Stakeholders in the loop on Saudi role: Asad Umar

Finance minister dismisses foul play in third country participation in CPEC

Sardar Sikander October 03, 2018
Finance Minister Asad Umar. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Asad Umar on Wednesday dismissed any foul play in the government's plans to assign Saudi Arabia a role in the China-Pakistan Economic Project (CPEC) and Reko Diq mines, saying the stakeholders have been taken onboard in this regard.

"China and Pakistan will guide the course of the future of CPEC," the minister said while responding to the criticism from the opposition in the Senate before winding up debate on the mini budget.

Former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani and Hasil Bizenjo from the National Party had raised the issue of Saudi Arabia's proposed role in CPEC as 'third strategic partner' and its stakes in Reko Diq mines and Gwadar Oil City, saying the major stakeholders including China and Balochistan government were respectively bypassed over the matter.

"When the Chinese foreign minister visited Pakistan recently, the matter was discussed with him. It was agreed that a third country can be given a role in CPEC in individual projects. This proposed role was not specific to any country but in general terms (no country was named). The matter was discussed with Saudi Arabia which expressed willingness to be part of individual projects under CPEC," Asad said.

The minister said any kind of decision-making regarding CPEC remains with China and Pakistan only. No agreement was signed with Saudi Arabia on any project so far, the minister added.

The minister said the Balochistan government had been taken onboard regarding Saudi Arabia's involvement in Reko Diq and the provincial chief minister has been kept in the loop regarding the relevant deliberations.

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"We lost the Reko Diq case in international arbitration. Saudis told us 'we can help you resolve the matter if you are willing'. We said 'okay, we are willing'. The matter is fully known to the Balochistan chief minister who agrees that the issue be resolved."

Meanwhile amidst ruckus and chaos, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani adjourned till Friday the Senate's session following an exchange of harsh words not only between the treasury and opposition benches, but also between a minister and him.

"You should leave the house immediately," a visibly irked the Senate chairman directed Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who refused to comply with the directives as Fawad exchanged harsh accusations with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Mushahidullah Khan.

The argument started when the information minister began to speak on the floor of the house and the Senate chairman reminded him that he should apologies for his remarks made in the National Assembly a few days back in which the minister dubbed the former rulers as 'thieves'.

Even though the minister apologised for his remarks in the National Assembly, the Senate chairman and opposition senators insisted that he offered an apology in the Senate too.

This infuriated the minister who said that he had already apologised in the National Assembly where he was criticised even after he tendered apology.

The opposition senators including Leader of the Opposition in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq from the PML-N, Mushahidullah and Azam Khan Mandokhel from Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) demanded of Fawad to apologise.

Leader of the House in the Senate Shibli Faraz also joined the debate, saying the senators deemed it appropriate that the information minister come to the Senate and he should either apologise or clarify his stance.

"I am ready to clarify my position," the minister said. Addressing the Senate chairman, the minister added," "I want to present some facts before you, Mr chairman, after considering all the facts and reviewing the circumstances, you should decide whether I should apologise or not."

But the Senate chairman sounded unaccommodating and insisted that the minister apologised first and then continue his speech.

When the arguments took a heated turn, the minister looked visibly offended and said, "Why should I apologise? For calling a dacoit a dacoit? Shouldn't I call a dacoit a dacoit?"

An ever offended Senate chairman than asked Chaudhry to immediately leave the house but the minister refused to do so.
Mushahidullah suggested to the chairman that the minister be 'thrown out of the house'. Both Fawad and Mushahidullah exchanged extremely harsh and apparently below-the-belt accusations while hurling serious allegations against the families of one another.
After the information minister refused to leave the house, the Senate chairman suspended the Senate proceedings for 15 minutes.

The verbal spat between the information minister and Mushahid continued upon the resumption of the proceedings prompting the chairman Senate to adjourne the Senate proceedings till Friday.
Requesting anonymity, a senator told The Express Tribune that PML-N senators, especially Mushahidullah's attitude, contributed towars aggravating the atmosphere in the Senate.

"The information minister uttered some inappropriate remarks in the National Assembly and has apologised there. Thereafter, there was no need to press him to apologise in the Senate too.

"The better thing to do was to seek an explanation from him over the matter, which he was willing to give. The matter should have been resolved.

"It seems that some opposition members don't want smooth proceedings of the house. They overlook the fact that government ministers are giving importance to Senate and are visiting the upper house. The unnecessarily hostile attitude of some senators may prompt the ministers to start giving a cold shoulder to the upper house, the way it has happened in past," the source said.


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