Muhammad Zahid Rifat
GREAT game changer China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, whose abbreviation CPEC has since become a household term in the country, is a long term programme of the two all-weather, most trustworthy friendly countries China and Pakistan.
The overall aim of CPEC is to act as a “Gateway of Prosperity” for both the countries as well as the region and even beyond. The Corridor as such focuses on opening various doors of prosperity in trade and marketing access, industrial development and global value chains, socio-economic development and poverty alleviation, agriculture modernization and marketing, Gwadar Oil City and blue economy, regional connectivity and third party participation. This will help in enhancing livelihood sources of the people, especially in the deprived regions of both the countries.
The CPEC will connect Gwadar Port of Pakistan to China’s north western region of Xinjiang through a network of highways and railways. Undoubtedly, the economic corridor is considered to be central to China-Pakistan relations stretching over 2700 kilometres from Gwadar to Kashgar. On the whole, the entire programme is expected to be completed in 15 years in short term 2015 to 2020, medium term 2021-25 and long term 2026 to 2030.
Under the CPEC, China is investing as much as $62 billion in various sectors in Pakistan in a phased manner. In the first phase of implementation of CPEC, better known as early harvest projects, priority was given to develop pre-requisites of CPEC to initiate the economic activities, more in Pakistan than in China. To this end, infrastructure development was the main focus. In order to realize the vision of CPEC in letter and spirit, the Corridor now is empathizing on areas which directly or indirectly contribute to the socio-economic uplift for the people of all regions without any discrimination throughout Pakistan. Industrialization and agriculture modernization are thus the preferred areas to bring about employment, enhance trade and earn foreign exchange.
According To information gathered by this scribe from official quarters concerned, it is a matter of satisfaction as well as appreciation by one and all to note that quite significant progress under the overall umbrella of CPEC has been achieved during the just ended financial year 2019-20.
Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) comprising the officials concerned at the appropriate high level of both the countries meets periodically in rotation in China and Pakistan to review the progress of ongoing projects and to include new ones as suggested by either side. 9th meeting of Joint Cooperation Committee was held on 5th November 2019. Prior to JCC meeting, PM Imran Khan had paid a very productive visit to China in October 2019 to expand the scope of CPEC. Projects mainly in the petroleum sector were identified and discussed with Chinese side for inclusion in CPEC. Moreover, two more joint working groups on Science and Technology and Agriculture were formed and duly notified in the second half of the last financial year.
Energy projects under CPEC have made progress during the period under report 2019-20. Two energy sector projects namely Engro Thar Power and Mine project (660 MW) and HUBCO Coal Power Project (1320 MW) were commissioned on July 10, 2019 and August, 14, 2019 respectively. Accordingly, ground breaking ceremony of Gwadar 300 MW Coal Power project was held on November 4, 2019. Moreover, financial close was also achieved for HUBCO Thar Coal Power Project (Thar Energy) on January 30, 2020.
Work on the other energy projects such as Sukki Kinnari (870 MW), Karot Hydropower Project (720 MW), HVDC and 660 KV Matiari –Lahore HVDC Transmission Line projects etc is in progress in a satisfying manner as per their schedule. Substantial progress was also reported to have been made on Tripartite Agreements of 1124 MW Kohala and 700 MW Azad Pattan Power Projects were other key milestones achieved during the period under report.
Infrastructure sector projects have also achieved significant progress during 2019-20. Peshawar-Karachi Motorway (Multan-Sukkur Section) was inaugurated on 5 November 2019. The Karakoram Highway (KKH) Phase 11 Havelian-Thakot (118.5 KM) project, Havelian-Mansehra section was inaugurated on 18 November 2019 by Imran Khan. From Mansehra onward to Thakot section has been completed and is likely to be inaugurated soon.
Work also commenced on New Gwadar International Airport in October 2019. Orange Line Metro Train Project in Lahore is another key project and ready for its formal inauguration. Remarkable progress has also been achieved on ML-1 Project. Financing Committee from both countries has already been notified and it has held several meetings to finalize the concessional financial modalities for the mega project.
Regarding cooperation on the industrial front, ground-breaking of Allama Iqbal Industrial City in Faisalabad was held on 3 January 2020. Concession Agreement and Development Agreement for Rashakai SEZ was also finalized during first half of 2019-20 whereas Bostan SEZ has also been notified as yet another CPEC Special Economic Zone.
Under the Socio-Economic framework in CPEC, four projects namely Provision of Cold Chain Vaccine Storage Equipment, Poverty Alleviation Training Project, Provision of Emergency Relief Supplies for Enhancing National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Disaster Preparedness Capacity at Islamabad and Karachi and Pakistan Vocational and Training Education Capacity Building Project have since been completed during the period under report 2019-20.
Another six projects including Smart Classroom projects for Higher Education, Maintenance and Renovation of 50 schools in newly merged districts of KP, Upgradation of Gwadar Hospital, Vocational and Technical Institute and 1.2 MGD Desalination Plant at Gwadar and Overseas Scholarship Programme are under implementation and at various stages of their completion.
This will give the readers an overview of progress and development being made under overall CPEC umbrella in different sectors ushering in an era of prosperity and alleviating poverty and unemployment in Pakistan in a satisfying manner despite obstructions and criticism by some regional and international countries against this great economic project in furtherance of their persistent hostile attitude and containment of increasing influence of China in the region. This is despite the fact that top leadership of both China and Pakistan have persistently and emphatically have been saying that CPEC is not against any country whatsoever.