ISLAMABAD         -       Senate Special Committee on CPEC was informed on Monday by the government that there was no move to reduce the role of the Planning Ministry in the Authority.

The Special Committee on CPEC met here with Senator Sherry Rehman in the chair. Sherry Rehman asked the officials from the Planning Ministry and CPEC Authority, if the news about CPEC losing its lead Ministry to the Authority was true?

“It has come to our attention that some important changes are under consideration on how the CPEC Authority will be run. We heard news that the planning minister will be removed from lead roles to be replaced by the CPEC chairman, and various new powers will be given to the CPEC authority. There should be more clarity on this as the news was not refuted. If this is indeed true then why are the powers of the planning minister being reduced? Is it because of lack of performance? What is the role of the Prime Minister in this? Will CPEC Authority not be under the supervision of any Ministry?” she questioned.

Sherry Rehman said, “The purpose of the Authority is to coordinate better between 16 ministries that are involved in the inter-ministerial coordination. The lapses in the project occur due to mismanagement and lack of strategic planning. Either way it is important to establish strong ministerial capacity and leadership in moving projects forward with inclusion and transparency.” she added.

In response to committee questions, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority Chairman Lt Gen (Retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa and Secretary Planning said that there was no move to change the lead ministry’s role in CPEC Authority, which was Planning.

While discussing the need for developing stronger partnerships among provinces, and noting slowness in projects in Balochistan Sherry Rehman said, “The province of Balochistan is close to our hearts and all the projects under the umbrella of CPEC are important for development”.

She highlighted the importance of Gawadar in CPEC, and said, “The city of Gawadar and the province of Balochistan would not only thrive but trade and economic activities would leave a positive impact on the overall development of the country. The operationalization of Gawadar Port and completion of development projects in the city would be a big achievement for the area“.

“CPEC is an important platform for Pakistan and all parties stand united on it. It is vital that provinces are taken into confidence as their partnership is of immense importance, “she added.

The committee was briefed that 19 projects were completed, 28 were under implementation and 41 were in the pipeline. The CPEC Chairman assured the committee that all projects would be completed in time within the stipulated and given timelines as they were finalised at the time of signing agreements.

While briefing the committee Chairman China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority said the transmission system of the railways would be replaced under ML-1 project. He said ECNEC had approved ML-1 project and railways transport share would increase from 4% to 20% after completion of the project. He said a large dry port would be set up at the site of Havelian. He said that railway engineers would be trained jointly with Russia, Germany and Britain.

Bajwa said that China was ready to provide 100 million dollars for the Prime Minister Housing Scheme. Senator Asad Ashraf said if 99 percent work of Orange Line Train project had been completed then why the project was not being inaugurated? Is there any political reason or technical reason for the delay in inauguration?

Chairman CPEC authority said there was no political reason for not opening the Orange Line Train. Some civil work needs were remaining and the project will soon be opened to the public.

In reply to a query, Chairman CPEC Authority said that fencing of 909km long border with Iran had already been started. The fencing of borders with Afghanistan and Iran would help reduce smuggling and the security situation would also improve, he added.

He said that Rashkai Special Economic Zone (SEZ) would be inaugurated soon. Mansehra Thakot Motorway would also be opened soon, he added.

Senator Sherry Rehman concluded by emphasizing the need for expediting work on the various projects related to power generation, agriculture, science and technology and communication infrastructure. She said, “We want CPEC to progress, and the development initiatives under this project need to be made inclusive by taking all on board as it is a game changer for the whole region.”