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NA panel cautions govt over CPEC use by Chinese trucks

NA panel cautions govt over CPEC use by Chinese trucks

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Monday warned the government against the Nato supplies-like deal for allowing Chinese trucks to ply the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“We are giving roads, land and the entire route to Chinese trucks as they were utilised by Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), but on what terms and conditions,” chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Planning and Development Abdul Majeed Khan Khanan Khail said while presiding over a meeting of the committee.

He asked what China would give Pakistan for using the corridor for trade. “Something would have been decided definitely.”

Expressing concern over the safety of roads and their users, he wondered who would bear the cost of maintenance of roads and security on the corridor.

Media reports suggested that Nato logistics had badly damaged the country’s road network, but Pakistan could not get any significant benefit from these supplies to Afghanistan.

Former chairman of the National Highway Authority (NHA) Mohammad Ali Gardezi told the Public Accounts Committee in May 2012 that the country had suffered a loss of Rs100 billion due to Nato supplies to Afghanistan via Pakistan, but not a single penny was paid to it for repairing the damaged highways.

In reply to a question during the standing committee meeting, the secretary for planning and development said: “Although it is a big challenge for the government, we will safeguard our interests.”

The secretary did not define who would bear the cost of maintenance of roads but said the cost of security arrangements on the CPEC would be borne by the Pakistan government. He said that whatever arrangements to be made for maintenance of the corridor and security would be mutually decided by Pakistan and China. “The recently held 6th Pak-China Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting in Beijing has addressed almost all such concerns,” he added.

The secretary said 10,000 military personnel had been deployed for the security of projects launched under the CPEC and people working on them. “In fact security is our job for which it has been decided that one per cent of (earning from) CPEC projects will be spent on security,” he said.

The committee expressed dissatisfaction over the road safety arrangements made by the National Highway Authority to avoid fatal accidents on the Grand Trunk (GT) Road. The committee directed the NHA to conduct a comprehensive study on accidents on the road.

Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal, a member of the committee from the ruling PML-N, said the NHA had failed to provide pedestrian bridges, underpasses, zebra-crossings and proper service roads along the GT Road, especially between Lahore and Rawalpindi.

He said that 17 districts and a number of towns and villages were located along the GT Road from Lahore to Rawalpindi but there was no zebra-crossing for pedestrians.

In a separate briefing on railway projects to be executed under the CPEC, the planning and development secretary said the existing railway track ML-1 would be made dual from Karachi to Peshawar under a $20 billion investment.

“Once the existing track is dualised, the department will be able to stand on its own feet and then medium- and long-term projects will be launched, including laying of railway tracks from Gwadar to Quetta and from Peshawar to Torkham and Jalalabad,” he added.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2017

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