ISLAMABAD: The government has defended the necessity of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority which enhanced scope after inclusion of socio-economic, agriculture and industrial development, and third party participation.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Planning and Development met here on Tuesday to discuss the need for the government’s bill regarding the CPEC Authority, which was set up through a presidential ordinance on Oct 5.

Opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), have rejected the government’s act of setting up the CPEC Authority through the presidential ordinance.

The PML-N termed it an “illegal” move in violation of recommendations of the parliamentary committee concerned. PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal had said the establishment of the authority through the presidential ordinance was a “backdoor legislation” and his party would not accept it.

NA panel told rules for post of authority’s chairman have been formulated

Additional Planning Secretary Waqarul Hassan informed the NA committee about the requirement to strengthen institutional structure of the authority for future policy directions and utilisation of all available resources.

According to him, a retired lieutenant general had been appointed chairman of the CPEC Authority and rules for the position have been formulated. “Appointment rules for the post of chief executive officer, who will be from the Civil Service, executive directors and members [of CPEC Authority] are in process of formulation. These officials will be appointed by the prime minister,” he added.

Mr Hassan said the CPEC Authority would serve as an interface with the Chinese side for identifying new areas of cooperation and projects, besides facilitation, coordination and monitoring of CPEC-related activities. Apart from inter-provincial and inter-ministerial coordination, media management and narrative building, the authority would conduct sector-wise research for informed decision-making and long-term planning, he explained.

The committee considered recommendations for the authority’s legislation by the National Assembly. It said transfer of technology should be given priority while making any agreement with China or other countries.

The committee was informed that about 30,000 Pakistani students were studying in China in different disciplines. The committee recommended that the Chinese government might be approached to establish universities in Pakistan as it would save foreign exchange and enhance education capacity.

While MNA Abdul Shakoor suggested that the chairman of the CPEC Authority should be someone who could be held accountable, MNA Agha Rafiullah proposed removal of Section 12 from the Ordinance.

Section 12 reads: “Except as expressly provided in the this Ordinance, no suit prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the Authority, the chairperson, CEO, Executive Director, any Member, officer, members of staff, other employee, expert, consultant or adviser of the Authority in respect of anything done or intended to be done in good faith under this Ordinance, the rules or regulations.”

Government officials explained that Section 12 of the Ordinance protected the staff of the authority to carry out their duties without hindrances.

Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2020

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