ISLAMABAD: Despite Chinese concerns over delay in deployment of a Special Security Division (SSD) for their protection, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has yet to convene a meeting of the National Steering Committee of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to resolve issues obstructing this deployment.
Instead, the government has left this all-crucial matter on bureaucrats to decide on, said sources in the Ministry of Planning. The Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal discussed the issue of non-deployment of the security forces again on Monday during a CPEC projects review committee meeting.
“The meeting was informed by the Ministry of Interior that terms of reference (TORs) of special security force will be finalised within a week,” said a handout issued after the review committee meeting.
The matter is getting delayed for the last many months and every time a new deadline is given for the resolution of the issue. Despite raising a strong division at a cost of Rs21.5 billion for the protection of Chinese working on the $46 billion CPEC projects, the force has not been deployed due to concerns of provinces over its jurisdiction and powers.
The sources said Secretary to PM, Fuwad Hasan Fuwad, last week held a meeting with provincial chief secretaries to finalise the ToRs for the SSD deployment. However, they said, the provinces were reluctant to give major role to the military.
Many deadlines have passed but the matter remains unresolved amid renewed challenges to the CPEC from regional powers that see the geo-economic strategic initiative as a threat to their designs.
The PM’s spokesman Dr Mussadaq Malik was not available for comments.
“Since it was an administrative issue, therefore, there was no need to call a National Steering Committee meeting to resolve it,” Ahsan Iqbal said while talking to The Express Tribune on Monday. He said the PM’s secretary did hold a meeting with provincial chief secretaries and reached to a conclusion.
The minister said the National Steering Committee meeting would be requested before the next Pakistan-China Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting, which is scheduled for end of November.
“The Chinese, working on CPEC, have their own security but we feel that as the CPEC related activities accelerate there is a need to further strengthen their security,” said the National Highway Authority (NHA) spokesperson Kashif Zaman. The NHA is executing the CPEC road infrastructure projects.
One of the main Chinese concerns was the delay in the deployment of the SSD. An official handout of the planning ministry stated that Ahsan Iqbal also directed to accelerate the construction work on the CPEC projects to ensure their completion in time.
Courtesy : Express Tribune