S. M. Hali
The disqualification of Mian Nawaz Sharif has left the stakeholders in the mega project China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) wondering what will be the impact of the ouster of Pakistan’s PM on CPEC. Will it suffer impediments; get derailed or continue at the same pace? Answers to these questions have been attempted to be answered here.
The positive aspect is the reaction from the Chinese side. Beijing termed Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification from public office as an “internal affair of Pakistan” and said that it will not impact China-Pakistan cooperative partnership involving ‘One Belt, One Road (OBOR)’ initiative, that includes China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as its “flagship” project.
It is a fact that Mian Nawaz Sharif and his government have invested heavily in CPEC but the redeeming factor is that PML (N) will continue holding the reins of the government. Nawaz Sharif has been replaced by an interim PM and perhaps in the long run, Shahbaz Sharif, who is the Chief Minister of Punjab and is privy to the mechanisms of the execution of CPEC, may hold the reins of the Government. More importantly, the government of Pakistan has put in place a mechanism to oversee the project to fruition, irrespective of political changes. Ministry of Planning and Development was tasked to supervise the smooth execution of the different energy and infrastructure projects under the CPEC framework since the two countries have evolved an institutionalized mechanism for the project monitoring and implementation.
Ahsan Iqbal, who was the Minister for Planning and development and is fully cognizant of the intricate details of the project, is likely to be reinstated to his former post with the advent of the interim and the formal Prime Ministers, as and when they take their oath of office and form their cabinets.
The project, besides being overseen by the Ministry of Planning and Development, is being watched by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on CPEC headed by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed.
The year 2017 is an important year for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor since it would enable Pakistan to witness new era of development with completion of CPEC early harvest projects. Sahiwal Coal Power project has been completed much ahead of its stipulated time, starting generation of 1330 MW of electricity, adding a number of energy projects under CPEC and non-CPEC will enable Pakistan to overcome the challenge of load-shedding.
Construction work on a number of projects in transport infrastructure sector is going on in full swing. These road projects would ensure not only connectivity within Pakistan and well-being of the people belonging to the underdeveloped areas but in the whole region, paving grounds for sustainable growth and inclusive development. The timely completion of these projects would be a success for the people of Pakistan.
Pakistan and China have signed framework agreement of Pakistan Railway Main Line-1 project, an initiative which would revolutionize transportation system in the country. This mega project, beginning this year, would completely upgrade rail system and the main track from Karachi to Peshawar, allowing Pakistanis to enjoy modern transport facilities.
New technologies are being introduced in infrastructure, transportation and engineering sectors due to CPEC projects. The Economic Corridor is helping Pakistan open new avenues of knowledge based economy as it has great opportunity to learn the state-of-the-art knowledge and technologies in transport sector. Pakistani universities and research institutes should tap those opportunities by making comprehensive planning in this regard.
In the Gwadar project, a number important mega projects are being fast tracked. Framework agreement of Gwadar Eastbay Expressway and grant agreement of international airport has been signed between China and Pakistan. Full-fledged construction work would commence on these projects within months. Work on water supply project in Gwadar to address the drinking water issue is being expedited. Gwadar Development Authority is working to revitalize the existing desalination plant at Karwat so that it can provide water to the local population during the summer season. The contract of the Gwadar Master City Plan has been signed. This project would develop Gwadar at par with international modern port cities like Singapore and Hong Kong.
It is also reassuring that Pakistan Army is fully committed to providing security to CPEC. The Armed Forces have deployed more than 14,000 troops to guard the security of CPEC projects and this will continue. The commitment to ensure the timely completion of CPEC by Army Chief in his address on occasion of the 90th anniversary of the foundation of PLA was reassuring. Successive army chiefs have sworn allegiance to the prosperity of Pakistan and vowed to ensure the successful and timely completion of CPEC.
India on the other hand has geared up its propaganda campaign against CPEC. This scribe participated in a number of TV Discussions on Indian TV Channels where CPEC especially China were being denigrated. It was an uphill task defending CPEC against the hostile Indian barrage. The number of video reports which Indian electronic media correspondents have prepared while operating under cover in Azad Jammu Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan are very damaging.
China may have declared Nawaz Sharif’s exit as an internal matter of Pakistan but the onus lies on the new incumbent holding the rein of power at Islamabad to reassure the Chinese that Pakistan remains fully committed to the scheduled fruition of all CPEC projects and China’s trust in the government and its investment to enhance the quality of life of average Pakistanis is not misplaced.