Pakistan Approves $7.2B Railway Line Upgradation Project Under CPEC; Experts Ask ‘Who Is Paying’?

Advancing further on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan has agreed to upgrade the railway line between Peshawar and Karachi at an estimated price of about $7.2 billion.

Pakistan has approved the 7.2 billion dollar railway up-gradation project that covers a 1,872 km-long railway track from Peshawar to Karachi. “The project includes dualisation and up-gradation of Karachi-Peshawar railway track, up-gradation of Pakistan Railway Academy Walton and establishment of a dry port in Havelian” reports Pakistani media.

It is reported that Islamabad has been oiling its wheels for the final negotiations with China on financial matters for the projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of Beijing’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The project has been described as a big milestone for the second phase of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by Pakistan’s retired Lt. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa who is currently acting the chairman of the CPEC Authority.

The package-1 of the Railways’ Mainline-I (ML-1) Project is expected to be completed between January 2021 and December 2024 and will cover the construction of 527 km-long track between Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Lahore.

The package-2 will upgrade 521 km-long track from Lahore to Hyderabad and is estimated to be complete by January 2022 to December 2026 while the final package-3 that will cover a distance of about 740 kilometres of railway track will join Rawalpindi-Peshawar and Hyderabad-Multan.

It is reported that Pakistan gives high priority to the ML-1 project due to its utmost importance for its inauguration by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s when he is expected to visit the nation this year.

The approval by Pakistan’s top concerned authority has laid foundations for the final negotiations with China for financing the project.

A report said that Pakistan will also have to seek relaxations from the IMF, as under the existing deal with the global financial body, it does not have space to provide sovereign guarantees to the tune of Rs 1.2 trillion (USD 7.2 billion).

This is the second project that Pakistan has approved under the CPEC since the past one month. As reported by the EurAsian Times previously, Pakistan signed a contract with China in May for the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam in the contentious region of Pakistan controlled Kashmir for 2.75 billion dollars.

Experts on the economic scenario of Pakistan had commented that the cost of the Diamer-Bhasha dam is extravagantly high for Pakistan to pay. “There’s no indication that Islamabad has thought how it will cover these immense costs,” Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C. had told media.