Govt yet to notify CPEC authority chief

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VIAShahbaz Rana
SOURCEThe Express Tribune
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ISLAMABAD:  The federal government has not yet notified the appointment of Lt-Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa as first chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority.

The Ministry of Planning and Development had sent the summary for Bajwa’s appointment as chairman of the authority a week ago to the PM Office through the finance division and the Establishment Division, according to the sources.

The selection process for the appointment of the CPEC Authority chairman started and completed the day the government formally announced replacing Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar with Asad Umar as planning minister.

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Two days before Umar took his new assignment, his predecessor, Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, had hastily concluded the process of short-listing the names for the post of CPEC Authority chairman, sources told The Express Tribune.

Also Read: Robust defence of CPEC

A selection board, headed by Bakhtiar, had finalised the names of Bajwa and Arshad Mirza — a grade 22 officer of the Pakistan Administrative Service, for the appointment as chairman of the CPEC Authority.

Bakhtiar completed the process of seeking the recommendations from the Establishment Division and the Ministry of Defence, calling a selection board meeting and finalising the names for the consideration of the prime minister within two working days.

The appointing authority of the chairperson, executive directors and members is the prime minister who can appoint them for a period of four years.

The idea of the CPEC Authority was floated in 2016. However, the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had shot it down. About two months ago, a joint parliamentary committee on CPEC also opposed the setting up of the authority through a presidential ordinance.

The planning ministry had sought three names — each from the Establishment and Defence divisions on the same day instead of adopting the competitive process.

A meeting of the Selection Board was held on November 18, chaired by Bakhtiar. The planning secretary and representatives from the Establishment Division and the Finance Division also attended the meeting.

The selection board considered the qualifications, experience and other available information of six individuals, three each recommended by the Defence Division and the Establishment Division, according to the summary.

The board has recommended that the prime minister may consider either Lt Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa or Arshad Mirza for the appointment of chairman of the CPEC Authority for a period of four years in the Management Pay Scale-I, showed the official summary. The board gave preference to Bajwa over Mirza.

The summary was sent to the PM Office the same day. It was the day when Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan tweeted about replacing Bakhtiar with Asad Umar as new planning minister.

Islamabad to propose new projects for inclusion in CPEC

When contacted, the planning ministry said that the CPEC Authority chairman has not been notified yet.

The government set up the CPEC Authority through a presidential ordinance. The authority shall be primarily responsible for coordination, monitoring and evaluation to ensure implementation of the CPEC-related activities.

The authority has been given vast financial and administrative powers — including making its executives immune to legal prosecutions and giving it powers to make its own budget.

During his introductory meeting, the newly-appointed planning minister asked about the purpose of setting up the CPEC Authority when the same functions were performed by a wing of the planning ministry.

“I still need to study the purpose of setting up the authority and its role in the timely completion of the projects”, said the planning minister on Monday.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh also briefly spoke about CPEC on Monday.

“The real success of CPEC will be when Pakistan persuades other nations to join and participate in infrastructure development,” said Sheikh while responding to a question. “The more the people from other countries join CPEC, the more it will be beneficial for Pakistan, he added.

“CPEC is very important for development of roads, rail network, power projects and special economic zones. It should be the efforts of the government and the well-informed people to inform the world about the CPEC benefits,“ said Sheikh.

(This news/article originally appeared in The Express Tribune on November 26th, 2019)

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