ISLAMABAD: In a significant development, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday appointed Khalid Mansoor as his special assistant on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) affairs after which CPEC Authority Chairman retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa quit his position.

The government believes that Mr Mansoor, having a vast experience of working as head of several organisations, would lead the second phase of the CPEC to be focused on industrial cooperation in a better way.

After departure of Mr Bajwa, the post of CPEC Authority chairman has fallen vacant and it is expected that Mr Mansoor will be given an additional charge of this office in the days to come.

Interestingly, the government replaced Gen Bajwa with Mr Mansoor but the reasons for the sudden change were not made public.

Minister says Khalid Mansoor has vast corporate experience and has done extensive work with Chinese firms

When contacted, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said he did not know the reasons for the change. “You better ask Asad Umar (federal minister for planning and development) about it,” he added.

Mr Umar could not be contacted for comments despite attempts.

A source close to Mr Bajwa said he preferred to leave his office when the prime minister appointed Mr Mansoor as his assistant on CPEC because the former was of the view that two persons working on the same job was not appropriate by any means.

The source said that following his resignation, Mr Bajwa has been offered to serve as a head of some other organisation but he had yet to decide about it.

It has been learnt that the credit to establish CPEC Authority goes to Mr Bajwa after which CPEC projects were expedited and work on Special Economic Zones was geared up.

A notification issued by the PM Office (PMO) said Mr Mansoor had been appointed as special assistant to the PM on CPEC affairs with immediate effect. The appointment will be in an honourary capacity, it added.

Mr Bajwa announced his departure in a tweet, saying Mr Mansoor was “fully equipped” to lead the authority in the future. “I bow my head before Allah Almighty for giving me an opportunity to raise and steer the important institution of CPEC Authority as one window for all CPEC projects, charting the future direction,” he said, adding that his work “wouldn’t have been possible without full confidence and support” of Prime Minister Khan and his government.

“The course is set for future progression of CPEC, this journey will go on. My best wishes to Khalid Mansoor sb, who is fully equipped to take it forward.”

Mr Bajwa termed the CPEC a “lifeline for Pakistan”, saying it would “transform us into a progressive and fully developed country”.

The government had appointed Gen Bajwa as chairman of the CPEC Authority in November 2019 amid the opposition’s criticism over formation of the authority. Earlier, he was appointed as special assistant to the PM on information and broadcasting in April 2020. He resigned from that position in October last year after some media reports about his and his family’s businesses which he denied. However, the prime minister asked him to continue to serve as CPEC Authority chairman.

Gen Bajwa had served as commander of Southern Command before his retirement from the army. He had remained director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations from 2012 to 2016.

Asad Umar paid tribute to Mr Bajwa for his services “in moving CPEC forward and playing a vital role in broadening of the CPEC scope with a transition to second phase of CPEC”.

The minister welcomed Mr Mansoor as the special assistant to the prime minister for CPEC affairs.

Mr Umar praised the newly appointed SAPM with some compliments saying his “vast corporate experience, with extensive work with Chinese companies and his direct involvement in leading some of the biggest CPEC projects makes him an ideal person to lead the next phase of CPEC.”

Mr Mansoor has more than four decades of experience in energy and petrochemical sectors in leading roles for mega-size projects’ development, execution, management and operations. He recently re-joined the board of the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) as a director, according to his profile available on Engro Energy’s website.

Mr Mansoor, who holds a degree in chemical engineering, served as chief executive of the Hub Power Company Limited (Hubco) and is the chairman of Laraib Energy Limited, a subsidiary of Hubco.

He has also previously held the position of chief executive officer of Algeria Oman Fertiliser Company and prior to that, remained the president and CEO of Engro Fertilisers Limited, Engro Powergen Qadirpur Limited, Engro Powergen Limited and SECMC, the profile says.

He has also held various key assignments at Engro and Esso Chemicals, Canada, serving as a director on the boards of Engro Corporation, Engro Fertilisers Limited, Engro Polymer and Chemicals Limited, Engro Foods (Pvt) Limited, Engro Vopak Terminal Limited, EPQL, EPL and SECMC.

According to an official press release,

Mr Mansoor is a well-known business leader and has served as president of the Overseas Chamber of Commerce of Industry. He has also worked closely with international financial institutions, like the World Bank, International Finance Corporation, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, Asian Development Bank and OPEC Fund for International Development as well as Chinese financial institutions such as China Development Bank, China Exim Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Sinosure etc.

Speaking to Dawn, Mr Mansoor said he’d try to encourage new joint ventures with Chinese companies for economic revival (of Pakistan) and creation of jobs. “We’ll bring new investment from China. We must ensure that Chinese companies already operating in Pakistan are facilitated,” he said.

Asked if he’d hold the chairmanship of the CPEC Authority in addition to his cabinet-level appointment, he said: “Hopefully, yes.”

He dispelled the impression that the pace of progress in the multi-billion-dollar CPEC had slowed down in recent years. “A majority of new power projects, including the ones on Thar coal, are under CPEC,” he said, praising the work done by Mr Bajwa.

Kazim Alam in Karachi contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2021

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