Amid dissent by opposition members, a parliamentary committee on Tuesday cleared with majority vote “The China Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2020”.
A meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Planning and Development, presided over by PTI MNA Junaid Akbar, took up the government bill which was blocked by the opposition members during the last meeting.
At the outset of the meeting, the committee inquired from the Ministry of Planning and Development as to what salary package was being given to the present CPEC Authority (CPECA) chairman, retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa.
The ministry replied that no salary package was being given to the chairman as no memorandum of understanding was signed by him after the expiry of the CPEC Ordinance in May this year.
PML-N, PPP oppose the bill; committee told no salary given to chairman after expiry of ordinance in May
The opposition members said their objections over the creation of the CPECA had not been addressed and the creation of a new authority would affect CPEC projects instead of expediting them.
Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said the CPECA would have no powers as all work would be carried out by the line ministries, adding that the authority’s operations would not be in conflict with the working of the line ministries.
The committee chairman then put the bill to vote, saying a comprehensive discussion had already been held during the previous meeting. The committee recommended with majority 7:5 votes that the bill may be passed by the National Assembly.
Members of the committee belonging to the PML-N and PPP opposed the bill. Mohammad Sajjad, Ahsan Iqbal, Muhammad Junaid Anwar Chaudhry and Sardar Mohammad Irfan Dogar of the PMLN and Syed Agha Rafiullah of the PPP submitted their note of dissent.
Former planning minister Ahsan Iqbal strongly opposed the creation of the CPECA, saying it was unnecessary and superfluous as the planning ministry had discharged the role very diligently and effectively in the past.
The PML-N members believed that the CPECA would become a parallel Planning Commission with little utility and real role and would be another “white elephant”.
Mr Iqbal recalled that more than $29 billion worth of investment had been channelised by the Planning Commission successfully without any authority and with the support of various ministries which should continue for successful implementation.
The planning ministry advocated the creation of CPECA, saying it would be “responsible for planning, facilitating, coordinating, monitoring and evaluating to ensure implementation of all activities related to CPEC”. It said the authority was also required to ensure inter-provincial and inter-ministerial coordination, organising and coordinating meetings of joint coordination committee and joint working groups. It would also “be responsible for conducting sectoral research for informed decision making and long-term planning, monitoring and evaluation and to ensure implementation, besides narrative building and communication of CPEC and other related activities from time to time”.
According to an official statement, the committee inquired the compliance status of its previous three meetings and the ministry responded positively.
The committee directed the Higher Education Commission to arrange a detailed briefing on its financial needs so that the committee could recommend additional funds for the HEC.
The committee asked the HEC as to why students were being stopped from getting higher education abroad on scholarship.
The HEC representatives said they were not stopping the scholarship, but universities all over the world were not accepting foreign students due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
PTI members of the committee — Sher Akbar Khan, Saleh Mohammad, Shaukat Ali, Syed Faiz-ul-Hassan, Nawab Sher, Dr Seemi Bokhari and Imran Khattak — voted in favour of the CPECA bill.