A top Pakistani official's critical comments about projects funded by China to the tune of billions of dollars has rattled investors and sparked worries of a souring in ties, a day after Beijing's top government diplomat concluded a visit to Karachi and Islamabad.
Abdul Razak Dawood, the Pakistan Commerce and Industry Minister, has suggested that all projects in the $57-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor programme could be eligible for suspension in a review to be conducted this week under the orders of new the Prime Minister, Imran Khan.
'I think we should put everything on hold for a year, so we can get our act together,' Dawood said in an interview. 'Perhaps we can stretch CPEC out over another five years or so.'
He added that he thought China had been granted too many favourable terms in various projects by the former government of Nawaz Sharif. 'Chinese companies received tax breaks, many breaks and have an undue advantage in Pakistan; this is one of the things we're looking at because it's not fair that Pakistan companies should be disadvantaged,' Dawood said.
Pakistani markets fell in early trading on Monday, with the benchmark KSE 100 index down 477.38 just after midday at 40,374 points, before recovering to close at 40,684, still down 0.4 per cent.
Dawood's comments were 'mind-boggling' and rare public criticism of China, said Mr. Mohammad Zubair, Privatisation Minister in the previous government. 'This is probably the harshest statement about the Chinese in the last 50 years.' Zubair said. 'Even if there are issues with the Chinese, those issues could be dealt with in private rather than being made public' Later Dawood said his statements had been misconstrued and he would clarify later.