PM appoints a civilian to run CPEC affairs

Khalid Mansoor takes over the reins as Lt Gen (retd) Bajwa bows out


Shahbaz Rana August 03, 2021
Khalid Mansoor. PHOTO: OICCI

ISLAMABAD:

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday appointed Khalid Mansoor as his special assistant on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor affairs, resulting in the resignation of chairman of CPEC Authority, Lt Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa.

“[The] prime minister is pleased to appoint Khalid Mansoor as special assistant to the prime minister on CPEC affairs with immediate effect,” according to a notification issued by the PM Office. The appointment will be in an honorary capacity, it added.

Mansoor has not been appointed as the chairman of CPEC Authority, which is a statutory position under the CPEC Authority Act of 2021. Under the law and the Rules of the Business of the 1973, the special assistants do not enjoy any powers and are invited in cabinet meetings only on “special invitations”.

Mansoor’s appointment symbolises with giving the control of CPEC back to the civilians, which appears in line with the strategy of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who was against setting up the CPEC Authority.

Highly placed sources told The Express Tribune that the decision to replace Bajwa had been taken some time back and the government was looking for a replacement. They said that Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to appoint someone else to run the CPEC affairs. But the premier accepted Planning Minister Asad Umar’s choice who has a long association with Mansoor.

The government wanted to appoint somebody as the new head of CPEC matters that has more entrepreneur skills to deal with the Chinese companies, according to a senior government functionary.

The government did not want to make the changes before the Joint Cooperation Committee of the CPEC meeting, the sources said. The JCC was scheduled for July 16 but was postponed after an attack on Chinese nationals.

Soon after the PM’s decision, Bajwa took the Twitter to announce his decision to stepdown.

“I bow my head before Allah Almighty for giving me an opportunity to raise and steer the important institution of CPEC Authority as one window for all CPEC projects, charting the future direction,” Bajwa stated. It would not have been possible without full confidence and support of Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government, he added.

Bajwa said, “The course is set for future progression of CPEC, this journey will go on.”

Bajwa has approval of the CPEC Authority Act and making Gwadar port operational to his credit. He tried to remove obstacles in implementation of the CPEC projects but did not get full cooperation from the line ministries that are directly responsible for execution of these schemes. Bajwa also enjoyed good relations with Chinese authorities.

But an attack on Chinese nationals working on World Bank-funded Dasu hydropower project and its mishandling by Pakistani authorities gave a jolt to Pak-China relations.

The new appointment is also in line with the government’s strategy of ending a distinction between the CPEC and non-CPEC projects and dealing with all economic matters under one roof. Premier Imran has already set up Pak-China Relations Steering Committee, which had sealed the fate of the CPEC Authority as an independent body.

The CPEC Authority had everything except the authority and it was just a nomenclature, a top government official commented. It seems that the CPEC Authority would now work as an extension of the planning ministry instead of an authority working from a distance.

“Today, my objections submitted before the standing committee on setting up of CPEC Authority have proven to be 200% correct,” Ahsan Iqbal, the former federal minister for planning, said while commenting on the changes. He said that unfortunately, the government destroyed the momentum and initiative among line ministries by imposing a command structure and much damage has been done to CPEC implementation.

The government had appointed Bajwa as chairman of the CPEC Authority in November 2019 for a period of four years amid the opposition’s criticism of formation of the authority.

Bajwa remained director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations from 2012 to 2016. He is believed to be the father of the new ISPR but his critics blame him for promotion of hate culture under the banner of the 5th generation warfare.

Planning Minister Umar paid tribute to Bajwa for his services “in moving CPEC forward and playing a vital role in broadening of the CPEC scope with a transition to second phase of CPEC".

Mansoor’s “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”, Umar said.

The Ministry of Planning issued a handout to welcome the appointment of Mansoor, suggesting that Umar was fully onboard on these changes.

“Mansoor brings with him over four decades of experience working with multiple organisations in energy, petrochemicals, and fertilizer industries,” the planning ministry said. He is expected to lead the second phase of CPEC which will focus on industrial cooperation, it added.

Mansoor has extensive experience of working with Chinese companies and has a deep understanding of joint ventures, project development and execution with Chinese partners, the ministry stated.

Mansoor is a well-known business leader and has served as the president of Overseas Chamber of Commerce of Industry (OICCI). He has also worked closely with international financial institutions, like the World Bank, IFC, MIGA, OPIC, ADB, DEG, OFID as well as Chinese financial institutions such as China Development Bank, China Exim Bank, ICBC, Sinosure etc, according to the planning ministry.

 

 

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