The work on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Phase-II has gained momentum during the last few weeks, defeating debunkers who have been leaving no stone unturned to malign the incumbent government on account of slow-down in CPEC activities.
The groundbreaking of two mega hydel power projects worth $11 billion, advancement in talks with the Chinese side on financial matters of $7.2 billion ML-1 railway project, materialising special economic zones, speedy development of the Gwadar port city, and expanding the scope of CPEC by including agriculture, science, technology and tourism sectors show that work on the game-changer project is full swing.
Even though Covid-19 has dented most of the business and economic activities, but the work on CPEC projects continues by observing standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the government to contain the pandemic.
To remove the bottlenecks and provide a one-window facility to the local and foreign investors, the government is working on the CPEC Authority Bill 2020. After its approval, the bill will further empower the authority to ensure smooth progress of the projects without any delay.
“The idea is that all matters relating to the CPEC projects should be handled at one place by all the ministries and departments concerned, and the investors should get their issues cleared without any hassle,” CPEC Authority Chairman Lt Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa said in a recent interview.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had a clear viewpoint about the project as he had mandated him to approach the Chinese authorities to remove technical and economic issues so that the projects should not delay. During its early months, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government took time in removing the bottlenecks in various projects of the early harvest or the first phase.
So far nine out of 17 energy projects have been completed and eight others are under construction, while the work on remaining five is yet to start. Earlier this month, the country witnessed a landmark achievement in the hydel power production with inauguration of construction work on the mega projects of Diamir Bhasha Dam and Azad Pattan Hydel Power Project.
The two projects will not only help produce cheap and clean energy but also bring thousands of acres of barren agricultural land under cultivation, besides attracting $11 billion foreign investment and producing over 6,000MW of electricity.
“The PM has issued a clear direction that we are now moving from costly non-renewable energy to clean and cheap renewable energy,” Asim Bajwa said.
Moreover, he said, the use of imported coal would be replaced with indigenous coal in coal-based power projects as mining in Thar was in progress. “We are planning to blend the local coal with the imported one.”
Regional policy shifts in the Middle East and South Asia have also proved to be a breath of fresh air for the multi-billion dollar CPEC project.
The developments like the recent clashes between China and India and then Iran’s announcement of discontinuation of its agreement with India on Chahbahar Port have made the situation conducive for CPEC. “Pakistan is geared up and wants to benefit from the regional situation.”
With respect to the Western Route of CPEC, Bajwa said Burhan to Dera Ismail Khan (DIK) Motorway was near completion while the road project from DIK to Zhob was being taken to the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) – the highest forum of CPEC, whereas work on Hoshab-Awaran Road was also being initiated soon.
Regarding industrial development, Bajwa said under CPEC, productivity would be increased and exports would see a big jump with reduction in imports and jobs creation for labour and human resource after the special economic zones (SEZs) were made functional.
He said work on three out of nine priority SEZs including Rashakai in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Allama Iqbal in Punjab and Dhabeji in Sindh province was underway. Some 1,000 acres of land had been procured for Rashakai SEZ, the groundbreaking of Allama Iqbal SEZ in Faisalabad had been done and tenders opened for Dhabeji SEZ, which would be built on 3,000 acres of land.
He said the process for relocation of Chinese industry in Pakistan was in progress. The Chinese companies were showing keen interest to invest in all the three SEZs.
With respect to agriculture sector, the CPEC chairman said the sector is providing livelihood to maximum labour force. Big Chinese companies are showing interest in corporate farming in Pakistan, he added.
The PM, he said, had directed to collaborate with the provinces for identifying the lands that were unutilised or having low yield, which could be used for farming. “The Chinese companies will be clubbed with local business houses which would promote business to business cooperation of the two countries.”