ISLAMABAD: The PPP will attend a multi-party conference convened by the Balochistan National Party-Mengal on Jan 10 to work out a joint plan on the issue of basic infrastructure on the proposed western route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has formed a delegation headed by Senator Farhatullah Babar and comprising Senator Taj Haider, Sindh Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Senator Yousuf Baloch which will attend the conference.

A BNP-M team headed by former MNA Abdul Rauf Mengal had called on the PPP chairman at Bilawal House on Tuesday to extend invitation for the conference titled ‘CPEC & Gwadar: Future Prospects for Balochistan’.

“We are attending the conference on the directives of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari,” Mr Babar told Dawn.

“We have decided to take part in the conference because we believe the government is not addressing concerns of the provinces on the proposed western route of the CPEC.”

He said the CPEC was a national project and it must promote national cohesion and not become controversial by any means.

He said the MPC convened by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on May 28 last year had unanimously decided that the western, not eastern, route would be given priority.

But the government was giving priority to the eastern route and it was not acceptable to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan governments and several mainstream political parties.

Mr Babar said the government had so far allocated Rs20 billion for the western route under the Public Sector Development Programme and Rs80bn for the eastern route.

“The eastern route has six lanes while the western route is a dual carriageway,” he said.

An official of the National Highway Authority said it was not true that only Rs20bn had been earmarked for the western route as the prime minister had recently announced another Rs20bn for it. He said the western route would have four lanes which would be adequate to cater to the existing traffic load.

But Mr Babar said the CPEC-bound traffic had not yet started on the eastern and western routes because it would originate from China when Gwadar port became fully functional.

BNP-M leader Akhtar Mengal has invited almost all mainstream political parties to the conference.

The PTI has accepted the invitation.

Mr Mengal has demanded what he called ‘due share’ of Baloch people in the CPEC. He said Balochistan also should benefit from the project because Gwadar port was an integral part of the corridor.