Pakistan, China agree to push on with Economic Corridor plan

File photo: A Pakistani soldier is silhouetted against Gwadar port, 700 kilometers (435 miles) from Karachi, Pakistan. (AP)
Updated 19 February 2018
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Pakistan, China agree to push on with Economic Corridor plan

ISLAMABAD: China and Pakistan have agreed to move ahead on the segment of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative which runs through Pakistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is expected to be completed by 2030 at a cost of around $56 billion.

The long-term plan for the CPEC was approved at the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting held in Islamabad on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi inaugurated the East Bay Expressway of Gwadar port at a groundbreaking ceremony in which he hailed the efforts of Chinese and local authorities in building “a vital link” between the commercial hub city of Karachi and Gwadar, and listed a number of other developments underway in the town.

“The Rs. 170 billion ($1.6 billion) development of Gwadar is on track,” he said. “I am very confident that these projects will transform Gwadar — a small fishing town — into a city of global importance.”

Abbasi addressed concerns raised by Baluchistan’s administration about energy and water supplies, stressing that they were the responsibility of the government and not China. He said the issues would soon be resolved.

Abbasi also said that the benefits of the ongoing projects should be passed on to the local people and that the concerned authorities should “train, rehabilitate and employ” them.

The JCC meeting was led by Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s minister of planning and development, and Wang Xiatao, vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission. An estimated 150 senior representatives from both nations attended the meeting.

Talking to the media after the meeting, Iqbal explained that the plans for CPEC include Special Economic Zones spread across four provinces, including Gilgit Baltistan, which will be vetted by experts appointed by China, since the two countries had failed to reach an agreement on how that plan would be implemented.

He added that a railway expansion project in Karachi was approved and that China would help enhance information and agriculture technology in Pakistan.

The JCC also discussed the construction of Gwadar airport — a priority for Pakistan — which is expected to begin in 2018.

CPEC will start in Khunjerab Pass in the northern areas bordering China and travel through Pakistan down to Baluchistan’s deep seaport city of Gwadar.

Iqbal said the next phase of swift industrialization will pave the way for opportunities for Pakistanis in the Special Economic Zones, adding that an estimated $27 billion worth of CPEC projects have already been approved. Pakistan has urged China to speed up its approval process for infrastructure projects and to lend further money at low-interest rates for CPEC development.

Meanwhile, China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing met Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa to discuss regional security matters pertaining to Pak-Afghan border management and counter-terrorism, according to a statement by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Tuesday. The Baluchistan region through which the corridor runs has been plagued by insurgents, and although security forces have gained traction in controlling the situation, incidents still occur.

“They are also concerned with Pakistan’s relation with Afghanistan since China has stakes in Afghanistan. China wants safeguards in place to ensure CPEC and wants the two countries to resolve matters which could affect the project,” Dr. Manzoor Khan Afridi, head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the International Islamic University, told Arab News.

Financial terms are also a sticking point between China and Pakistan. “Financial management of all these CPEC projects must be crystal clear without any malpractice,” Afridi explained. He added this was particularly relevant at the moment, considering Pakistan’s political instability in light of the ongoing graft cases against the country’s finance minister and former prime minister and his family.

On the other hand, he continued, Pakistan has its own reservations about the terms China is demanding for funding the projects.

China’s desire to use its own currency in the free zone of Gwadar wasn’t well received by Pakistan, which rejected the demand saying it compromises economic sovereignty, according to local media reports.

“Pakistan wants the rupee to be utilized by China,” Afridi said. “However, without further consultation and research, it wouldn’t be wise to introduce each other’s currency across their borders yet.”
 


European court to hear case on stopping Brexit

Updated 32 min 38 sec ago
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European court to hear case on stopping Brexit

LONDON: The European Court of Justice will at the end of this month begin hearing a legal challenge brought by anti-Brexit campaigners to force the government to spell out how Britain could revoke its notice to leave the EU.
The hearing comes after the British government was refused permission Tuesday to appeal to the UK Supreme Court over the case, amid growing calls for Prime Minister Theresa May to hold a second referendum on Brexit.
"The best, the really compelling, the objective evidence that all options are still on the table is the desperation with which the government acted to try and block MPs from seeing the clear path to remain," said Jolyon Maugham, a lawyer who has spearheaded the legal challenge.
The Supreme Court rejected a bid from the government for permission to appeal against a lower court ruling asking the European Court to spell out "whether, when and how" Britain can unilaterally revoke its notice to leave the EU, which would see the UK pull out on March 29.
Labour, Scottish nationalist and Green members of the British, Scottish and European parliaments brought the case through the highest civil court in Scotland.
The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled in September to refer the question to the Court of Justice of the EU.
A hearing at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is set for November 27.
The British government applied to the Court of Session for permission to appeal against the ruling to the higher UK-wide Supreme Court, but the application was rejected.
The government then applied directly to the Supreme Court itself for permission to appeal.
But in refusing that permission on Tuesday, the Supreme Court said the Court of Session's ruling was "preliminary" and the Scottish court would still have to reach a judgement of its own after receiving the CJEU's guidance.
Britain invoked Article 50, its two-year notice of intention to withdraw from the EU, in March 2017.