PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday directed the federal government to submit a reply on whether or not it was still committed to the projects it had earlier pledged to construct under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
“Is there any change in the stance of the federal government regarding the commitments made with the K-P government?”
The court posed the above question to Shaukat Khattak, a representative of the Ministry of Planning and Development, and directed him to go back, inquire and submit a reply by December 5.
The PHC’s two-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Yahya Afridi and comprising Justice Syed Afsar Shah, was hearing a writ petition filed by K-P Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser through his lawyer Qazi Muhammad Anwar.
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In his writ petition, Qaiser complained that during the CPEC’s 7th Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting on November 21, the federal government had backtracked from its earlier commitments and ignored the projects promised to be financed under the CPEC.
The petition had been filed in November 2016, replying which the federal government had said that it was committed to the construction of projects in K-P on a priority basis. However, the recent JCC meeting appears to have raised K-P Assembly speaker’s concerns once again.
“The federal government has now backtracked from [its] earlier commitments made with the K-P [government] and ignored all the projects that were promised to be financed under the CPEC,” the speaker’s counsel told the court. “We have repeatedly asked for the minutes of the recent JCC meeting but were not provided any.”
Declining the counsel’s demand for the minutes of the meeting, the chief justice said, “The court is not interested in what happened in that meeting… we are only interested in whether they will stick to their earlier stance or not.”
The speaker’s counsel said that the federal government’s pledge included the construction of a 1,700 megawatts hydel project, and a circular railways track connecting Charsadda, Mardan, Nowshera, Peshawar, Swabi as well as the Rashakai economic zone 1, a state-of-the-art economic zone along the motorway.
“They’ve changed their earlier stance provided to the court and now these projects are no more on their priority list,” the counsel said.
On his part, the planning ministry’s representative replied that the federal government would stick to its earlier stance. “We are committed to our stance, and there is no need to revise or file any fresh comments in the case,” he told the court.
The government representative also said that the Chinese side preferred the Hattar industrial estate to Rashakai during the November 21 JCC meeting due to the availability of infrastructure at Hattar.
“Hatter is also on the K-P government’s alternate zone while Rashakai is its priority,” he told the court.
The PHC adjourned hearing of the case till December 5 and directed the federal government to file a response.
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