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September 24, 2020

Senior official cuts sorry figure, takes backseat in CPEC MPs body

National

September 24, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A senior official (not the chairman) of the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) authority cut a sorry figure and had to take a backseat on Wednesday at a meeting of the CPEC parliamentary committee when members objected to his formal participation in the deliberations due to the lapse of the CPEC authority ordinance.

“We pointed out that the official’s presence in the session is illegal because the CPEC authority ordinance does not exist any more. We asked him to go to the back seats if he wants to observe the proceedings of the parliamentary panel,” former Speaker and senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who is a member of the forum, told The News.

According to Sadiq, when the official was asked whether he is getting a monthly salary for being associated with the CPEC authority, he replied in the negative. He was told that since the CPEC ordinance has expired and the government has not extended it or got it passed by parliament, his presence in the formal proceedings of the panel is unlawful.

Ayaz Sadiq said anybody can take part in the proceedings of parliamentary committees if he or she is called, otherwise they cannot do so. Others can observe the proceedings.

Another participant said that it was planned to lay before the committee the CPEC authority bill, but it was not done. He said some committee members asked the government side to produce the bill so that they could discuss and review it.

He remarked that while the committee was in favour of CPEC, which they believed was highly beneficial for Pakistan, they emphasized that rules would have to be followed.

Ayaz Sadiq presented the draft of a bill but said he was unaware of whether it was a genuine bill or the same bill that the government wanted to present before the committee. He said that the government should produce the bill before the forum so that it could take a decision on it.

It was demanded that parliament and the 21-member bipartisan CPEC committee, comprising representatives from the National Assembly and Senate, should have oversight over the CPEC authority. Participants said it was not clear so far whether the authority would be under the Planning Division or would be an independent body answerable to the prime minister. They said a lot of points are yet to be clarified.

Participants said they were eager to know which government departments would play what roles in the CPEC authority. That was a key issue as those departments would supervise the game-changer project involving billions of dollars.

After the lapse of its initial four-month constitutional life, the CPEC authority ordinance was extended in January this year for another 120 days.

A day before Prime Minister Imran Khan left for China in October last year, the government promulgated the CPEC authority ordinance to expedite projects related to the multi-billion dollar road and rail network that links China to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan. It was meant to give a message to China that Pakistan was serious and has put in place a legal mechanism for CPEC. However, the ordinance lapsed as it was not passed by parliament. Under the Constitution, an ordinance can be extended only once.