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ISLAMABAD: A team of Chinese experts is due here in a few days to crystallise their country’s investment plans for Special Economic Zones (SEZs) of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

A preparatory meeting for the visit on Tuesday reviewed the availability of land and infrastructure and the investment plans.

The meeting, presided over by Minister for Planning and Development and Pakistan’s focal person for the CPEC, Ahsan Iqbal, was attended by representatives from the provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

Minister unimpressed with provinces’ plans to attract investment

According to sources, the minister was not impressed with the presentations made by the provincial governments to attract Chinese investment and asked them to come up with elaborate and marketable schemes for the zones to make them easy to understand and more attractive to investors.

The meeting was also attended by Board of Investment Chairman Miftah Ismail.

The provinces gave presentations regarding the prospective zones and the updated availability of facilities.

The meeting was told that nine SEZs would be set up in all the provinces and other regions. The federal government will set up two SEZs, including the development of an industrial park on Pakistan Steel Mills land at Port Qasim, near Karachi, and 1,500 acres is available for the purpose. The second SEZ will be in the Islamabad Capital Territory.

Fata, AJK, GB and the provinces will have one SEZ each.

The meeting was informed that the members of the Joint Industrial Working Group were due to visit Pakistan to discuss incentives for the investors and the feasibility of the SEZ sites. The group will visit the selected sites and decide if they are acceptable or need to be changed.

Punjab wants to set up a China Economic Zone along the M-2 motorway in Sheikhupura district, for which 5,000 acres has been acquired for a mix-industry establishment.

Sindh will establish its China Special Economic Zone at Dhabeji, 80km from the Karachi airport, and has acquired 1,000 acres.

The KP government informed the meeting that it had acquired 1,000 acres for the Rashakai Economic Zone, Nowshera. The site is located along the motorway and KP wants to set up fruit, food packaging, textile, stitching and knitting industries. It was reported that KP had completed the feasibility study of the SEZ that was under review of the chief minister.

Balochistan will set up an SEZ in Bostan and 1,000 acres has been acquired for the purpose, of which 200 acres has been developed so far. The site is located 23km from the Quetta airport on the N-50 highway. Availability of allied utilities like road and streetlights has also been ensured. The province wants to set up industries of fruit processing, agriculture machinery, pharmaceuticals, motorbikes assembly, chromites, cooking oil, ceramics, ice and cold storage, electric appliances and Halal food in the area.

Gilgit-Baltistan will establish an SEZ at Moqpondass and has acquired 250 acres for the purpose. AJK will establish an SEZ at Bhimber.

Officials from Fata said a boundary wall around the Mohmand Marble City had been erected. They said 60 per cent of the site was developed and the remaining would be completed by June next year.

The provision of gas and electricity to all the SEZs is the responsibility of the federal government and the meeting was informed that the sites were within reach and both the utilities would be available on demand. Local business

An official statement quoted the minister as saying that industrial development under the CPEC would not harm local industries and interests of the local business community would be safeguarded.

He instructed the authorities concerned to engage the local business community in the consultative process and said every care must be taken to protect the indigenous industries.

“Chinese investment will augment our industrial capacity through state-of-the-art technology and expertise, enabling our productivity” Mr Iqbal said.

He said the local businessmen should also engage their Chinese counterparts and develop joint ventures that would provide opportunities of transfer of knowledge and experience.

Mr Iqbal said energy and infrastructure projects were nearing completion, which had opened a new era of trade and industrialisation in Pakistan.

He said the CPEC had now entered a critical stage where industrial development would take place through development of the SEZs.

He said the world was passing through the fourth industrial revolution and automation and robotics would replace manpower. “At the moment, Pakistan has to take advantage from cheap labour and resources,” he added.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2017