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‘We need to amend our labour laws to protect the rights of our labour’

April 16, 2018

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The many participants in the seminar on Saturday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
The many participants in the seminar on Saturday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: “What are the clauses, terms and conditions of agreements with the Chinese? Suppose I default anywhere, which court would I be dragged into? And not just me, the investors, too, need to know how to secure their investment and which court would be resolving their disputes,” said retired Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, director general of the Sindh Judicial Academy, at a seminar on ‘The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Related Laws, Their Importance and Enforcement’ organised by Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto University of Law (Szabul) at a hotel here on Saturday.

He further asked if the local labour, which may not be very skillful, will enjoy the same rights and protection as foreign labour. “We need to amend our labour laws to protect the rights of our labour,” he said. “Have we also looked at environment protection?” he further said.

“I am a citizen of my country where I pay taxes. I reserve the right to know about all these things. Why keep them a secret from me?”

CPEC-related laws, their importance and enforcement discussed

Earlier, Szabul Vice Chancellor Qazi Khalid Ali had said that when two countries enter an agreement of such a high magnitude such as CPEC, there is a need for applicable and acceptable comprehensive laws for both nations.

Focussing further on the law aspects of CPEC, Dr Mohammad Raheem Awan, secretary, Law Justice Commission of Pakistan, said the ignorance of law as far as CPEC is concerned will not be excused. “Foreign investors are drawn to Pakistan because of our location. Pakistan serves as the shortest route to get to Iran, Afghanistan, India, China and the Middle East for trade,” he said while counting the other reasons which attracts investors to this country. “There are our natural resources with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan having huge mining potentials, our cheap labour, agriculture and great market, too,” he said.

“So these foreign investors are not coming here just because they are friends with Pakistan and love us very much.”

Giving his insight, Advocate Anwar Mansoor Khan said that there were many discrepancies in the present logistics agreements between Pakistan and China, which would raise diverse policy issues and conflicts of law.

“You need coordination and cooperation between institutions here. The treaties do not seem equipped to handle the traffic of CPEC. They are not in line with international trade laws, composition laws and land acquisition laws,” he said, adding that all these documents should be made public for future investors.

Joining the discussion through Skype, Naheed Memon, chairperson, Sindh Board of Investment, said the current stage of CPEC focuses on industry bringing up lots of responsibilities on the private sector in Pakistan. “Right now we need to focus more on an export-oriented industry because after special economic zones and facilitation, which is the government’s responsibility, the rest falls on the shoulders of the private sector here,” she said.

Majyd Aziz, president, Employers’ Federation of Pakistan, pointed out that Pakisan may not be completely ready for a $62 billion investment such as CPEC. He also said that China’s project is not just limited to Pakistan with their working on six other such corridors for trade. “But CPEC happens to be the mother of all these projects with the Gwadar port as the linchpin,” he said while adding that the business committee here does appreciate the investment as they also are always inviting foreign investors to come to Pakistan. He also pointed out that China does not look at the micro things, they look at macro things but we here in Pakistan have to look at all aspects.

Sumera Nazeer Siddiqui, secretary, Federal Board of Investment, Government of Pakistan, said that CPEC would see Pakistan benefiting more than China. “There are many things which China would do but there are also many things which Pakistan would do as a part of CPEC. For instance, China is a great manufacturer but they are poor in branding, which we can do for them. It will be like a fusion,” she said, adding that all provinces of Pakistan will be included in CPEC.

Akbar Durrani, federal secretary, Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, said CPEC is not a game changer it is in fact a fate changer. “There is a Chinese saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, Pakistan has taken that step, therefore, it is not right to spread false assumptions about it that it will sideline the local people for the purpose of sabotaging the project,” he said.

Shoaib Siddiqui, federal secretary, Planning Development and Reforms, said CPEC is an agreement between two time-tested friends which has inspired confidence in the nation. He advised all Pakistanis to study the CPEC project and said that there are CPEC cells set up in some universities of the country now as the Chinese language is also being taught here as Urdu is being taught in China. He also said that after the 1973 Constitution, CPEC is the only programme that has brought together all Pakistanis. “Everyone here is excited about it and committed to it so much so that even nationalist leaders are committed to it because everyone knows that it is definitely going to reap benefits,” he said, adding that those spreading wrong information about CPEC need to realise the harm they are doing to their own country.

Justice Irfan Saadat Khan, senior puisne judge of the Sindh High Court, said CPEC will boost the country’s economy by 2.25 per cent per annum while it is likely to generate a lot of jobs. He said that there were 16 economic corridor related development projects under way in Balochistan, eight in KP, 13 in Sindh and 12 in Punjab right now. He said that local infrastructure along the 3,000-kilometre corridor, which directly connects the entire country will also be improved as a result of CPEC. He said it was decided in the last meeting of the National Judicial Policy-making Committee, which was held with Chief Justice Mian Saquib Nisar in the chair, that no stay order would be allowed in any CPEC-related disputes without hearing the other party. He said special benches have been formed in the Supreme Court and all the high courts of the country to hear disputes emanating from CPEC.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2018