A review of CPEC’s 2 years in Imran’s regime
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has successfully completed its two years under the government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by Prime Minister Imran Khan. It shows the mettle to survive against all odds ranging from bureaucratic glitches, malicious international propaganda, economic and financial challenges, foreign pressures, and COVID-19 pandemic.
In August 2018, Imran Khan expressed his resolve to CPEC’s robust traction. In August 2020, he is committed to taking CPEC to its new heights. During the two years, both CPEC and Imran Khan have been exposed to many adversaries but both stayed afloat.
The saga of phenomenal development has silenced all malicious critics. Malignant campaigns run amok, branding CPEC as debt trap and Imran’s government as incapable. As a matter of fact, a series of mala fide utterances were proven false.
During two years, CPEC played an anchoring role in fixing economic gray areas, mitigating electricity woes, rolling out the construction of dams, creating thousands of jobs, laying down network of roads, revamping ICT, fostering agriculture structure on modern lines, plugging up infrastructure gaps, making progress on health corridor, opening up new avenues for the blue economy, intensifying development of Gwadar port, initiation of Afghan transit trade and medical cooperation & assistance to control coronavirus devastation.
Driving force behind the glories were the establishment of CPEC authority headed by Lt Gen ® Asim Saleem Bajwa, reconstitution of the 15-member business council by Board of Investment (BOI), China Pakistan Free Trade Agreement-II (CPFTA) Pakistan, tangible progress on SEZs, a framework on modern farming, Diamer Basha dam and ML-1 Railway project.
The critical analysis of CPEC role in generating inexpensive and environment-friendly electricity during two years reveals many success stories. In terms of energy that plays a dominant role in the economic development and is also a fundamental part of any nation’s economy, Pakistan’s first joint venture CPHGC’s Hub coal-fired power plant producing 1320MW started its operation last year.
Before 2018, hydropower projects were not prioritized, forcing Pakistan to produce costly electricity and spend billions of rupees on imported oil. CPEC changed the dynamics with the launch of hydel power projects in two years. Recently, Kohala, Azad Pattan hydro projects to produce1800 MW with creating 8000 jobs have been launched. Prime Minister Imran Khan personally unveiled construction work of the mega hydroelectric project, the Diamer-Bhasha Dam. The hydel power project would produce 4,500 MW of affordable, environmentally-friendly electricity and along with boosting the cement and steel industry sectors. The project would also generate around 16,000 jobs in the country.
Lt Gen (RETD) Asim Bajwa said that since the day he joined CPEC authority as Chairman, PM Imran Khan directed Asim Bajwa to take CPEC on the next stage with clear instructions that if any hitch were found in the execution of CPEC project, approach him directly.
In order to accelerate mass industrialization, three SEZs have been prioritized in two years. They are Rashakai Economic Zone, Allama Iqbal Industrial City, Faisalabad, and Dhabeji Special Economic Zone.
Expressing views on Industrialization, CPEC chairman said that SEZs would provide mass jobs and have a positive impact on the economic uplift of the public. Allama Iqbal Industrial City Faisalabad groundbreaking is already done. Rashakai SEZ will see development agreement in the third week of August. The opening tender of Dhabaji SEZ is on the way.
Regarding Eastern Routs, Multan to Sukkhar section has been completed and one section left is Sukkar to Hyderabad. Gladly its construction work has been approved two or three weeks back. Similarly, on the Western route, two portions have been started already and two more sections are left. One of them will be taken to the JCC meeting if approved. Later only one will be left to take up. These routes will pass through remote areas of Balochistan that will help uplift those areas’ economies and will play their role to mobilize all logistics from China to Gwadar and Vise Versa.
During the two years, CPEC has put great emphasis on Port infrastructure. Besides Karachi Port Trust and Port Qasim, there are also other ports that need to be developed. Keti Bandar is one of them about which Sindh government has proposed to CPEC for development. Gwadar Port, being a sister and supporting port, has become operational already. Other infrastructure projects next to the port are free zones of 24 hundred acres, which is also currently under development.
As far as CPFTA-II is concerned, the duty-free export of 313 tariff lines has provided a huge opportunity for Pakistan to decrease the trade deficit with China. The local exporters now had a big opportunity to capture the Chinese market.
New Optical fiber cable has been operationalized from Khunjrab to Islamabad under CPEC. In the next phase, the cable will be laid from Islamabad to Karachi & Islamabad to Gwadar as part of the “Digital Highway Plan”. The project is completed with the support of China, which is vital for revamping and revolutionizing the IT sector in Pakistan.
During the two years, Gwadar port has officially been operationalized. Pakistan has begun transit trade to Afghanistan via the Arabian Sea, which offers a much shorter overland link, particularly to southern regions of Afghanistan, for the rapid delivery of goods.
Another milestone achieved when Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved ML-1 at the cost of US$6.8 billion a few days back.
Yasir Habib Khan, the author, is a Special Correspondent of Gwadar Pro. He is also president and founder of the Institute of International Relations and Media Research (IIRMR).