CPEC programme: Centre tight-lipped on sites for economic zones

ISLAMABAD: Amid controversy over the route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the federal government has failed to identify the potential sites for establishing industrial/economic zones under the multibillion-dollar bilateral project.

Under the CPEC, the federal government is supposed to establish scores of industrial/economic zones in all four provinces as well as Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir to boost economic and industrial activities in the country. However, it has yet to decide when and where these zones will be established.

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Talking to The Express Tribune, CPEC Project Director Maj Gen (Retd) Zahir Shah said the Planning Commission has yet to identify the potential sites for the industrial zones. It was still working on the issue.

Shah said there are numerous factors needed to keep in mind before taking any decision on any particular site. He explained that the site needs water supply, uninterrupted electricity and access roads to qualify for the establishment of an economic zone.

At the same time, he said, there is also a need for approval by the Chinese side since they are the key financiers. The project director further said the working group on economic zones has also not been finalised as yet.

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He, however, said the Board of Investment has worked to some extent to identify the potential sites for the industrial zones, but nothing has been finalised yet.

However, sources said the Planning Commission is intentionally delaying any decision on the economic zones as CPEC has already been slathered in controversy due to the ambiguity over its route.

The CPEC has once again come in the limelight after political parties of smaller provinces including Balochistan and Sindh protested over the route.

“We don’t want to open another front for making this very important project controversial by hastening to declare the economic zones,” said a government officer, dealing with the project.

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A Chinese official said the Chinese embassy in Islamabad is much concerned over re-emergence of the controversy and asked the federal government to address the internal issues paving the way for a smooth implementation of the project.

The official, however, added it has not been the policy of China to interfere in internal issues of Pakistan, but it wants to have a favourable environment for implementation of the projects.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune