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

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.”

 


Diplomats accuse Trump as impeachment hits Americans’ TVs

Updated 14 November 2019

Diplomats accuse Trump as impeachment hits Americans’ TVs

WASHINGTON: For the first time, the Democrats’ case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment streamed from Americans’ TVs Wednesday, including a new contention that he was overheard asking about political “investigations” that he demanded from Ukraine in trade for military aid.
On Day One of extraordinary public US House hearings — only the fourth formal impeachment effort in US history — career diplomats testified in the open after weeks of closed-door interviews aimed at removing the nation’s 45th president.
The account they delivered was a striking though complicated one that Democrats say reveals a president abusing his office, and the power of American foreign policy, for personal political gain.
“The matter is as simple and as terrible as that,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, as he opened the daylong hearing. “Our answer to these questions will affect not only the future of this presidency but the future of the presidency itself.”
Career diplomat William Taylor, the charge d’affaires in Kyiv, offered new testimony that Trump was overheard asking on the phone about “the investigations” of Democrats that he wanted Ukraine to pursue that are central to the impeachment inquiry.
Trump said he was too busy to watch on Wednesday and denied having the phone call. “First I’ve heard of it,” he said when asked.
All day, the diplomats testified about how an ambassador was fired, the new Ukraine government was confused and they discovered an “irregular channel” — a shadow US foreign policy orchestrated by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that raised alarms in diplomatic and national security circles.
The hearing, playing out on live television and in the partisan silos of social media, provided the nation and the world a close-up look at the investigation.
At its core, the inquiry stems from Trump’s July 25 phone call when he asked Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for “a favor.”
Trump wanted the Ukraine government to investigate Democrats’ activities in the 2016 election and his potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden — all while the administration was withholding military aid for the Eastern European ally that is confronting an aggressive neighbor, Russia.

A text exchange between US Ambassador Bill Taylor (Ukraine) and Gordon Sondland (EU) shows on a screen as Taylor (R) testifies on the Trump impeachment inquiry in Washington on Nov. 13, 2019. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Both sides tried to distill it into soundbites.
Democrats said Trump was engaged in “bribery” and “extortion.” Republicans said nothing really happened — the military aid was ultimately released after Congress complained.
Trump restated his aggressive defense with rapid-fire tweets, a video from the Rose Garden and a dismissive retort from the Oval Office as he met with another foreign leader.
“It’s a witch hunt. It’s a hoax,” he said as he appeared with visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by his side.
Across the country, millions of Americans were tuning in — or, in some cases, deliberately tuning out.
Viewers on the right and left thought the day underscored their feelings. Anthony Harris, cutting hair in Savannah, Georgia, had the hearing on in his shop, but he said, “It’s gotten to the point now where people are even tired of listening.”
The hours of partisan back-and-forth did not appear to leave a singular moment etched in the public consciousness the way the Watergate proceedings or Bill Clinton’s impeachment did generations ago.
“No real surprises, no bombshells,” said committee member Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah.
Still, the session unspooled at least partly the way Democrats wanted with the somber tones of career foreign service officers telling what they knew. They sounded credible.
The witnesses, the graying Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent in his bow tie, defied White House instructions not to appear. Both received subpoenas.
They are among a dozen current and former officials who already testified behind closed doors. Wednesday was the start of days of public hearings that will stretch into next week.
Taylor, who was asked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to return to Ukraine as Trump was firing Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, introduced new information Wednesday.
He testified that a staff member recently told him of overhearing Trump when they were meeting with another diplomat, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, at a restaurant the day after Trump’s July 25 phone call to the Ukraine president that sparked the impeachment investigation.
The staff member explained that Sondland had called the president and they could hear Trump on the phone asking about “the investigations.” The ambassador told the president the Ukrainians were ready to move forward, Taylor testified.
In the face of Trump’s denial, Schiff expects the person to appear before investigators for a closed-door deposition. He is David Holmes, the political counselor at the embassy in Kyiv, according to an official unauthorized to discuss the matter and granted anonymity.
Republicans argued that even with the diplomats at the witness table the Democrats have only second- or third-hand knowledge of Trump’s alleged transgressions.
A Trump ally on the panel, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, mockingly called Taylor the Democrats’ “star witness” and said he’d “seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this.”
Taylor, a West Point graduate and former Army infantry officer in Vietnam, responded: “I don’t consider myself a star witness for anything.”
The top Republican on the panel, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, said Trump had a “perfectly good reason” for wanting to investigate the role of Democrats in 2016 election interference, giving airtime to a theory that runs counter to mainstream US intelligence which found that Russia intervened and favored Trump.
Nunes accused the Democratic majority of conducting a “scorched earth” effort to take down the president after the special counsel’s Russia investigation into the 2016 election failed to spark impeachment proceedings.
The veteran foreign service officers delivered heartfelt history lessons about Ukraine, a young and hopeful democracy, situated next to Russia but reaching out to the West.
Asked about Trump’s withholding military aid from such an ally, Taylor said, “It was illogical. It could not be explained. It was crazy.”
Both men defended Yovanovitch, a career officer who Kent has said was subject to Giuliani’s “campaign of lies.” She is to testify publicly Friday.
Kent, in his opening remarks, directly contradicted a core complaint against Joe Biden being raised by allies of the White House. While he said he himself raised concerns in 2015 about the vice president’s son, Hunter Biden, being on the board of Burisma, a Ukraine gas company, he “did not witness any efforts by any US official to shield Burisma from scrutiny.”
Republicans sought to hear from the anonymous whistleblower by subpoenaing him for a closed-session. The panel voted down the request and Schiff and repeatedly denied the GOP claim that he knows the person.
“We will do everything necessary to protect the whistleblower’s identity,” Schiff declared.
The Constitution sets a dramatic but vague bar for impeachment, There’s no consensus yet that Trump’s actions at the heart of the inquiry meet the threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
The anonymous whistleblower first alerted officials to concerns about the Trump phone call with Zelenskiy. The White House released a rough transcript of the telephone conversation, with portions deleted.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was initially reluctant to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. But she pressed ahead after the whistleblower’s complaint. She said Wednesday it was sad that the country has to undergo the inquiry with Trump, but “he will be held accountable.”