Confronting the concrete alliance the US builds in Central Asia and India-Pacific regions through India and Afghanistan, the close cooperation and strategic partnership between Pakistan and China are drawing more and more importance. Pakistan’s Imran Khan, the new prime minister, had visited China after assuming the office and said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which he views as an opportunity to improve the prosperity of his country, has transformed from a design to reality and he appreciated Chinese support to Pakistan during harsh financial periods and said Beijing would always remain as a reliable country to Pakistan. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will contribute to a huge variety of sectors such as the transportation infrastructure (through railways and fibre optic connections), trade and business volume, investment opportunities, human resources, industry, agriculture, tourism, financial cooperation, education and health services. The highway to be built between both countries is anticipated to instigate development centres such as Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta, Multan, Hyderabad and Karachi. This project will also contribute to further civilization integration and regional peace. With this project, China will make an annual profit of at least $10 billion by halving the length of the Europe maritime route. Pakistan, for its part, is expected to make $5 billion in highway revenues alone. The intersection point of CPEC project is the Gwadar in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province and Chabahar Ports in southeastern Iran. They are also are known as the “twin ports” located by the Gulf of Oman. The CPEC project — which will contribute to the development of China, Russia, Mongolia and other Central Asia countries by ensuring easy access to Strait of Hormuz — emerges as an initiative that will entirely change the global balance in the region. Pakistani Senator Muhammad Talha Mahmood, who is a member of the parliamentary committee on CPEC, spoke to Anadolu Agency about the CPEC project and relations between Pakistan and Turkey. Question: Some projects change the destiny of a country; from this perspective, what will CPEC change in Pakistan? Answer: With regards to an investment volume of $60 billion, the financial momentum to be achieved in the region and Pakistan, and design for the transfer of energy and resources, CPEC is a very strategic and important project. Once CPEC project is completed, Pakistan will become a country of serious prosperity in the near future. As you have correctly stated, there are two major steps for this project: One is short-term and the other is long-term. Let us put aside the positive contribution (of CPEC) to the Pakistani economy, which will be achieved by the convenience of transportation and transferring of energy and resources in the short-term, the true significant contribution of the project will be achieved by the gradual steps to be taken within this project in the long-term. Within the scope of CPEC project, a total of 29 industrial cities will be established. The development and increasing prosperity level to be obtained following the employment in these cities will rapidly change the whole financial development of the country and region. We had a grave energy and electricity problems in the country when we first started the project. The then government took the project to its main agenda and succeeded in finding partial solutions to the problem in a short time. Another process as part of the project — which started in 2015 and aimed at bringing, solar, hydroelectricity, wind and particularly coal energies to an energy production pool to solve electricity problems — was today completed after a period of three years. Question: Are these all integrated projects related to CPEC? Answer: Yes, especially the coal and solar projects are related to CPEC. Today, we see that some of these projects, which started after the CPEC was launched, have been completed and some are about to be completed. The production of the energy, planned to be used in residential and other areas, was really important to us. Despite that we haven’t achieved 100 percent of our goals at the moment, we are in a better condition for completing at least half of the project. Yet, we still need more energy. Now, we are working on the establishment of hydroelectricity power plants by forming ponds on rivers. Electricity will be provided at cheaper cost to the local people once the power generation begins after completion of the building of ponds. The installation of these hydroelectricity plants will be carried out in various places of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, such as Kohistan, from where I was elected. Question: How do you view the US attitude towards CPEC project? Answer: The US has never favored the project, it will not favor it in the future as well. However, when you enter the international politics, you will always have friends and foes. Both China and the US have strong economies. The US owns very powerful equipment, with its own policies and methods. Despite having such a strong economy, it cooperates and does business with China or even borrows from it. For now, there is only one superpower in the world, and China is increasing its influence and power against this single-pole powerhouse. We, as regional countries, are striving for doing everything possible to ensure regional trust and stability. But, they will not be able to achieve their goals due to influence of the global powers. Question: What will the project contribute to the region in terms of safety? Because, when you talk about the Middle East, terror either comes or is brought to the mind. Answer: When we take a look at the recent century, we see that it is mostly Muslims who fight each other in the region. If that was not the case, there wouldn’t be a force to stop Muslims. Divide, conquer and govern. Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Lebanon; these are all Muslim countries. I’m not denying that there are no sectarian conflicts. However, the global powers, either by funding or providing citizenship, can use the people and scratch sensitive points and set Muslim communities against each other, opening doors to governing these countries from abroad. Before all, our duty is to have a good understanding of Islam brought to us by Quran and Sunnah. We are not fighters. We don’t want to kill anyone. We have to set good examples to this world with our lifestyle and character. I remember going to Somali refugee camp in Dadaab in Kenya. A true Muslim would never believe or give credence to the approaches and understandings of Daesh or Al-Shabaab. In this context, we all have a responsibility. We are not terrorists. It is them who labelled us like that. Question: That might not be directly related to CPEC project, however, does the Chinese presence on the streets pose any threat to Pakistani people? Answer: First and foremost, the Chinese don’t have the freedom to go everywhere in Pakistan. There are some limitations. Particularly for the sensitive regions, they need special permissions from the Ministry of Interior. They are not able to go to these places without a permit. Besides, we have formed a special security force composed of police and special security units to ensure the safety of CPEC project. Our army and intelligence agencies are one of the smartest, most dynamic and best in the world. That’s because we have serious experience. We have been on the field and constantly working since 1979 Afghanistan war (Mujahedeen against Soviet Union 1979-1989). In fact, we have got many problems as well. What I just said doesn’t necessarily mean that we have overcome all our problems. Although attacks are carried out on our development projects from time to time, but we try to provide security with huge operations. For instance, there are hundreds of thousands of people in Swat region. The groups against which we are conducting operations are again from the same region. This is a challenging process, but we are succeeding. Today, we are in far better situation than that in the previous period. Question: As the leader of the friendship group between Turkish and Pakistani parliaments, how do you evaluate the relations between Pakistan and Turkey? Answer: The peoples of Pakistan and Turkey have a unique relationship with deep-rooted values. No matter where you go in Pakistan, when you say that you are Turkish, the Pakistanis will respect you. I, myself, get same respect from the Turkish people during my visits to Turkey. Pakistan was established in 1947, however, we had relations with the Ottoman Empire before our foundation. The Muslims in the Indian peninsula who helped the Ottomans at desperate times are the same people of today’s Pakistan. In fact, if a government comes to power in my country and attempts to follow anti-Turkey policies, it is not possible for that government to thrive. This is impossible in such a big country where more than 200 million Muslim people live. Pakistan and Turkey have always supported each other at difficult times. They always stood as one. When there was a coup attempt in Turkey on 15th July 2016, we were there (in Turkey) with a committee. We spoke to the Turkish President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan. Right after the incident, we went there to show solidarity with Turkey. I was also a part of the visiting delegation. We hosted Erdogan in our joint session of the parliament and listened to his speech. By unveiling the truth behind the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi through serious evidence, Turkish intelligence organization enlightened the international community and prevented the issue from troubling Turkey. Turkey did a fine job on Khashoggi case; otherwise, the international powers might have trapped Turkey in a grave situation. Question: Don’t you think that there was an international plan behind Khashoggi killing? Answer: This is something open to discussion, but CIA might have been involved in the incident. When you carefully look at the relations between the superpowers and Saudi Arabia Middle Eastern countries, you shall see that this incident was to benefit the former (superpowers). Of course, Saudi Arabia was involved in the incident, however, there might be others who were the instigators or provided aid. They might have pressured (Saudi Arabia). Turkish Red Crescent head Ibrahim Altan had told me that they would set up a refugee camp in Idlib in accordance with the demand of the local administration. He had talked about building a 3-4 story building. The truth is, nobody has helped Turkey, who has done a great job by hosting three and a half million Syrian refugees. Nobody helped when there was an operation against Turkish Lira. It was only Qatar who provided aid through some projects against these operations. However, as it was pressured by the international politics, Qatar took a step back later on. Published in Daily Times, November 27th 2018.