China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was successfully negotiated and formalized between the Chinese and Pakistani government in April 2015. CPEC marked, on the one hand, the durability in bilateral relations and, on the other, new thinking, at least in Chinese policy circles, to highlight the economic variable in China-Pakistan relations, which have been structured along military-strategic dimension since the mid-1960s. The project, initially worth $46 billion, kicked off under the previous Sharif government that, in some ways, aligned its economic policy to CPEC — reference the infamous Orange Line in Lahore. Currently, there are around twenty plus projects underway in different parts of the country. These projects are primarily energy-oriented due to the fact that Pakistan has been an energy-deficient county for the past many years mostly due to policy negligence on the part of the past governments. CPEC has been through the so-called controversies ranging from ‘route change’ to ‘favouring the Punjab’ at the expense of development concerns of smaller provinces, particularly Sindh and KP. Nevertheless, the Sharif government was able to convince the relevant political stakeholders to provide legitimacy to the project politically and socially. Hence, the route debate subdued. Moreover, provinces other than Punjab were also taken on board in terms of allocations of, for instance, infrastructure development projects. In addition, the proposed industrial zones are unit-oriented, i.e. one zone in each province or region. Importantly, the security, both physical and logistical, aspect of CPEC has been taken care of by the civil-military leadership of the country, by raising special division and units of the civil armed forces as well the military. Owing to overwhelming policy focus of the Pakistan state, CPEC has smoothly entered into its third year with the Long Term Plan serving as the future framework. Since CPEC, in my view, is a state project — a project internalized by the state of Pakistan — it was expected, quote logically, that any change in government will not affect its grundnorm. Here it is pertinent to mention that the Pakistan People’s Party also took credit for chalking out the initial idea and draft of the project with the Chinese authorities during 2008-2013. Moreover, the change in prime minister, from Nawaz Sharif to Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, also did not affect the corridor in negative terms. Ironically, however, the current Pakistani government led by Mr Imran Khan left no stone unturned to generate a critical controversy on CPEC. The commerce advisor to the federal government, Mr Abdul Razak Dawood, criticized the previous Sharif government in his infamous interview Ironically, however, the current Pakistani government led by Imran Khan left no stone unturned to generate a critical controversy on CPEC. The commerce advisor to the federal government, Abdul Razak Dawood, criticized the previous Sharif government in his infamous interview to London-based Financial Times. What made the advisor utter controversial comments, and that too in such a harsh tone? In what ways does it impact CPEC, in general, and China-Pakistan relations in particular? In order to address the puzzle, we need to understand the political approach of the present Pakistani government. The Khan government, led by the PTI, is predicated on its anti-Sharif stance revolving around ‘corruption’ supposedly committed by the previous government. Indeed, from the PTI’s perspective, Nawaz Sharif and his daughter along with her husband were sentenced and subsequently jailed on account of corruption charges. Once in power, it seems natural on the part of the PTI-led government to, on the one hand, create an impression it is cleaning Pakistan of corruption and, on the other, exposing corruption done by the previous governments, especially the Sharifs. Hence, the commerce advisor, while involving the so-called corruption variable, tended to further defame the Sharifs in popular parlance by trying to expose the corruption allegedly committed in CPEC-related projects. However, one wonders where is the evidence? Did Mr Dawood cite any evidence in this respect? Secondly, since the current government finds itself amid financial crisis in terms of balance of payments, it is desperately looking for venues to get capital to run the country in the short run. Perhaps, the advisor concerned, among others, thought it prudent to seek economic lifeline in CPEC by objecting, first, to its terms and conditions and, then, urging, if not pressuring, the Chinese side to renegotiate. If renegotiations take places, hypothetically speaking, the PTI commercial elite including Mr Dawood, would have been able to incorporate their companies into the project and reap economic dividends. However, the interview backfired nationally, regionally and globally. Domestically, anti-PTI forces held the government responsible for derailing the project. Regionally, India, for instance, mocked at us. Globally, anti-CPEC elements got the news to consolidate their thesis. Above all, it was the Chinese side that, in my view, felt the tremor since the interview, while questioning the terms and conditions of CPEC, had implicitly questioned the very philosophy of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The latter has proposed some six corridors to connect regional markets for mutual cooperation and prosperity. The Pakistani government terribly failed to fathom the policy implications of such a (mis)statement that, if not tackled timely, carried the potential to badly harm China-Pakistan bilateral relations. Indeed, the visit of the COAS was seen positively by the Chinese side, and it would have reassured Pakistan’s commitment to CPEC, in general, and the BRI in particular. Besides, the current government has also fumbled on the inclusion of the third party, namely, Saudi Arabia in CPEC. Initially, one got the impression that Saudi Arabia will assume a strategic role. On October 3, however, the information minister stated that Saudi Arabia will join at the operational level. Given the globalizationist ground of the BRI, it makes economic sense if CPEC is expanded regionally. However, any such policy should first be properly discussed bilaterally between China and Pakistan and only made public after due process. Lastly, it will also be rational for the Khan government to avoid repetition of past mistakes and tread meaningfully in the future to prevent CPEC getting on fire again. The author has published in peer-review journals on CPEC. Currently, he is based at School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), Shanghai, China. He tweets @ejazbhatty Published in Daily Times, October 5th 2018.