Though China continues to maintain neutrality on Pakistan's internal affairs, there are doubts surfacing in Beijing about the over landmark USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative losing momentum and speed because of the current political crisis in Pakistan.
An editorial published in the Dawn has said senior officials in Islamabad, who coordinate with the Chinese side on CPEC, have admitted that the political crisis has hampered the pace of progress, particularly on projects that are already in the pipeline.
The daily quoted a businessman, as saying on condition of anonymity that, "..For CPEC to stay on course, a conducive investment environment is absolutely necessary."
Dr. Nadeem Javed, Chief Economist, Planning Commission, who has admitted to there being a comparative slow down on CPEC, was quoted, as saying "However, security-related issues and Pakistan's weak track record of public project implementation suggests that the pace of execution will be relatively slow."
While insisting that the fortnightly coordination committee on the CPEC meets regularly to monitor progress, Dr. Javed further said, "How can anyone deny that happenings of the past two months (have) distracted the government's attention from the economy and compromised its effectiveness? Yes, we could have covered more ground had we been able to handle the situation better."
He said that while there has been two-way exchanges and travelling by relevant Chinese and Pakistani ministers and officials over the past two months, the private sector in Pakistan has withdrawn into its shell, citing uncertainty.
Dr. Javed said, "The reluctance of local investors is hard to digest. Their attitude might change as plans of nine special economic zones start materializing."
Business leaders have blamed the tilt in policies that suit Chinese investors better for the slow pace of CPEC activity.
"The policy framework is unfair towards locals. In their enthusiasm, policymakers go the extra mile and roll out the red carpets for foreign investors. However, if we ask for what is our due they play deaf", the Dawn quoted a business leader, as saying.
"PM Abbasi may claim what he wants, but hollow words will not instill confidence in the private sector. The government will need to move decisively towards confidence-building measures to motivate local investors," he added.
"Moving forward, continued support for the CPEC project across all branches of government will be critical to its success and full implementation," said Moody's in a current report on the country.
The Chinese Embassy in Islamabad has issued a statement that "hopes that all parties and sections in Pakistan can prioritise state and national interests, properly deal with their domestic affairs, maintain unity and stability and keep focusing on economic and social development."