ISLAMABAD     -    Federal Planning Minister Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar yesterday said that the upcoming Joint cooperation committee (JCC) on CPEC would start formal negotiations on ML-1.

The 9th CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) will be held on November 6 where Western Route of the corridor, agriculture, energy, housing and tourism projects will be deliberated, said the federal minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar addressing a press conference here.

Khusro Bakhtyar was speaking at joint news conference with Energy Minister Omar Ayub Khan, Railway Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmad and Special Assistants on Petroleum and information Nadeem Babar and Firdous Ashiq Awan.

Mr Bakhtyar said the vice chairman of National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China would be taken to Gwadar on November 4 soon after his arrival for inauguration of 300 MW power plant and to speed up progress on free trade zone and airport at Gwadar on which concession agreements had been signed.

He said CPEC had become a key pillar of Pakistan’s economic structure that would be taken to the new heights after the upcoming JCC.

Regarding ML-1 the minister said that the project would now become the most important project of the CPEC to replace obsolete railway track of 1872-km from Karachi to Peshawar. The planning minister said that formal negotiations on ML-1 would take place during the next week JCC meeting. He said the railway ministry had submitted its feasibility study of the ML-1 project. However he said that estimated cost of ML-1 has yet to be finalized as the government will hire an International consultant for firming up the final cost estimation of the project. The execution and financing of the project would be discussed during the upcoming JCC. ML-I project would be completed in about 7 years and claimed that its completion would contribute to the GDP, Mr Bakhtyar said.

He said in JCC the financial requirement of Islamabad to Quetta section of CPEC western route will be discussed. The DI Khan to Zhob road project would connect Islamabad to Quetta through Motorway network and will be completed in about 3 years. He said the Karachi Circular Railway project will also now witness progress as it had been put among the prioritized projects.

While talking about Karachi Circular Railway project, Shaikh Rasheed said that 38-km area of the KCR have been cleared adding that the remaining 5-km could not be cleared without the support of the provincial government. The railway minister said the federal government was ready to provide alternate land but the provincial government would have to take responsibility for construction of housing facilities for the to-be-displaced persons.

The planning minister said the approval of Gwadar Master Plan would be ‘another deliverable’ of the JCC that would also set the dates for the inauguration of a few Special Economic/Industrial Zones. He said the investments by Chinese and other investors in these zones had been under discussions since the previous government and these would be further advanced now.