CPEC Committee fails to resolve government-army differences

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ISLAMABAD: The Parliamentary Committee on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on Monday failed to resolve the government-military differences on the powers and deployment of Special Security Division (SSD).

The committee meeting was headed by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed. The body was briefed by the Interior Ministry on security of CPEC and various steps the government had taken to protect Chinese workers. The committee was informed that 15,000-strong force, comprising of 9,000 regular army soldiers and 6,000 para-military troops, would form the Special Security Division that has been entrusted with the duty of protection of Chinese personnel and projects under the CPEC. The ministry also informed the body that the division is not a standalone arrangement but it is interlocked with provincial police. All provincial governments were called by the federal government on terms of deployment of the SSD. The committee conveyed its concerns on delay and recommended the government to convene a meeting of all provincial governments to finalise terms of reference (TORs) on priority basis.

The body chairman also presented a report of the committee’s visit to Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and said that GB is the entry point of the CPEC from the Chinese province of Xinjiang into GB. Hence, GB must be given top priority in promoting development in various sectors. The chairman said a meeting would be called in which the GB chief minister will be invited to interact with the Planning and Development Ministry so that the projects of GB are pushed swiftly and substantially.

Briefing the committee on role of the Commerce Ministry, the policy and planning additional secretary said the ministry is negotiating Phase-II, China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (CPFTA) which covers goods, services and investments. Using Pakistan-China FTA Phase-II, the Tariff Reduction Modality (TRM) can be linked with guided investment from China into the manufacturing sector in CPEC. There have been various efforts at investments from China in auto, textiles and electronics in Pakistan. FAW Dongfeng group is manufacturing pickups and vans. They have also set up a new plant to manufacture 1300CC cars. Haier is assembling laptops and mobile phones. There is also a new joint venture in knitwear in Faisalabad, the first in the textile sector from China. Pakistan has to position itself to attract investment from China in labour intensive sectors, including textiles, garments, footwear and paper, as rising labour costs have led to decline in China’s competitiveness.

To various questions regarding Survey Report on Wind Power Generation Capacity in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the representative of Water and Power Ministry said the Alternative Energy Development Board has boosted the efforts on the already taken steps and measures for the development of wind and solar energy in these provinces. Wind and solar resource assessment is already being carried out in Balochistan and KP along with other parts of the country through energy sector management assistance programmes of the World Bank. Under the programme, a total of 12 wind measuring masts are being installed in different parts of the country where potential for wind power generation has been identified through satellite data analysis so that renewable energy projects can be promoted.

The additional secretary also briefed the committee on the visit of the planning and development and railways ministers to China to prepare a $8 billion comprehensive plan for the upgrading and dualisation of Pakistan Railways from Karachi to Peshawar under CPEC.

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