In a landmark ceremony, Pakistani authorities will formally hand over 2,281 acres of Gwadar Port’s free trade zone to the Chinese Oversees Ports Holding Company Ltd (COPHCL) on November 11 on a 43-year lease.
The ceremony will be held in Gwadar on Wednesday and will be attended by the Chinese delegation headed by Vice Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission Wang Xiaodao, who has already arrived in Pakistan.
The Chinese delegation comprises of all top level officials of the Chinese government and leaders of private companies. The Pakistani delegation will be led by Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal.
The event will also be attended by Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik and Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Kamran Michal, said a senior official of the ministry.The government has already declared Gwadar port a free trade zone for the next 23 years.
The officer said that in this regard, a high level meeting of both authorities will be held in Karachi on November 12 to complete the formalities.
COPHCL will execute the port’s affairs through its three main companies including Gwadar International Terminal (GIT), Gwadar Marine Services Ltd and Gwadar Freezone Company Ltd.
GIT will also be responsible for the port’s operations by handling business related matters.
Gwadar Marine Service Ltd, will look at the port’s operation by providing allied services and Gwadar Freezone Company will look after affairs of the free zone area by developing and providing allied facilities to the investment companies in the free zone area.
After the formal handover of the free trade zone, all business affairs of the port will be carried out by Chinese authorities.
The officer said that Pakistan has delivered its end of the bargain and now it is upto the Chinese authorities to show their commitment.
Additionally, during the ceremony, inauguration of some projects will also be held including inauguration of school and health centres established by the Chinese in Gwadar.
The scheme is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an ambitious $46 billion investment plan linking western China to the Arabian Sea with infrastructure, energy and transport projects.
Pakistan is also raising a special security force of between 10,000 and 25,000 men to protect the port.
Earlier, Abdul Razzaq Durrani, the director general of Gwadar Port Authority, had said that land acquisition to build the economic zone had cost the Balochistan government around $62 million.
Gwadar port was built in 2007 with technical help from Beijing as well as Chinese financial assistance of some $248 million.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2015.