Delay in Dhabeji industrial zone project irks CPEC Authority chief

Published December 27, 2021
A photo of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on CPEC Affairs Kha­lid Mansoor (L). — APP/File
A photo of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on CPEC Affairs Kha­lid Mansoor (L). — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on CPEC Affairs Kha­lid Mansoor has expressed displeasure over the delay in taking off of the ambitious Dhabeji industrial zone (DIZ) in Thatta and said that three other special economic zones (SEZs) that are part of the corridor project were near completion.

Mr Mansoor, who is also the chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority, told Dawn on Sunday that a judgement reserved by the Sindh High Court (SHC) on a petition challenging the award of a contract for developing the DIZ had further caused the delay in initiating the project.

The high court reserved its judgement on December 6 but has yet to announce it.

According to a notification, the winter holidays of the high court started from Sunday and will continue until Jan 9. “It is believed that the judgement will be announced after winter vacations of the court,” a senior official of Sindh Economic Zones Management Company (SEZMC) said.

The CPEC Authority has already submitted an official statement to the SHC, expressing satisfaction over the bidding process and that no irregularity had been committed in the award of the contract.

Petition in SHC challenging award of contract is also believed to have impeded progress

An SEZMC document shows the Dhabeji industrial zone will be declared a special economic zone later since it is a part of the CPEC.

The multibillion project will be developed under public-private partnership by the successful bidder Zahir Khan & Brothers (ZKB) and the Sindh government.

The project, spread over 1,500 acres, is being executed in a joint collaboration with the federal government, the Sindh government and the CPEC Authority to make it a hub of major economic activity in the province.

The Sindh government received bids of the project in February this year. After a two-month evaluation period, one of the bids was challenged and was declared “technically unfit”. Therefore, the provincial government decided to hold re-bidding in which ZKB turned out to be the successful bidder and was issued the letter of award by the provincial government.

The award of the contract was challenged in the SHC with the plea that SEZ rules had not been followed in awarding the contract.

However, SAPM Khalid Mansoor said the petitioner had challenged the award of the contract on “very weak grounds” and “it is unfortunate that the project is still in the doldrums”.

“It is totally absurd that Dhabeji is not the part of CPEC,” Mr Mansoor said while rejecting the claim of the petitioner.

The Sindh government is of the view that since the DIZ has not been given the status of an SEZ, the rules of special economic zones were not applied to it.

In a meeting on November 23 on development projects in Sindh, Prime Minister Khan expressed a desire that all economic zones, including the Dhabeji industrial zone, should be completed as soon as possible.

Sources said the successful bidder had not yet signed an agreement with the Sindh government amid litigation.

Under the contract, the successful firm will undertake designing, financing, construction, operation and maintenance of the Dhabeji industrial zone on a build, own, operate and transfer basis.

The DIZ is located near the port city of Karachi, some 35 kilometres from the M-9 motorway, close to seaports of Bin Qasim Port and Karachi Port.

According to the layout plan, the DIZ will have 130 heavy industries, 145 medium industries, 211 light industries, 82 warehouses, commercial area, office area, mosques, grid stations, roads, lanes, recreation areas, captive power generation facility and intake points for telephone, gas and electric utility companies.

Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2021

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