ISLAMABAD - China has declined to include the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s priority CPEC special economic zone of Rashakai in the first phase of special economic zones (SEZs) development and instead decided to start work on Hattar Industrial Estate (Extension II) as first priority.

“After detailed analysis during the meeting of 2nd Joint Working Group (JWG) and 7th JCC in November, 2017 in Islamabad, Chinese side informed the Chinese enterprises have expressed their intention to invest in M-3 Industrial Park, Faisalabad, Dhabeji Industrial Park of Thatta and Hattar Industrial Estate (Extension- II) of KP,” the planning ministry informed Council of Common Interest (CCI) last month.

According to the minutes of the CCI meeting, held in February, available with The Nation, it was disclosed that total of 14 SEZs list was shared, which includes two each from four provinces and federal government and one each from GB,AJK and FATA.

A Chinese industrial expert group visited Pakistan from July 10-14, 2017.The group visited proposed sites of SEZs in KP (Rashakai) and Punjab (M-2,M-3). On the Chinese demand, similar expert group was also constituted from Pakistan. Again a seven members Chinese expert group visited Pakistan from 11-18th October, 2017.The visiting experts conducted training workshop on SEZs in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad and shared Chinese experience of developing SEZs.

The Chinese experts group visited sites of SEZs in Sindh (Dhaveji,SEZ PSM), Punjab (M-2,M-3) and KP (Hattar). They have conveyed that these sites seem to have more advantages than other proposed sites of SEZs. Both the sites identified by the Chinese side having more advantages in Punjab and KP were alternate sites, the meeting was informed.

Keeping the interest of the Chinese side in SEZs of Punjab, KP and Sindh, following two proposals were submitted for consideration by CCI; Governments of Punjab,Sindh and KP be directed to submit their SEZs applications through provincial SEZ authorities for declaration of the M-3 Industrial Park Faisalabad, Hattar Industrial Extension-II, KP and Dhabiji Industrial Park Thatta, duly completed in all respects under the provisions of SEZ act 2012, to BOI. The CCI was also requested to direct Power Division, Petroleum Division, Ministry of IT and others to provide services to the zero points of the three proposed SEZs in line with the requirements of SEZ Act 2012.

During the CCI meeting, Chief Minister KP Pervez Khattak was of the view that they were interested in SEZ at Hattar and demanded that SEZ at Rashakai may be included in CPEC as it was the interest of the province to develop SEZ at Rashakai. Moreover Chinese had also promised to include Rashakai in CPEC, he said. KP had already allocated land for setting up SEZ at Rashakai, he added. He said that the provincial government had also planned a 250 MW power plant at Rashakai.

Minster for Planning, Development and Reforms informed the meeting that it was purely private investment from the Chinese and it was their decision to include a site in CPEC. He said that the provinces don’t have bankable proposals/documents for establishment of SEZs. We have to present bankable documents before private investors to convince them to make investment, he added.

Finance minister Punjab informed that the provincial government has already allotted 900 acres of land for SEZ on M-3 in Faisalabad and was ready for inauguration subject to availability of electricity and gas. She requested for inclusion of M-2 in first phase of CPEC for which 1500 acres of land was available.

The CCI considered the summary of BoI regarding the first phase of SEZs and directed the provinces to submit their feasibilities to the BoI. It was also directed to the provinces to submit the feasabilities of the remaining SEZ for the inclusion in second phase.

However, when contacted, an official of the Planning ministry, who requested not be named, told the scribe that nothing has been finalised yet as KP government request for including both Hattar and Rashakai as one zone in the first phase is still under consideration. However, the official said that there is little chance that the demand of KP government will be accepted as there is a condition of only one SEZ during the initial phase. A Chinese industrial expert group is currently visiting Pakistan and they have visited SEZ sites in Baluchistan, Karachi and GB, the official added.