• Ahsan criticises previous PTI regime for ‘rolling back’ CPEC
• Says Gwadar airport to be operationalised by 2023 end
• ML-1 rail project to proceed with agreed parameters, funding
• International conference concludes

ISLAMABAD: Criticising the previous Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) regime for “rolling back” China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal on Sunday said that a new era of the corridor was set to begin with multiple projects related to agriculture, infrastructure and social-economic uplift of the country.

“A number of MoUs (memorandum of understanding) will be signed under CPEC during current visit of Chinese vice prime minister,” the minister said during a news conference.

“His visit will usher a new era of the CPEC,” he added. The minister also revealed that under-construction Gwadar Airport would be operationalised by the end of the current year.

Regarding the Main Line-1 (ML-1) rail project, also under CPEC, he said the project was also halted during the last government, but now China and Pakistan have agreed on the technical parameters, and finances will be allocated for it.

He said CPEC’s new phase will focus on promoting robust business-to-business and industrial cooperation between Pakistan and China.

Mr Iqbal said that China and Pakistan were celebrating the “Decade of CPEC,” and in this connection, Chinese Vice Prime Minister He Lifeng was visiting Pakistan to represent Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The vice premier’s visit, he said, held great significance and would help enhance economic and financial cooperation between the two countries.

Mr Lifeng, he added, had played a prominent role in China’s international economic relations and the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which CPEC is a flagship project. As the chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, Mr Lifeng was instrumental in planning and executing multiple CPEC projects in Pakistan.

Counting his government’s achievements under the mega CPEC project, the minister said, “During three years of our last tenure, we attracted over $25 billion investment under this flagship project, resulting in the production of around 8,000MW of electricity.”

He also highlighted how CPEC had transformed Thar Coal into a productive asset for Pakistan, which is a great source of cheap power generation. It also helped strengthen our road infrastructure, widening our motorway networks, and driving development in Gwadar.

Mr Iqbal said, “We had planned nine industrial zones in Pakistan under the mega CPEC project, but unfortunately, the previous government just ruined these futuristic initiatives.”

The minister emphasised how CPEC fostered broader cooperation between the two countries, leading to improvements in the education sector as well.

Highlighting the lucrative investment opportunities in Pakistan, the minister expressed gratitude to their all-weather strategic partner, China, for transforming Pakistan from a security state into an investment hub.

He also thanked Chinese workers and engineers for transferring technological skills to Pakistani youth through CPEC projects, stressing the need for collaboration and synergy between the two nations to pave the way for unprecedented opportunities and shared prosperity.

However, he regretted that CPEC’s gateway, Gwadar, had been severely neglected during the four-year tenure of the PTI government.

The government received an overwhelming response to the ten-year celebrations of the CPEC across the country, particularly after the two-day international conference held in the capital last week. The conference brought together esteemed participants with diverse expertise to delve into the socio-economic impact of the CPEC.

‘From Vision to Reality’

Separately, the two-day international conference on the “Decade of CPEC and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)” with the theme “From Vision to Reality” was organised by the Ministry of Planning Development & Special Initiatives in collaboration with the Chinese Embassy. The conference, which concluded on July 25, aimed to continue the implementation of the CPEC for the country’s prosperity.

The key objective of the conference was to gather policymakers, scholars, practitioners, and other stakeholders to exchange ideas and insights related to the economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical impacts of CPEC and BRI. The event saw active participation from hundreds of attendees worldwide, particularly from China, highlighting the achievements of the 10-year celebration of CPEC.

Various aspects were discussed during the conference, including the socio-economic impact of CPEC, opportunities for industry relocation, regional connectivity, technology transfer, cooperation for security, geopolitical implications, and maximising synergies in CPEC and BRI initiatives, as well as enhancing people-to-people connectivity.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2023

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