Peshawar [Pakistan], 17 November (ANI): The COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing political unrest and foreign debt limits have resulted in a slowdown in Chinese investment in Pakistan as Beijing has suspended projects that are part of the USD 62 billion China-Pakistan Economy. Corridor (CPEC).
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose government has been criticized for being under military control, has also faced criticism at home for not prioritizing and accelerating China’s infrastructure investment, Asia Times reported.
In 2018, Khan had suspended several CPEC projects that were suspected of corruption by the previous government. However, two years later, several members of his cabinet were named in a major corruption scandal involving the country’s electricity sector. About a third of Pakistani power companies are involved in the China project under CPEC.
The 278-page investigative report, compiled by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and presented to Khan in April, uncovers alleged irregularities of more than USD 1.8 billion in subsidies provided to 16 independent power producers (IPPs) including those owned by Khan’s. advisers to Razak Dawood and Nadeem Baber, said Asia Times.
SCEP has also been investigating the profits made by Chinese power companies.
The report revealed that Huang Shandong Ruyi Pakistan Ltd (HSR) and Port Qasim Electric Power Co Ltd (PQEPCL) together paid more than 483.6 billion rupees (USD 3 billion).
The Democratic Movement of Pakistan (PDM), an alliance of 11 opposition parties, has demanded the government led by Imran Khan to speed up Chinese-funded projects, particularly a road and rail modernization plan that has barely progressed in the past five months. .
The PDM is also demanding the removal of the chairman of the CPEC Authority, retired Lieutenant General Asim Saleem Bajwa, until he explains his and his family’s personal business assets in the US.
Recently, a local media outlet exposed several Bajwa offshore businesses, including more than 100 companies and franchises in the US, UAE and Canada where his family is involved.
In 2019, the Prime Minister announced regulations to form a CPEC Authority (CPECA) prior to his visit to China and appointed a former lieutenant general as its chairman. Previously, the Ministry of Planning and Development used to oversee the CPEC project.
A Planning Ministry source told Asia Times that CPECA was imposed on the government by China, which wants soldiers to be directly involved in the CPEC portfolio because Beijing is reportedly annoyed by Khan’s slow movement on a broader scheme.
The sources further said that the recent disclosures of Bajwa’s offshore assets had taken China by surprise because they wanted to work with the Pakistani military to prevent private corruption.
Following the revelations, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s scheduled visit to Pakistan in September was postponed citing COVID-19 as an official reason.
Asia Times has reported that the CPEC Authority Ordinance grants CPECA chair and staff immunity from all legal proceedings against them, therefore, protecting them from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the police to institutionalize cases.
“The issue of the legality of the CPECA, the immunity of the chairperson from due process and the controversy over the family business abroad around the old chairperson in power are giving a bad impression and must be resolved to improve the efficiency of CPECA,” Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader and think tank chairman. tank Pak-China Institute told Asia Times.
He further said that PDM is concerned about the CPECA immunity clause.
Linking the postponement of the CPEC project to the coronavirus pandemic, he said, “In addition, the new Chinese Ambassador, Nong Rong, comes with a strong economic background which should be a driving force for CPEC.”
He further said that the PDM protests would not affect the progress of CPEC.
“Pressure is coming from Western and Western institutions – especially in Washington – on CPEC but Pakistan has shown a willingness, readiness and ability to withstand this pressure,” he added.
Because in recent weeks Chinese workers and engineers working in Balochistan and Sindh have been targeted and killed, the cost of providing round-the-clock security to Chinese nationals has increased the price of projects at a time when Pakistan’s economy is badly faltering, Asia Times said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has asked for a 1 percent interest rate on Chinese loans for the ML-1 rail project. China, however, was reluctant to heed the request and instead used a “delay tactic” to pressure Islamabad to continue accepting high interest rates.
Khan and Bajwa are now reportedly planning to take the matter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who they believe can dictate terms on loans from the Development Bank of China and the Export-Import Bank of China, in the hope that a deal can be reached on the railroad track, Asia Times. the word.
The CPEC Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC) review meeting, which is held monthly, is unlikely to complete the ML-1 project in the upcoming meeting even though Pakistan Railways Minister Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad stressed that the project is ready.
The Asia Times further reported that the Greater Peshawar Mass Transit Project, Swat Express Way Phase-II and Peshawar-DI Khan Motorway, all under CPEC, have also been postponed and are not on the agenda for the next JCC meeting.
Citing local media reports, Asia Times quoted Jeremy Garlick, assistant professor at the Jan Masaryk Center of International Studies at Prague University of Economics and Business, as saying that Beijing used the tactic of delay in ML-1 because it didn’t want to. to end up with a bad deal on his hands.
“Beijing doesn’t want to reject ML-1. It wants to appear committed in Pakistan, but at the same time it is aware of the risky environment for Chinese investment,” he added. (ANI)
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