. A project that has not attracted attention in Pakistan is the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Iran has completed its share of the deal by constructing the pipeline within Iran up to the Pakistan border, but somehow Pakistan has used various excuses to not complete its part.

"Under CPEC, a major linking road was also completed in Balochistan in June 2023. Traffic from Punjab and KP now moves much quicker to Gwadar than it did a couple of years ago. With Rs. 11 billion, the Basima-Khuzdar Highway has also been completed, though work on the 850-km long Rattodero-Gwadar motorway is still underway. Other projects of CPEC include a dry port in Havelian and the Orange Metro Line in Lahore.

"Other projects include: an international airport in Gwadar, the Pak-China Cotton Biotechnical laboratory, Gwadar-Nawabshah LNG terminal and pipeline project, 870MW Hydropower Suki Kinari project, 1320 MW coal-fired power plant at Port Qasim, 720MW Karot hydropower project, 9x100 Zonergy solar power project, Jhimpir wind power project, Thar Coalfield Block 2 3.8 million ton project and 2x330 MW project.

"The Dadu wind power project and the fiber optic data transmission system from across the border are also included in CPEC. The Karachi to Peshawar motorway [ML-1] that is nearly 1,500 kilometers long and the complete 2,500-kilometer CPEC corridor will greatly benefit the country and its population. While these projects may not immediately contribute to an immediate poverty reduction or bring down inflation – as some critics of CPEC would like to highlight – these projects have contributed significantly to the Pakistani economy. So, let's celebrate this achievement for a while."


[1] (China), July 12, 2023. The original English of quoted texts in this dispatch has been lightly edited for clarity and standardization.

[2] (China), July 12, 2023.

[3] (China), July 12, 2023.

[4] (China), July 12, 2023.

[5] (China), July 12, 2023.

[6] Roznama Jang (Pakistan), July 31, 2023.

[7] The News (Pakistan), August 7, 2023.

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