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Government fails to satisfy opposition over CPEC issues

By Syed Irfan Raza 2016-10-27
ISLAMABAD: The government could not satisfy the opposition members about its plan to overcome the electricity crisis and CPEC`s western route in the Parliamentary Committee on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The committee, which met on Wednesday, was briefed on electricity to be generated through CPEC projects, its western route and improvement of the railway system.

Representatives of the opposition parties raised a question about the fate of the route between Dera Ismail Khan and Khunjerab, complaining that no worl( had been done in the area, although construction of the western route from Burhan, near Islamabad, to D.I. Khan was progressing.

`Officials concerned could not satisfy us as to why work has not started on the remaining portion of the western route,` Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) chief Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao told Dawn after the meeting.

The officials, he said, insisted that the government was giving priority to the western route despite the fact that except road, no other facility like power plants, railway lines and economic zones had been planned along the corridor so far.

National Highway Authority (NHA) chairman Shahid Ashraf Tarar briefed the committee on the construction of the western route and claimed that the policy guidelines of conferences of political parties held on May 28, 2015 and Jan 15 this year were being fully implemented.

He said the western route was being given prior-ity and would be completed by August 2018.

Regarding the government`s claim that an additional 10,000 megawatts of electricity would be injected into the national grid by 2018, Mr Shaerpao said members of the opposition parties were of the view that except Punjab, all other provinces, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, had a weak power distribution system and lacked the capacity to bear the additional load and supply it to consumers.

Interestingly, the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development was informed on Oct 17 that the Gadani power project had been shelved because of the lack of a dedicated jetty, thus 6,000MW of the 10,000MW would not be added to the grid.

Senator Shibli Faraz of the Pakistan Tehreek-iInsaf (PTI) gave Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal some written questions about the western route and power generation.

The minister said the answers would be provided by Nov 1.

According to a statement issued by the committee`s chairman Mushahid Hussain Syed after the in-camera meeting, Mr Iqbal informed the members that the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC), an apex body on the CPEC, would hold its 6th meeting in Beijing on Nov 28-29. Meetings of the joint working groups will be held in early November.

The minister said five joint Pakistan-China workshops would be held to learn from the Chinese experience in urban and rural development, poverty alleviation and industrial parks.

He said that in accordance with the directives of the parliamentary committee, representatives ofall the provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan would be invited to the JCC meeting in Beijing.

Senator Mushahid Hussain said: `The CPEC should move forward with full consensus, transparency and inclusive development, particularly that of the less developed areas like Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and GB.

Mr Iqbal said a regional power grid for GB was being established and there were also plans for tourism at Attabad lake, laying an optic-fibre cable on the Khunjerab-Islamabad route, taking initiatives for mining, setting up hydroelectric power projects, upgrading the Karakorum Highway and opening an engineering university and a medical college.

`Every province will have a special industrial zone under the CPEC,` he was quoted as saying.

The minister briefed the committee on his recent visit to China, along with Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq, where a decision was taken for upgrading and dualising the mainline tracks from Karachi to Torkham at an estimated cost of $8 billion with China`s concessional loan of $5.5bn.

GB Chief Minister Hafiz Hafeezur Rahman, who attended the meeting on special invitation, said the region had the potential to generate over 30,000MW, which should be harnessed.

The secretary for water and power briefed the committee on national power transmission lines and the committee asked the National Transmission and Dispatch Company to provide, in the next meeting, details of the new projects, including their locations, completion time and capacity.