Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — CPEC

Army chief says economy showing mixed indicators

by Khurram Husain in Dawn, October 12th, 2017

• Laments Pakistan has failed Balochistan
• Describes CPEC as complete development platform

KARACHI: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that the army is keenly watching developments in the country’s economy and shares some of the apprehensions being voiced about it.

“The economy is showing mixed indicators,” he said before an audience of businessmen and the military leadership of Karachi at a daylong event organised by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and Inter-Services Public Relations at the DHA Golf Club on Wednesday.

“Growth has picked up but the debts are sky high. [The situation regarding] infrastructure and energy have improved considerably but the current account balance is not in our favour.”

The closest Gen Bajwa came to identifying economic priorities was when he stressed the need for widening the tax base, bringing in fiscal discipline and ensuring continuity of economic policies.

The event was held to discuss the intermingling of economy and security in today’s Pakistan and the keynote address by the chief of the army staff was preceded by a rather wild and roving discussion among various panellists about where the economy stands today. Almost all the speakers spoke at length about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as the cornerstone of Pakistan’s economic future.

Speakers included Ishrat Husain, a former State Bank governor; Salman Shah, the financial adviser during the regime of Pervez Musharraf; Ashfaque Hasan Khan, former director general of the Debt Management Office, also under Musharraf; Zubair Tufail, Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal; DG of the Frontier Works Organisation; and the FPCCI president.

The army chief told the audience that in the past it was “fashionable” to say that economics had subsumed security, but with the reemergence of “parochial passions” today “security has once again become the foremost business and task of the state”.

A little later he underlined the importance of the economy for sustaining the security gains of the past few years, adding it “is high time for us to [give] economic growth and sustainability the highest priority. Let me share with you that during the National Security Council meetings, economy remains one of our highest concerns”.

He described Pakistan as “a strategically challenged state” where “external actors are attempting to assert control and dictate our security priorities that have strong linkages with our economic future. The centrepiece of this effort is the CPEC”.

The allusion appears to point towards the growing closeness between China and Pakistan, which is shaping up to be a security as well as an economic relationship. Most recently, US Secretary of Defence General James Mattis told Congress that the United States opposed CPEC because “it goes through disputed territory”.

The army chief himself described CPEC in grand terms. “This corridor is not just a collection of infrastructure and power projects — it is in fact a complete development platform that has the potential to act as a powerful springboard for shared development in the entire CASA (Central Asia-South Asia) region,” he said during his prepared remarks.

“However, the completion of the project and, more importantly, optimisation of its socio-economic dividend for Pakistan and the region hinges on one word: ‘security’,” he added.

When talking of the effort to establish security, he said “we need a comprehensive effort to pursue [the] National Action Plan”, and pointed towards police and judicial reforms as obvious examples of the sort of measures that must be implemented under it. Then he added madressah reforms to the list. “Madressah reforms are also vital — we cannot afford to leave a large segment of our youth with limited options. Madressahs must enable their students to become useful members of society who are not left behind in any field of life.”

Gen Bajwa described Pakistan’s external situation as “a belligerent India on our east and an unstable Afghanistan on our west”, and twice called for peace with neighbouring countries and his “genuine desire to have normal and peaceful relations with India; however it takes two to tango”.

Through most of his speech, the COAS read from a prepared text, departing from it on occasion. In one instance, he addressed a question raised by Marium Saba Chaudhry of the FPCCI, in which she had criticised some of the speakers on the panel discussion that preceded his keynote address, for referring to residential areas in Gwadar as “slums”.

“These are not slums” she objected. “The inhabitants are not occupying this land illegally. These people live in these areas of Gwadar from where they fear they are going to be evicted to make room for the CPEC-related projects,” she told the panel, adding that when you refer to their neighbourhoods as ‘slums’ it heightens their fears that their claim to their homes is being weakened in the run-up to a mass eviction.

The army chief began his remarks by acknowledging the point, telling Ms Chaudhry: “I will address your question after my remarks.” At the conclusion, he addressed Ms Chaudhry by name and told her that Balochistan was close to his heart. “We have failed Balochistan. Pakistan has failed Balochistan and we will not let it happen again.”

He ended his speech by reminding the assembled businessmen of their duty as he saw it, which included paying their taxes, since the contribution of direct taxes to Pakistan’s treasury was abysmally low. “We have done our part on the security front, now it’s up to you to take initiative and turn the economy around.”

October 12, 2017   No Comments

CPEC passes through disputed territory: US

by Anwar Iqbal in Dawn, October 7th, 2017
WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has informed Congress that it too believes the China-Pakistan Econo­mic Corridor (CPEC) passes through a disputed territory — originally an India claim aimed at thwarting the development plan.

The $56 billion CPEC passes through Pakis­t­an’s northern areas, which India claims is part of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir territory.

“The One Belt, One Road also goes through disputed territory, and I think that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate,” US Defence Sec­retary James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Secretary Mattis and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Joseph Dun­­­ford ap­­peared before the Sen­ate and House armed services panel earlier this week to brief US lawmakers on the current situation in the Pak-Afghan region.

Secretary Mattis said the US oppo­sed the One Belt, One Road policy in principle because in a globalised world, there were many belts and many roads, and no one nation shou­­ld put itself into a position of dictating One Belt, One Road. And it opposed the one going through Pakistan also because it passed throu­­gh a disputed territory.

The new US position on CPEC will further strain already tense rel­ations between the US and Pakistan, which also opposed the greater role Washington has assigned to India in Afghanistan in a strategy President Trump announced on Aug 21.

“As far as Afghan­is­tan goes, as we try to separate out variables where, in some areas, we work with China, for example, terrorism — I think there are areas where we can work — find common ground with China when it comes to counterterrorism, and we should exercise those areas pretty fully,” said the US defence chief.

“But we should be under no illusions,” he warned. “There are areas where, also, strategically, we need to confront China where we think it’s unproductive — the direction they’re going in.”

October 7, 2017   No Comments

US backs India on OBOR, says it crosses ‘disputed’ territory

PTI report in Hindustan Times online,Oct 04, 2017
The Donald Trump administration threw its weight behind India’s opposition to the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), saying it passes through a disputed territory and no country should put itself into a position of dictating the Belt and Road initiative.

India skipped the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in May this year due to its sovereignty concerns over the nearly $60 billion CPEC, a flagship project of China’s prestigious One Belt One Road (OBOR), which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Having returned from his maiden trip to India last week wherein he met his counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appeared on Tuesday to be a strong opponent of China’s ambitious OBOR initiative.

“In a globalised world, there are many belts and many roads, and no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating ‘one belt, one road’,” Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing.

“That said, the One Belt One Road also goes through disputed territory, and I think, that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate,” Mattis said apparently referring to India’s position on CPEC.

Mattis was responding to a question from Senator Charles Peters over OBOR and China’s policy in this regard.

“The One Belt One Road strategy seeks to secure China’s control over both the continental and the maritime interest, in their eventual hope of dominating Eurasia and exploiting natural resources there, things that are certainly at odds with US policy. So what role do you see China playing in Afghanistan, and particularly related to their One Belt One Road,” Peter had asked.http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/us-backs-india-on-obor-says-it-crosses-disputed-territory/story-Lh2aIU5Nt5BGYUMCj8xk3L.html

October 4, 2017   No Comments

Quetta incident: JIT submits report on Chinese kidnapping

By Qadeer Tanoli in The Express Tribune, July 26, 2017
ISLAMABAD: In light of the report of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) – formed to probe abduction of two Chinese nationals in Quetta – Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has approved cancelling visas issued to foreign nationals associated with ARK Infotech Company.

In May, a group of Chinese citizens, including the two abducted ones, obtained business visas from Pakistan Embassy in Beijing and entered Pakistan to work with ARK Infotech, but instead of conducting business, they went to Quetta for preaching, according to Ministry of Interior on Tuesday.

The Chinese citizens withheld the information that they were missionaries and had come to Pakistan for preaching, the ministry added.

All foreign nationals associated with ARK Infotech Company will be repatriated from Pakistan with immediate effect, it stated, adding that it has also been decided to immediately cancel the registration of such companies.

Due to involvement of the company in illegal activities, it has been decided to properly pursue the cases registered against the management of the infotech company at appropriate forums.

Reports received by the interior ministry indicate that 24-year-old Lee Zing Yang and Ms Meng Li Si, 26-years of age, were abducted from Jinnah Town Quetta on May 24. According to reports, they had stated that they were learning Urdu language from a South Korean national Juan Won Seo, owner of ARK Infotech Company.

Since their abduction there has been no reports about their whereabouts, sources in the Ministry of Interior stated.

After abduction of the Chinese nationals, a JIT was formed on the directives of the interior minister to probe the matter.

Moreover, under the newly-adopted measures approved by Chaudhry Nisar, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) will conduct audit of all foreign companies and firms to determine whether they are filing tax returns or involved in unlawful activities. Their registrations will be cancelled, if any violation is found.

“Make sure of proper scrutiny of financial matters and other credentials of foreign companies prior to their registration,” is another task given to the SECP.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has also been directed to take action against the SECP officials, who showed negligence, regarding the ARK Infotech Company.

To control with surety the practice of obtaining Pakistani visas by submitting fake credentials and adopting illegal measures, Chaudhry Nisar has also given approval to review the process of issuance of visas on behalf of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the scrutiny of credentials of applicants.

Moreover, the foreign affairs ministry will inform the Korean ambassador about the facts and evidences in this context.

It is also being reviewed as to how ARK Infotech Company, in the guise of an Urdu academy, was violating visa laws and involved in unlawful activities, which were against national interest.

In June, the interior ministry had cancelled the visa of South Korean national Seo alias Gilbert, running the Urdu academy where Chinese citizens were learning Urdu language.

The investigation into the abduction of the Chinese nationals also revealed that Seo came to Pakistan on a business visa, established an Urdu academy and got involved in unauthorised activities which were in violation of his visa.

A few days prior to their abduction, the two Chinese citizens were taken into custody in the area of Kharotabad and warned about their security. The police had also offered them security, but they turned it down.

According to sources in the interior ministry, the security and intelligence agencies had also looked into the background of the abduction of the Chinese nationals, besides analysing various pictures uploaded on social media to reach a conclusion in the case.https://tribune.com.pk/story/1466691/quetta-incident-jit-submits-report-chinese-kidnapping/

July 26, 2017   No Comments

Infallible security ordered for Chinese in Sindh: report in The News, July 12, 2017

Karachi: Sindh’s chief minister has directed the police department to provide infallible security to the Chinese nationals working on the trade corridor projects and to install jammers in their vehicles.

Syed Murad Ali Shah issued the orders during a meeting held at the CM House on Tuesday to discuss the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and other projects under way across the province.

The meeting was attended by the Chinese consul general, Home Secretary Qazi Shahid Parvez, CM’s Principal Secretary Sohail Rajput, Karachi police chief Addl IGP Mushtaq Maher, the DIG of Sukkur, the DIG of the Rapid Response Force (RRF) and the Special Protection Unit (SPU), Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) CEO Shams Shaikh and others.

CM Shah told the meeting that a total of nine CPEC projects were planned for Sindh, and that work on seven of them was under way with 3,044 Chinese nationals.

He said the projects and their workers, especially the Chinese, were quite important for the development of the country in general and Sindh in particular. They should have foolproof security, as was decided at the start of the CPEC projects, he added.

Home Secretary Parvez informed the chief executive that seven security headquarters of each project were set up with deployment of a 3,044-strong well-trained police force for the security of the Chinese nationals. The Pakistan Army is leading the security apparatus, he added.

He said the eighth project of the National Transmission & Despatch Company’s (NTDC) transmission lines from Matiari to Lahore had been launched where 15 Chinese nationals were engaged. “We have provided them with a security force of 65 personnel.”

CM Shah said that according to the data available, some 137 non-CPEC projects were under way across the province where 1,971 Chinese nationals were at work. “What arrangements have you made for their security?” he asked the home secretary, who said 1,373 personnel had been deployed for the purpose.

Karachi police chief Maher said that with the approval of the CM, the Sindh police had raised an SPU to maintain an effective security response and to avert any threat to the Chinese nationals working on CPEC projects.

He added that the total sanctioned strength of the SPU was 2,662 against which 1,349 personnel were carrying out their responsibilities, while the recruitment process for filling the remaining 1,313 vacant posts was under way.

DIG Amin Yousufzai of the RRF and SPU said nine projects had been expanded to 11: a coal-based power plant in Karachi, an open-pit mining power plant in Thar Block-II and a coal-based power plant in Block-I, four wind power projects in Thatta, a Ghotki-Sukkur motorway, laying of the NTDC’s transmission lines from Matiari to Faisalabad and from Matiari to Lahore, and laying of a railway line from Karachi to Peshawar.

Talking about the security arrangements, he said the coal-based power plant at Port Qasim had been provided with a force of 563 personnel: 30 army men, 193 SPU officials, 149 Rangers, 17 Frontier Corps personnel, 17 policemen and 157 private guards.

Similarly, he added, the Thar Block-II project had been provided with the security of 413 personnel, while 46 others had also been deployed for the Thar Block-I project.

DIG Yousufzai said that for the security of the four wind power projects in Thatta, a force of 555 personnel had been deployed.

He added that for the laying of the 126km NDTC transmission lines from Sukkur to Ghotki, a force 1,197 personnel had been deployed. He said that for the laying of transmission lines from Matiari to Lahore and from Matiari to Faisalabad, a force of 76 personnel had been deployed, while the project of laying the 548km railway line from Karachi to Peshawar had been provided with a force of 75 personnel for the Sindh section.

On the recommendation of the SECMC, the chief minister directed his principal secretary Rajput to coordinate with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for completing the Islamkot airport on a war-footing basis.

“I want the Chinese to travel by air,” he said, adding that during his recent visit to Thar he had landed at the Islamkot runway. “The runway strip is OK, but the other facilities, such as installation of lights along the runway, installation of tower, completion of the building and developing communication system, are yet to be completed.”

He directed the Civil Aviation Authority to complete the project soon. CM Shah said CPEC was a lifeline for Pakistan’s economy; therefore, each and every individual of the province should take ownership of the projects launched under the trade corridor scheme.

“There are some unscrupulous elements that are against the development and are creating some problems, but they will never succeed.”https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/215867-Infallible-security-ordered-for-Chinese-in-Sindh

July 12, 2017   No Comments

Chinese engineers escape IED blast in Steel Town

Report in Dawn, July 11th, 2017
KARACHI: A roadside improvised explosive device (IED) went off minutes after the motorcade of Chinese engineers passed through the Steel Town area on Monday morning, police said.

No casualty was reported in the blast that took place at about 7.25am with the help of a time device.

Investigators believed that the blast was aimed at targeting the Chinese engineers currently working on different projects in Thatta in connection with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The police said the blast took place on the green belt of the National Highway near Bugti Goth. The motorcade of the Chinese engineers, who were being escorted by the army, Rangers and police, had passed before the explosion, they added.

SSP Malir Rao Anwar said that a pamphlet was also recovered from the crime scene in which the responsibility of the blast was claimed by a little-known group, the Sindh Revolutionary Army (SRA). About the IED, he said it weighed around half a kilogramme and also contained small nuts.

Raja Umar Khattab, an official of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), said: “Sindhi separatist elements against the CPEC may be involved in it.”

He recalled that a similar blast targeting Chinese nationals had also taken place in the same area in the recent past.

The CTD official said that the previous bomb blast was carried out with the help of a remote-controlled device, which was detonated when a vehicle carrying Chinese engineers was passing through the area on the National Highway. The incident caused minor injuries to a local driver of the foreigners besides damaging the vehicles, he added.

He said that the responsibility of that blast was also claimed by the SRA.https://www.dawn.com/news/1344466/chinese-engineers-escape-ied-blast-in-steel-town

July 11, 2017   No Comments

2 Navy sailors gunned down in Gwadar shooting

by Syed Ali Shah in Dawn, June 20th, 2017
Islambad: Two Navy sailors were martyred and at least three others were wounded when their vehicle was attacked in the Jiwani area of Gwadar district, Balochistan on Monday.

The sailors were transporting iftar items during a routine run from Jiwani city when their vehicle was ambushed by four assailants on two motorbikes, a senior local administration official told DawnNews.

The assailants opened fire on the vehicle indiscriminately, leaving one man martyred and five wounded, he said.

A spokesman for the Navy, however, said that three personnel had been injured.

The five wounded were shifted to Karachi for medical treatment. One of the wounded succumbed to his injuries, bringing the death toll to two, the official added.

Security was tightened after the incident and a search operation was launched in the area to apprehend those involved in the attack.

Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri condemned the incident and directed the levies and police to submit a report regarding the attack.

“We will not bow down before the terrorists,” Zehri said in his condemnation statement.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Security challenges facing Balochistan and CPEC: The shooting incident occurs after Pakistan and China have inked agreements aimed at boosting cooperation in various sectors between the two countries.

China is also developing the warm water Gwadar port, a prominent feature of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan. The CPEC project — with an investment of $57 billion and the Gwadar port as its lynchpin — is billed to be a ‘game-changer’ and manifestation of a strategic partnership between Pakistan and China.

Though the road where the labourers were working was not a specific CPEC-funded project, it was a part of a network of connecting roads that are part of the corridor – a common target for separatists militants who view construction projects as a means to take over their land.

The need to tighten security in Balochistan has grown over the years as separatist militants continue to wage their campaign against the central government for decades, demanding a greater share of the gas-rich region’s resources.

In May, at least 10 labourers were killed in Balochistan’s Gwadar district when unidentified assailants opened fire at the construction site where they were working, Levies sources said.

Unidentified gunmen on motorcycles opened indiscriminate fire on a group of labourers working at a road in Gwadar’s Pishgan area, killing eight of them on the spot, Levies sources confirmed. https://www.dawn.com/news/1340491/2-navy-sailors-gunned-down-in-gwadar-shooting

June 20, 2017   No Comments

‘Motorway police have no capacity to patrol all of CPEC’

By Syed Irfan Raza in Dawn, June 20th, 2017
ISLAMABAD: The National Highways and Motorway Police (NH&MP) has expressed its inability to police the length of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with the existing force and resources at its disposal.

The department revealed that it had insufficient manpower and resources to do the job during a meeting of National Assembly Standing Committee on Communi­cation, held at the NH&MP office in Sector G-13, on Monday.

The NH&MP informed the meeting that almost double its existing force would be required to effectively police the new and under-construction motorways that were part of CPEC. It was also informed that a demand for additional 10,000 officers had been sent to the federal government for their induction, but nothing had been done in this regard so far.

“The committee was told that NH&MP has been asked to appoint the required staff by Dec 2017, as CPEC will be fully operational by next year,” Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Salim Rehman — a member of the committee — told Dawn after the meeting.

The NH&MP also demanded more resources, an office building and state-of-the-art equipment to perform their duties on the new roads and CPEC motorways, the MNA said.

Officials from the communications ministry said the federal government had approved the required budget, posts and new inductions for the motorway police, adding that a new director had been appointed to complete the process of fresh inductions by December this year.

The officials said the required funds had already been allocated in the recently passed budget for FY2017-18.

An official statement, issued after the meeting, said that participants also called for the swift completion of work on CPEC’s western route.

The committee was told that around 4,000km of new roads had been built under CPEC and after the completion of the western route, another 2,600km would be added to the country’s road network, the statement said.

According to the official statement, committee members directed that new officers should be inducted and trained by the end of the year.

The committee also took notice of frequent traffic jams on the under-construction M-9 Hyderabad-Karachi Motorway and directed the Frontier Works Organisation — the contractor — to provide an alternate route to ensure the smooth flow of traffic on this busy thoroughfare.

The NH&MP said that it faced hardship and was unable to control traffic on M-9 due to the mess created there by the construction work. The committee was informed that more than 50,000 vehicles ply on this road every day.

Meanwhile, a senior NH&MP officer said the department was facing several problems due to “mismanagement”.

He said the existing motorway police force was also performing its duty on new roads, including the Murree Expressway, Multan-Khanewal motorway, Faisalabd-Gojra motorway and a few new roads in Balochistan.

In addition, the department has done no work on road safety measures for the past few years, which has led to a decline in awareness of motorway traffic rules among motorists.

June 20, 2017   No Comments