NEW FACE FOR AGING CPEC CHALLENGES

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Munir Ahmed

About a week back, the government appointed an energy specialist and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Hub Power Company Limited Khalid Mansoor as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on CPEC Affairs. His appointment took place just a month after his resignation from the Hub Power Company soon after it was paid off around Rs 23 billion by the government. Khalid Mansoor, CEO of the first IPP in Pakistan under Power Policy 1995, had played a key role in striking a deal for the IPP with the government. Some careless rumours about the deal are in the air. Anyone cares?  

The CPEC Authority will go through a major overhauling after severe reservations from China, and slowed down the pace of progress. Next expected notification is expected soon announcing Khalid Mansoor’s appointment as chairman CPEC Authority with a mandate to make required changes in the structure and the relevant teams. Looking forward to good omen for CPEC  (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor), the backbone of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Many speculations are in the air about the “resignation” of former CPEC chairman retired Lt. General Asim Saleem Bajwa. Several believe that he was in the hot waters after a “scoop story” about his “family business” in the US amounting to billions. Both the government and the former chairman CPEC waited for the “right time” to part ways. Infact, Chinese companies were not happy about the “one window” oprrations that could not expedite the procedural formalities. The security measures taken by the government could not satisfy them too. The US ally mindset is yet not accepting the emerging reality in the region while the Dasu incident proved all the Chinese apprehensions.   

The big challenge to CPEC at the momement is deviating from the original plans in the name of “realignment”. The crap named “realignment” is politically motivated, and engineered by the vested interest of some high-powered individuals and influential institutions. Most of the insiders denote the resignation to the generally slow and sluggish performance of the CPEC projects that has caused severe reservations and inconvenience to the other party known for efficiency and time management. The undue political aspirations of the present government is another huge challenge. China has been putting up their reservations on the security of their engineers and workers for quite long besides worries on the crawling projects, and interferece by the irrelevant. 

From the Planning Commission of Pakistan to the CPEC Authority, only China’s woes were increased with added personal, political and institutional vested interest of the stakeholders of the CPEC projects. The Dasu incident peaked the anger that reflected in the China government statements. The cancellation of the scheduled Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) of both countries was a red alert too.

Apparently, it looks like changing the game of the ‘Game Changer’ for some personal and vested interests. It has been the top most agenda of all that have been in power. The tradition continues even in the present government despite they have been shouting loud all the slogans of transparency, merit and accountability. We all are behaving like fifth generation zombies. In the given circumstances, the point to ponder is if the CPEC would remain a ‘game change’ for Pakistan or it would largely be an embarrassment?

The CPEC Authority was suggested to get rid of bureaucratic hurdles and long delays for different departmental procedures and processes. ‘One Window’ for time efficient management of the CPEC projects was the only objective of the Authority. Was it achieved as claimed by the outgoing chairman? In his tweet, he said: “I bow my head before Allah Almighty for giving me an opportunity to raise & steer the important institution of CPEC Authority as one window for all CPEC projects, charting the future direction. Wouldn’t have been possible without full confidence & support of the PM and his government. The course is set for future progression of CPEC, this journey will go on. My best wishes to Khalid Mansoor , who is fully equipped to take it forward. CPEC is the life line for Pakistan, it will transform us into a progressive and fully developed country, InshaAllah.”

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar has tweeted on the appointment of his former Engro Pakistan colleague:  “I welcome Khalid Mansoor to the team as SAPM for CPEC affairs. His vast corporate experience, with extensive work with Chinese companies and his direct involvement in leading some of the biggest CPEC projects makes him an ideal person to lead the next phase of CPEC.”

Khalid Mansoor brings with him over four decades of experience working with multiple organisations in energy, petrochemicals and fertilizers industries. He is expected to lead the second phase of CPEC, which will focus on industrial cooperation. His extensive experience of working with the Chinese companies and has a deep understanding of joint ventures, project development and execution with Chinese partners.

Mansoor is termed as a well-known business leader and has also served as President of Overseas Chamber of Commerce of Industry (OICCI). He holds a Degree in Chemical Engineering, and has over 32 years of experience and expertise in energy and petrochemical sectors in leading roles for mega projects development, execution, management and 0perations.

Being an optimist, I personally believe that the new leadership shall expedite the laid-out CPEC plans and dynamically work on the second phase that is industrialization and sustainable agriculture. The CPEC output and impact is still behind the curtains. Shall the people of Pakistan expect from the new leadership unveiling of them? The CPECA doors remain closed for unknown reasons. No discussion on the reservations of the local communities and stakeholders. Their reservations and conflicting situations remained unaddressed. The China government is frustrated with the “realignment” of the infrastructural projects and deepening personal and political vested interests in the CPEC projects. The Chinese companies have their own woes of playful processes and procedures, and long-pending payments. Many issues upfront for the new CPEC leadership.   

The writer is a freelance journalist and broadcaster, Director Devcom-Pakistan, an Islamabad-based policy advocacy and outreach think tank. He can be reached at [email protected] and tweets @EmmayeSyed