Islamabad: China has announced it will temporarily freeze funding for at least three major road projects in Pakistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) following reports of corruption, Pakistan media reported.

“China has temporarily stopped funding of some projects particularly those related to the road network under CPEC until further decision regarding ‘new guidelines’ to be issued from Beijing”, Dawn newspaper reported quoting a senior government official.

The decision has left officials in Islamabad ‘stunned’, media reports said.

The decision by Chinese government could affect road projects of the National Highway Authority (NHA) worth more than 1 trillion Pakistan rupees (Dh34.83 billion), the report suggested, adding that “It was not clear how wide the impact of the delay will be, but initial reports confirm that at least three road projects are going to experience a delay.”

The projects to be affected include the 210km Dera Ismail Khan-Zhob Road, at a projected cost of Rs81 billion. The 110km Khuzdar-Basima Road at a cost of Rs19.76bn and the 136km remaining portion of Karakarom Highway from Raikot to Thakot at a cost of Rs8.5bn are also expected to be affected.

The road projects were being built as part of the $60 billion (Dh220 billion) CPEC, flagship project of China’s prestigious One Belt One Road, connecting China’s Xinjiang province to Pakistan’s Gwadar port through a network of roads measuring around 3,000km.

“The news is certainly disturbing if true and will have manifold implications on the economy, politics and overall society as Pakistan and China not only share all-weather friendship but also strategic interests” remarked Azaz Syed, a political analyst based in Islamabad.

The main reason behind China’s decision to halt release of funds for the corridor is reported to be increasing news reports regarding corruption in CPEC projects in Pakistan.

China has a zero-tolerance stance on corruption. Chinese President Xi Jinping has waged a war on corruption ever since he assumed office in 2013.