ISLAMABAD: The Senate’s Standing Committee on Planning and Development expressed fears on Tuesday that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could build or ruin Pakistan and its future if the country’s interests were not safeguarded and watched.
The committee urged the government to have everything in black and white with Chinese to avoid any misunderstanding between the two brotherly countries in future and form a panel of international and local experts to handle all aspects of the CPEC in a professional manner.
It observed that the government had so far failed to determine what benefits Pakistan would get when business and trade activities started on the CPEC.
“Everything should be very clear from day one so that Pakistan and its people get maximum benefits from the over $50 billion corridor project,” Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development Chairman retired Col Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi told Dawn after its meeting.
He said that the government should watch interests of Pakistan in the CPEC instead of putting everything in the lap of China.
“China is our brother, but business is business,” he said.
The chairman said that China was Pakistan’s brotherly country and thus all misunderstandings should be addressed. “Due to misunderstanding and ambiguity in the CPEC contracts China has moved courts about three different power projects,” he said.
He said the committee had met six times in the past, but the government had failed to tell the committee about any agreement between Pakistan and China to protect the interests of Pakistan.
Mr Mashhadi said that all relevant institutions must take the parliamentary committee on board while awarding CPEC-related contracts so that transparency and merit could be ensured.
He said that the CPEC should not become a deal like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation supplies under which huge lorries and tankers supplying goods to Nato forces in Afghanistan used Pakistan’s national highways and roads and ruined them, but the country got nothing in return for the damage they caused.
“Thousands of vehicles will cross the CPEC and there must be an agreement as to who will bear the roads and highways maintenance cost,” the committee’s chief said.
“It should also be made very clear as to who would get job opportunities in CPEC-related projects. Would Pakistani labourers and youth get jobs or mostly Chinese people would be engaged and get jobs in CPEC-related projects?” Mr Mashhadi asked.
The committee was informed that only Chinese industrialists would be allowed to set up their industries in the proposed economic zones along the corridor.
“Then where will be the benefit for Pakistan. Will the Chinese give us some share in their profit or pay taxes?” the chairman asked.
He said the government had failed to apprise the committee whether Pakistanis would be in the loop or out of it.
The chief of Jamaat-i-Islami, Sirajul Haq, endorsed the point of view of Mr Mashhadi and expressed similar fears regarding benefits for Pakistan in the CPEC.
The committee also expressed fears of a clash of culture between locals and Chinese as there would be a Chinatown in every city.
Another important aspect which came to the knowledge of members of the committee was that China would provide loans and grants for only three to four per cent of the entire investment in the CPEC.
“We were informed that Chinese banks will charge us more interest than any other international bank,” he said.
Earlier, the secretary of planning and development informed the committee that China would set up a power project of 300MW in Gwadar at a cost of $360 million besides constructing the Gwadar International Airport at a cost of $230 million.
Similarly, it would spend $144 million on a fresh water project in Gwadar.
Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2017