A long-term plan for the multi- billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will be approved by a joint cooperation council at a meeting next month, a senior Pakistani minister has said. Minister for Interior and Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal has directed all the stakeholders and provincial governments to firm up their projects and explore further options of mutual interest to be taken up at 7th Joint Cooperation Council (JCC) meeting, Dawn reported. He made the announcement while presiding over a meeting held here to review implementation of the ongoing CPEC projects and preparations for the future projects to be made part of the long-term plan.
The nearly USD 50 billion CPEC is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking southern Pakistan, and the Gwadar Port, to China’s restive Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region. India has been severely critical of the CPEC, saying the project violates its sovereignty as it runs through Pakistan- occupied Kashmir. This is the same long-term plan that Iqbal had said would be finalised during the One Belt One Road summit in May. He later promised that the plan would be made public once it gets finalised.
The progress review meeting on CPEC projects was attended by senior officials and representatives of provincial governments, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Gilgit- Baltistan, PoK and officials of the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad. The JCC is the apex decision-making forum on the CPEC that is jointly chaired by the planning and development minister and the vice chairman of National Development and Reform Commission of China. The meeting was informed about some obstacles to the Karachi Circular Railway project by the Sindh government. Iqbal directed the Ministry of Railways to resolve all outstanding issues relating to the project within a week.
The railways ministry was also directed to streamline work on the Mainline One project and finalise its financial arrangements at the earliest. Reviewing the progress of special economic zones (SEZs), the minister asked the provinces to complete feasibility studies of their respective SEZs by the first week of November in order to get tangible outcomes with respect to industrial cooperation. The Board of Investment was directed to review the feasibility studies so as to resolve any outstanding issue and ensure uniformity in the development pattern.
The board was also advised to undertake reforms for transforming the body into a modern investment agency to meet expectations of foreign investors. The minister said that relocation of labour-intensive industry from China would benefit Pakistan to seize opportunities for bolstering the local industry as it would create 85 million jobs. He said the Chinese side had been asked to fast-track implementation of projects in Gwadar and announced that the prime minister would soon perform the groundbreaking of Gwadar airport and 300 MW coal-fired power plant. Besides the power plant, the electricity transmission and evacuation project for Gwadar was also under implementation to facilitate the entire Makran coastal belt.