LAHORE - The Chinese government and Punjab government are going to sign a sister city agreement between Shihezi City and Multan and Narowal during the current month.

Shihezi is a garden city in Chinese province of Xinjiang with its exquisite environment, and known as the Pearl of the Desert. It is considered as the scientific and industrial center of Xinjiang and is said to be the young city on the ancient Silk Road.

On the proposal of Chinese government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan issued No Objection Certificate (NOC) but wrote to the Ministry of Planning that it should consult with the Punjab government.

Official sources informed this paper that China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Secretariat, Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform had written a letter to the Chief Secretary Punjab on January 8, 2016 on the subject matter.

Beijing has informed that a party delegation including representatives of business community led by Mayor of Shihezi City plans to visit Pakistan in January, sources in the Ministry of Planning told The Nation. The Chinese delegation intends to visit Narowal and Multan and wants to sign separate sister city relationships with the two cities of Punjab.

The delegation would meet the local business community to explore cooperation in relevant field particularly in agriculture, food processing, energy, construction, arts and culture and tourism, the sources added.

The Shihezi city has also conveyed interest in investing in power plan and agriculture processing, especially and the Chinese government has formally requested invitation from Pakistani side which is needed by them to obtain State Council’s approval.

“Foreign ministry has no objection to the Establishment of Sister Cities Relation, between Shihezi and Narowal as well as Shihezi and Multan from political point of view,” the letter adds.

The documents available with The Nation show that the Pakistani ambassador Khalid Masood visited Shihezi city on September 7, 2015 and had a comprehensive understanding and conversation with the mayor Zu Zhizin on development of the Chinese city.

After the Chief Secretary’s nod, a summary was prepared and forwarded to the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for final approval. In its summary, the Punjab government sought approval for signing of MoUs between the Shihezi City of China and Multan as well as Shihezi and Narowal. Moreover, approval for initiating an invitation letter to the Chinese delegation for visit of both the cities of Punjab also bestowed.

Shihezi is one of the largest cities in Xinjiang’s autonomous region. Its population is about 650,000. It is considered the largest administrative, industrial and educational center of Xinjiang.

Shihezi was granted the status of a city only in 1947, when the first rural settlements sprang up there.

The community gradually began to expand and built the first industrial enterprises, which provided the locals with jobs. Thus, Shihezi grew rapidly and became the second largest city in modern Xinjiang.

Today, it has one of the largest universities in Xinjiang, which is one of the main attractions of Shihezi. Its enrolment is almost 40,000 students, just a record number by the standards of East Turkestan.