Prime Minister Imran Khan assured on Thursday of expeditious progress on projects falling under the umbrella of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), despite some relevant departments having faced difficulties due to the Covid-19 pandemic in the past.
The prime minister, who was addressing a ceremony held in Islamabad to mark the inauguration of a 600 kilovolt (kV) transmission line running between Matiari and Lahore, pointed out that the pandemic had stalled communications in many areas, led to travel bans and affected supply chains across the world.
Consequently, difficulties were also faced in the execution of CPEC projects, PM Imran explained, adding that the setback, however, was "temporary".
He expressed the hope that with vaccinations against the coronavirus picking up pace across the world, the coming waves of the pandemic would not be as intense as earlier ones and in turn, the work on CPEC projects would not be affected but expedited instead.
Earlier this month, a Senate panel had expressed concern over the slow pace of development on the CPEC and dissatisfaction being expressed by Chinese companies over the negligible progress in the last three years.
Presiding over a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development, its chairperson, Saleem Mandviwalla, had said that the Chinese were not satisfied with the pace of work on the CPEC and no progress on the portfolio had been seen during the last three years.
“They (the Chinese) are crying," Mandviwalla had said, adding the “Chinese ambassador has complained to me that you have destroyed CPEC and no work was done in the past three years."
However, Federal Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Minister Asad Umar had dismissed the reports a day after the Senate body's meeting.
He had rejected a perception that CPEC had been slowed down over the past three years and claimed that major work on the corridor projects had been completed during the tenure of the current PTI government.
Politicians ought to be careful while commenting on CPEC, Umar had said, adding that there was no bar on criticism and recommendations but CPEC should not be described like it had been “closed down, finished or destroyed”.
Without naming Mandviwala, the minister had said he was a seasoned person and could not be expected of speaking irresponsibly but perhaps he had been misled.
'State-of-the-art transmission line'
The Matiari-Lahore transmission line is one of the projects completed under the CPEC, dubbed "state-of-the-art" by PM Imran in his address on Thursday.
He said the project was officially commenced in 2013, but work on it had not been started until 2018.
"On this occasion, I congratulate all those involved in the speedy completion of this project over a course of three years," he added.
The prime minister said the project would help minimise line losses.
"One per cent line loss costs us billions of rupees ... and it is one of the reasons we are unable to meet electricity demand and end the problem of load shedding," he said, adding that this 886-kilometre-long transmission line would help address these issues.
In this connection, he further said that the scope of initiatives taken under the CPEC had now been expanded to cover electricity transmission.
"We started with [building] roads and power generation [schemes], and now have expanded the CPEC to further cover electricity transmission," he said. "In the next phase, we will move towards industrialisation, which will help with wealth creation and eventually, the repayment of debt."
According to state broadcaster Radio Pakistan, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong also spoke on the occasion.
He said the transmission line would "realise the safety and reliability of the grid system, optimise energy distribution of the entire country and lower the electricity cost", Radio Pakistan reported.
The Chinese ambassador added that the CPEC had made a significant contribution to the socioeconomic development of Pakistan.