The Railways Ministry on Friday apprised the Senate Special Committee on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that its projects would be launched in the financial year 2016-17.
The committee met with Senator Taj Haider in the chair at Parliament House where it discussed the western and eastern routes of the CPEC.
Senators Kamil Ali Agha, Ateeq Shaikh, Muhammad Usman, Mir Israrullah Khan, Jehanzeb Jamaldini, Nauman Wazir Khattak, Sirajul Haq, Farhatullah Babar, Osman Saifullah Khan, Balochistan Minster for Education, Secretary Railways Parveen Agha and Secretary Planning, Development and Reform Yousaf Naseem Khokhar attended the meeting.
The members of the Special Committee raised questions with respect to different sections of agreed routes, specifications of these sections compared to specific sections being built on the eastern route and completion of agreed route along with railways routes.
The Senators expressed their reservations regarding the CPEC projects, saying the government is hiding details of some projects from the committee as well as public.
Senator Ateeq Shaikh asked the Secretary, Planning and Development to identify the persons or ministries that are dealing with all these projects. He also sought information about loans as well as interest rates. He also questioned whether the Government of China will pay taxes after the completion of the CPEC.
In response to this question, Secretary P&D said it is the duty of Water & Power and Finance Ministry to share this information with the committee. The committee directed both ministries to attend next meeting of the Special Committee.
The members of the Senate Committee said that it is the fifth meeting of the committee and the general view is that this historic project is marred by a lack of communication knowledge, while the government is also giving irresponsible feedback. It is now necessary to call a meeting with the Prime Minster to which the NHA, P&D and other relevant ministries are also invited.
Secretary Railway Parveen Agha told the committee members that the project for railways line alongside the agreed western route is included in the transport plan of the CPEC. She explained the projects ML-1, ML-2 and ML-3 through which Gwadar would be connected to Havelian in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. She said the feasibility studies of some projects are under way and they would be completed in the next financial year.
The Secretary Railways said that in the short term, up-gradation of existing main Line (ML-1) from Karachi to Peshawar, in which 70 percent of railways traffic is located, including the existing line from Taxila to Havelian, and dry port new Havelian would be taken up.
She said that Midterm Line ML-2 is from Kotri to Attock (Dado, Layyia, Bakhar included). She said the new line for long-term (ML-3) is from Gwadar to Sukkur (Jacobbabad) and Quetta (Mustung) via Besima and from Quetta (Bostan) to Kotla Jam via Zhob and D.I Khan.
The members of the committee raised questions. They asked whether the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform formulated a mechanism and an industrial policy in connection with Chinese crude oil imports through the CPEC routes.
The Senators also suggested that an oil refinery is needed to be built in Balochistan. In response to this, the Secretary replied that it is a good idea and needs to be taken up with the Ministry.
Senator Farhatullah Babar said the Joint Co-ordination Committee was set up in August 13, 2013. Under the Prime Minster, an All-Party Conference (APC) accepted suggestions of all parties and it was the responsibility of JCC to follow and implement what was proposed in the APC.
Sirajul Haq of JI was of the view that there is a need of a joint committee comprising, among others, the four chief ministers to reach a consensus on that and several other issues related to the CPEC.
The members of the committee said that all MOUs and JCC minutes should be submitted with the Senate and National Assembly so that all misunderstandings and conflicts can be resolved.
They said that all four provincial chief ministers including representatives from Gilgit-Baltistan must be part of a Joint Committee for removing their concerns. The Senators were of the view that all MoUs have to be placed before the committee.
Balochistan Education Minister said that there is no development on CPEC projects insofar as his province is concerned. According to him, 78 projects are related to Balochistan but unfortunately still there is no development work on any project.
He said the provincial government is ready to assist federal government but it is delaying the project for nothing. The Senators were of the view that Balochistan is facing acute water shortage and people routinely steal water. In response to this, Taj Haider said they are going to figure out a report on this issue and will put it before the House.