Pakistan government evades questions on CPEC in Senate

Opposition parties in Pakistan on Friday walked out of the upper house of parliament, citing the government’s failure to address their key concern regarding the multi-billion China-funded projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), The Express Tribune reported

Jan 23, 2021
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Opposition parties in Pakistan on Friday walked out of the upper house of parliament, citing the government’s failure to address their key concern regarding the multi-billion China-funded projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), The Express Tribune reported. 

The CPEC Authority Ordinance, which was promulgated by the Pakistan government in October 2019, had lapsed as the government failed to pass the bill. In the ordinance, reportedly promulgated under China’s pressure, the government had created a powerful nine-member authority to look after, and expedite, several projects. The ordinance gave sweeping powers to authority and provided legal immunity to its members and other officials. 

Since the ordinance has lapsed in June 2020, Industry Minister Hamad Azhar said the planning minister was looking after the projects. Opposition leaders have  been criticizing the Prime Minister Imran Khan-led PTI for bypassing parliamentary oversight under the guise of the ordinance. 

For years now, China seemed wary of the delayed implementation of various CPEC projects and the lack of coordination among different agencies in Pakistan. In October 2019, just before his China visit, Imran Khan brought the CPEC Authority Ordinance to address these concerns. Khan also appointed powerful retired army general Lt. Gen Asim Bajwa as the chairman of the authority. 

Pakistani opposition leaders have been accusing the government of shifting the control of the CPEC to the military establishment from civilian control. Furthermore, ever since the ordinance lapsed, leaders are questiong the legality of the authority, 

On Friday, during question hour in parliament, Hammad Azhar, Pakistan’s Minister of Industries, said, “The government will soon bring the legislation to give legal cover to the authority.” 
 
Earlier, China, which planned investing around $62 billion in the CPEC projects across various sectors in the country, has repeatedly complained about the slow implementation of its projects. During the previous government also, these concerns were highlighted and became a flashpoint in the country’s media. 

Media reports indicated several leaders, across party lines, in Pakistan expressed their concern over unfavorable terms of contracts negotiated with Chinese firms. Many among them even supported the renegotiation of certain contracts.   

Given the united, and hostile, opposition under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) is directly taking on, what they call, the "selected prime minister" Imran Khan-led PTI government would likely find it difficult to pass any legislation regarding CPEC without addressing oppositions key concern.   

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