Coronavirus delays CPEC projects for about eight weeks — official

In this file photo, Pakistani Naval personnel stand guard beside a ship carrying containers during the opening of a trade project in Gwadar port, some 700 kms west of Karachi on Nov. 13, 2016. (AFP)
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Updated 03 April 2020

Coronavirus delays CPEC projects for about eight weeks — official

  • Says thousands of Chinese workers have returned to Pakistan to resume work
  • Chinese workers dealing with corridor projects in Pakistan are quarantined at their project sites for fourteen days

ISLAMABAD: The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a delay of at least eight weeks in the implementation of the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, a senior government functionary said on Friday, as he hoped that the problem would be fixed through effective mobilization of resources.
Thousands of Chinese workers have returned to Pakistan through special flights to resume work on different infrastructure projects after spending the Chinese new year holidays in their hometowns.
“We are estimating a maximum eight weeks of delay in different development projects due to the coronavirus pandemic,” Dr. Liaqat Ali Shah, CPEC’s Project Director, told Arab News on Friday.
The Chinese workers, who have been dealing with different CPEC projects, were stuck in different cities of their country when Beijing suspended the international flight operation in January due to the spread of the virus.
China has already developed a “double quarantine policy” for all its engineers and other workers in Pakistan.
“The Chinese travelling to Pakistan spend fourteen days in quarantine in China, and then they are also placed in quarantine for another fourteen days in Pakistan,” Shah said, adding that “effective measures” were in place to stem the spread of the virus in Pakistan's cities.
The project director said that the Chinese companies would place their workforce in quarantine at their respective project sites. “We don’t allow them to mix with the local population,” he said.
About the number of Chinese returning to Pakistan since February, he said that they were “in the thousands,” though he did not have the exact statistics.
Pakistan and China signed the $46 billion CPEC agreement in 2015 which later expanded to at least $62 billion. The infrastructure development projects include roads, railways, seaport, pipelines, industrial units and airports.
China plans to link its landlocked western region of Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea through the corridor project.
Shah said that Pakistan was mobilizing all the available resources to cover the time gap of eight weeks in different projects. “The work on all projects, including the transmission lines, roads and hospitals, is now in full swing,” he said.
The government has also constituted joint working groups and task forces to expand the scope of development projects by negotiating new schemes with the Chinese government.
In the next phase, Pakistan is planning to include development of agriculture, science and technology and petroleum sectors to boost its fragile economy and create job opportunities for both skilled and unskilled labor.
“At the moment, different studies are underway to include new projects related to agriculture and oil refineries in CPEC,” Shah said while dispelling the impression of any undue slowdown in the development schemes.

Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

Updated 26 October 2020

Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

  • Over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship which offers grants to 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD students this year
  • Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan urges Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering

PESHAWAR: Mohammed Umer Daudzai, Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan, on Monday lauded a Pakistani scholarship for Afghan nationals, saying it would have a ‘positive impact’ on the bilateral relationship and on the lives of the people of Afghanistan.

According to Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC), over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarships in Pakistan, which offers 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD grants.

The programme was launched in 2009, and 5,000 Afghans have so far benefited from it, gaining degrees in various fields including medicine and engineering. At least 100 seats are reserved for female students as part of the scholarship each year.

“The 800 scholarship this year that Pakistan has offered to Afghanistan is very important; it will have a very positive impact on bilateral relationships,” Daudzai told Arab News on Monday. “It will have a great impact on the life of people of Afghanistan because ... a significant number of these scholarships are in medicine and engineering which is very important for us.”

He added: “The Pakistani scholarship for Afghans is cheapest and most feasible because of the two countries' proximity. Afghan students can travel to their home country easily without involving huge expenses.” 

He also urged the Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering.

“We noticed that a significant number of the youths that participated in this year's scholarship are Afghan girls, which is important,” Daudzai said. “It’s indicative of the trust that families in Afghanistan have to send their daughters to Pakistan."

Afghan students attend a pre-orientation session at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 24, 2020 for the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship program for academic year 2020-21. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Embassy Kabul)

Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship Programme for Afghan Nationals was a “valuable” contribution to develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector.

“Pakistan has already contributed in the neighboring country’s development. And this (scholarship) programme will help develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector,” Chaudhri added.

Last week at the pre-orientation programme organized in honor of Afghan students at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan said more than 50,000 Afghans educated in Pakistan were now serving Afghanistan’s public and private sectors.

In this October 24, 2020 photo, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan, addresses a pre-orientation session for 800 Afghan students (not in photo) selected under the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship program for academic year 2020-21. (Photo courtesy: Pak Embassy Kabul)

Farzana Sharifi, an Afghan female student at COMSATS University Abbottabad, told Arab News that many Afghan students were keen to study at Pakistani educational institutions because of the quality of the universities and low costs.

However, she said Pakistani institutions needed to start orientation classes to prepare Afghans better to speak and understand Urdu and English.

“Special orientation classes need to be arranged for newcomers so they become familiar with the language of the medium of the particular university,” Sharifi said. “In addition, our students should be given special incentives while crossing the border or traveling in Pakistan.”

Ahmad Milad Azizi, a networking officer at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Kabul who graduated with bachelors degree in computer science from a Pakistani university in 2015, said the scholarship programme for Afghan students was also a great opportunity for Afghans to learn about Pakistani culture.

“Islamabad needs to explore measures to ease students’ travel from and to Pakistan,” he added. “I suggest the government of Pakistan increase the number of scholarships because our country direly needs qualified manpower and professionals.”