The National Assembly‘s Standing Committee on Planning and Development presided over by ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Junaid Akbar took up the government bill on Tuesday. After a detailed discussion, the committee agreed to decide the fate of the bill through voting.
The Opposition members said their objections over the creation of the CPEC Authority (CPECA) had not been addressed and the creation of a new authority would affect CPEC projects instead of expediting them.
The USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is fully funded by Beijing under the multi-billion One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. India has protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said the CPECA would have no powers as all work would be carried out by the line ministries and added 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, the report said.
Out of total 20 members of the committee, half each from the government and opposition benches, 13 members were present in the meeting. Out of 10 members from the government benches eight were present while five of the Opposition members attended the meeting.
Members of the committee belonging to the Opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) voted against the bill.
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 the real role and would be another “white elephant”.
Iqbal recalled that more than USD 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 a 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 the planning ministry.