ISLAMABAD: A proposal for a consultative forum on the pattern of apex committees is currently under discussion between the civil and military leaderships for trouble-free implementation of the crucial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), sources privy to the development told Dawn.
With such a forum, they said, effective implementation of the corridor project, described as a game-changer for the country, would become the collective responsibility of both the civil and military leaderships.
Following the launch of the National Action Plan against terrorism in December 2014, the apex committees were formed for regular exchange of views on achievement of NAP’s goals.
The basic concept behind the proposal, they said, was to create a forum exclusively for the CPEC where the stakeholders – provincial governments and the security establishment – could present their opinion to the executing authority, the federal government.
“The discussion is in early stages,” said a government official.
According to a senior security official, everybody in the country wants smooth execution of the CPEC because it will strengthen the country’s national security and its economy. “The suggestion is just to take everybody on board so that the fruit of the corridor genuinely reaches have-nots at the grassroots level,” he added.
But for Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal, the CPEC is going ahead in a smooth manner and there is no need of taking such measures.
“Frankly speaking, I am unaware of any such development. Secondly, military is already involved in CPEC because it’s responsible for its (corridor) security,” Mr Iqbal said. “And at the Planning Commission, we are very much open to suggestions from the provincial governments for the corridor’s best materialisation on ground,” he added.
But the government official, who didn’t want to be named, said that although the military was already involved in the CPEC by taking care of its security through a full division of army created for the purpose, the security establishment’s continued engagement would ensure successful implementation of the corridor.
The Planning Commission is the focal ministry for the CPEC on Pakistan’s side.
The proposal, according to another government official involved in CPEC’s implementation, came up because of concerns repeatedly expressed by the Chinese government at the highest level over lack of political consensus and guaranteed returns to the Chinese investors who will be investing billions of dollars in various projects.
The government has already deployed a large number of personnel of law-enforcement agencies for security of the Chinese. On a recent visit, Reuters reported on Sunday, a vehicle carrying Chinese visitors was escorted by two police cars and an army vehicle, while police blocked traffic at every crossroad along the route.
The official said that senior Chinese officials had conveyed concerns to President Mamnoon Hussain during his visit to China in December. And in January, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad, while noticing an increase in bickering among political parties, had to issue an unprecedented statement, saying, “China hopes that the relevant parties in Pakistan could strengthen communication and coordination on the CPEC to create favourable conditions for the project”.
The government official said: “By creating such a forum where all stakeholders can duly register their concerns for effective redressal will not only help the federal government for an evenly execution of the corridor, but also send a clear message to the Chinese investors about the safety of their investment.”
Further explaining the Chinese concern, a PML-N lawmaker who is also involved in the implementation of CPEC, said that most of the $46 billion investment promised for the corridor would be made in the energy sector for which investors needed all sorts of guarantees – of security and political stability.
“Yes, the ongoing political uncertainty with regard to the lack of consensus on the CPEC has caused serious doubts among the Chinese businessmen and, therefore, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if a certain forum is created where the parties concerned can give their input,” he said.
The lawmaker said that on several occasions in the past political parties had fallen in line on issues where the military was directly involved, and the army chief on many occasions had underlined the importance of the corridor for the country, “so why not have everybody on board for such a critical project”.
Launched after the Dec 2014 Army Public School carnage, the 20-point NAP was set in motion to combat terrorism in the country through collaborative efforts of the civil and military establishments at the federal and provincial levels.
A similar consultative forum is required for the CPEC, and “I think there is nothing wrong to have something on the same pattern”, the government official said.
Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2016