Following months of criticism over the government’s preference for the eastern route for the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday asserted he will personally kick off work on the neglected western route ‘soon’.

The announcement comes nearly 10 days after the National Highway Authority (NHA) told a Senate panel that the government had allocated less than a fifth of funds for the western route than it had for the eastern route.

Work on CPEC progressing fast: PM Nawaz

Reviewing progress on projects under the CPEC umbrella at the PM House on Friday, Nawaz was briefed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on the estimated dates for completion of the projects.

Terming CPEC as the future of Pakistan, Nawaz said that he would personally monitor the pace and progress of the projects through the core team on a weekly basis. In this regard, he directed the concerned authorities to update the project benchmarks on monthly and quarterly basis.

According to a PM House, the premier said that he would personally perform the ground breaking ceremony for the western route “soon”.

Eastern CPEC route unfeasible: report

Emphasising on the need to complete the project on time, he said that delays will not be tolerated and officials found to be slacking will cease to be part of the team.

The $46 billion project was signed with China earlier this year. However, the exact roadmap for executing the project has divided the country from end to end. Parliamentarians from Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have   criticised the government for having a tilt towards the eastern route of the $46-billion CPEC, voicing their rage from time to time over leaving behind the smaller provinces.

The NHA confirmed those fears when it told the Senate Standing Committee on Communication that the government has allocated a mere Rs20 billion for the western route, which starts from Gwadar and goes to Kashgar in China via Balochistan, K-P and Punjab. In contrast, the Rs110 billion eastern route travels along the Balochistan coast to Sindh before turning north and traveling through Punjab and then on to Khunjerab.

Development controversy: Balochistan backtracks on CPEC route stance

On Tuesday, a parliamentary oversight committee for the project suggested that the government consider converting the western route as a dual carriageway from the outset, with a motorway to eventually link Gwadar with the rest of the country.