ISLAMABAD: Chairperson of the Senate’s Special Committee on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Sherry Rehman on Wednesday adjourned the meeting in protest against the absence of the minister concerned.

She said the absence of Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Khusro Bakhtiar reflected the government’s non-serious attitude towards one of the most important development projects in the country.

“The Chinese have complained that the present government does not have clarity on how to move forward with the CPEC. The Chinese are doing the jobs of the government’s ministries,” Ms Rehman said.

The Special Committee had met for a briefing on uninterrupted power supply to the industrial parks, export zones and towns by the power plants along the CPEC, laying of fibre optic cable along the routes and the latest position of investment by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Ms Rehman conveyed her concerns that Pakistan is lacking in clarity, coordination and communication with the Chinese government on the CPEC.

She complained that absence of ministers from most Senate meetings was becoming a norm. She gave the example of a meeting of the Senate Committee on Aviation, which was also adjourned after top officials did not attend it.

Similarly, last week chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior Rehman Malik refused to discuss the agenda related to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) after the Minister for Information Technology did not attend the proceedings.

However, the committee on the CPEC was informed that the Minister for Planning and Development could not attend the meeting as he was engaged in a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet.

Describing the Special Committee as an extension of the Senate and a higher forum than the ECC, members, especially Javed Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, maintained that the minister’s absence reflected government’s non-seriousness towards the project.

“We continue to show our eagerness to work and assist the government wherever it is facing difficulties but the rulers decline our offers,” Mr Abbasi said.

While Senator Dr Asad Ashraf urged the government to take constitutional meetings more seriously, Nuzhat Sadiq of the PML-N argued that the minister should have been there, especially when he had been notified about the meeting a week in advance.

Members strongly felt that a unique opportunity had presented itself in the shape of CPEC, one that could place Pakistan on the path to unprecedented growth.

“While China is committed to making progress on the CPEC, Pakistani government needs to reciprocate,” Ms Rehman said.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2019