ISLAMABAD

Showing serious concerns over the change of route of Pak-China Economic Corridor, the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue on Wednesday recommended seeking approval from Council of Common Interests (CCI) for the diversion of the route.

Senator Ilyas Bilour of Awami National Party voiced reservation over the change of Pak-China Economic Corridor (PCEC) route. On his recommendation, the Senate’s body recommended the National Assembly to include it in the Finance Bill that government must seek approval from CCI on it. The senator said that government has omitted Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Balochistan from the original plan of PCEC and included Sindh and Punjab, reason best known to the government.

Senator Ilyas Bilour said that Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, chief of JUI-F, has raised the issue of changing PCEC route with Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. The Premier has told Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman that government had changed the route on the request of China. However, Bilour said Chinese ambassador denied his involvement in changing route.

However, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal denied the statement of changing route of PCEC. However, he said that there are two alignments of PCEC, including western and eastern and the government would adopt the western alignment (Karachi-Lahore-Multan and Gawadar) on Built-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis. He added that government did not have resources to operate on Eastern alignment (Islamabad, D I Khan and D G Khan), which needs $9 to $10 billion. The government could not afford to take huge loans for the establishing Eastern alignment.

Ahsan Iqbal said that first phase of Pak-China Economic Corridor would be completed by 2017. The Senate Standing Committee on Finance Revenue and Economic Affairs, which met under the chair of its chairperson Senator Nasreen Jalil, has prepared the budgetary recommendations of the senators on the third day. The Senate would move its recommendations to the National Assembly for incorporating in Finance Bill 2015.

The Committee member Senator Talha Mahmood of JUI-F came down hard on Federal Minister for Planning Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal, as he said government did not take full advantage from China. “Investment worth of Rs 35 billion from China to Pakistan is not sufficient, as it should be higher because Beijing needs Islamabad’s support for the development of its western part of the country”, remarked Senator Talha Mahmood.

He added that China is only investing in Pakistan to develop its Western part, as it has no other option.  The official of the Ministry of Planning Development and Reforms informed the committee that government would require $13 billion for the construction of Diamer Bhasha dam, which could be arranged with international assistance. The government could not arrange $13 billion from its public sector development programme for the construction of Diamer Bhasha Dam, he added. The statement of the official of Ministry of Planning Development and Reforms is contrary to the statement of Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar who said that government would arrange resources for the dam if international financers did not come to invest in it. The committee recommended the National Assembly not to increase the power tariff till power crisis did not resolve. Similarly, it also proposed to enhance the monthly stipend of Benazir Income Support Programme from proposed Rs 1500 to Rs 3000. The committee also proposed that government should enhance funding for Munda Dam, Kurram Tangi Dam and Warsak Dam. The committee also proposed the National Assembly to allocate ten percent of the PSDP for the much-needed Bhasha Dam project.

Committee chairperson Senator Nasreen Jalil in her remarks said that committee would bring privilege motion against those officers who did not attend the meeting.