LAHORE - The China-funded Lahore orange Line Metro Train project is becoming enigmatic on account of conflicting stand adopted by the provincial and federal authorities.
The Lahore High Court hearing a petition on the woes created by this mega project to the citizens, on Thursday learned that this multi billion project is a part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
This statement made by lawyer for Lahore Development Authority (LDA) stands in conflict with the earlier statement made publicly by the federal government that the same belongs to the Punjab government and it had nothing to do with the CPEC.
Some important questions relating to $46billion CPEC project would come up in case account is accepted that Lahore orange Train is also a part of it. Given the background reservations expressed by Khyber PK and Balochistan about the route of the CPEC equipped with all facilities, it may exacerbate the situation. Why not other provinces were bestowed this favour and why only Lahore, capital of Punjab, has been picked up for this Rs162billion enterprise?
This may crop up as main query with likelihood of pressing demand by other provinces to the federal government for sharing information of the project on paper with them which make the prime minister to play a role again to clear the confusion like he did in the event of the CEPC route and its completion of western route on priority.
The court has called for the Punjab government to come up with a precise stand on what LDA counsel submitted.
However addressing this point, Federal Minister for Planning and Development, Ahsan Iqbal while talking to the scribe said that Metro Train is totally a project of the Punjab government and not a single penny of the federal government is involved therein.
The Punjab government obtained soft loan from the Chinese bank which will be paid back in 25 years, he said adding, the Punjab government will appear with clear stand before the court on Monday.
An agreement was signed between the government and Exim Bank of China at Chief Minister’s Office, last days for the provision of funds for Lahore orange Line Metro Train Project. The ceremony was also witnessed by CM Shahbaz Sharif.
Notably the agreement was signed by Federal Secretary Economic Affairs Tariq Bajwa and Vice President of Exim Bank Sun in the presence of Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar, Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Charge d affaires of Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, Pakistani Ambassador in China Khalid Masood, and others.
Federal Secretary inked the agreement that strikes a question in mind whether loan has been obtained by the Federal Government or it entered the scene only to perform a mandatory requirement of reaching state to state agreement in help of the Punjab government? This query is also expected to be satisfied before the court.
On paying the loan amount which reportedly would attract 2.5 per cent per annum interest over the next 25 years, Ahsan Iqbal told this scribe that the amount would be paid back by the Punjab government possibly from the outlay of its Annual Development Programme.
In this perspective the ownership of the project obviously goes to the Punjab government but the picture will be clear before the court only.
It may be recalled that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif after initialing discussing the project with the Chinese authorities during a visit he undertook with Prime Minister in 2014, held separate visits to China to finalise nitty-gritty of the Metro Train Project which is fast under completion on 27kms track in the city.
Metro Train a unique project in the history of the country, will commute 250 passengers daily. The project was conceived in 2014 keeping in view the next 10 to 15 years travelling needs in the city when roads will run short to accommodate the traffic load caused from increased in population which at presence stands at more than 10million with growing urbanization. The project which stands 20 per cent complete, will be operational by the end of next year.