All Chinese CPEC workers to move in bullet-proof cars

Pakistan and China have agreed to use bullet-proof vehicles for all outdoor movement of the Chinese nationals working on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in order to protect them from terrorist attacks.

According to the draft minutes of the 11th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of the CPEC, both the sides have also agreed to strengthen capabilities of the law-enforcement agencies and investigators.

The decisions may help address the concerns of the government of China that was not moving forward on the CPEC front until the security of its nationals was fully guaranteed and Pakistan fulfilled its commitments under the energy deals.

“It has been decided that bullet-proof vehicles shall be used for all outdoor movements of the Chinese employed on projects,” said the draft minutes of the 11th JCC, which had been exchanged by Pakistan and China.

Against general expectations, Pakistan and China did not sign the 11th JCC minutes during the two-day visit of the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to Beijing earlier this week.

In the past, the minutes were signed immediately after the JCC. Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal had said after the meeting that the minutes would be signed during the prime minister’s visit.

“Due to a very short visit of only 24 hours some of the memoranda of understanding, including the minutes of the JCC, could not be signed,” the minister said.

“About 17 meetings took place in a span of 24 hours, which left no time for some other important engagements,” he said, adding that either a delegation would soon go to China for the singing or those would be signed virtually.

The draft minutes further showed that the Chinese side committed to providing security-related equipment for the capacity building of the Pakistani law-enforcement agencies.

In order to speed up the investigations into the crimes, involving the Chinese nationals, it had been decided the National Forensic Science Agency (NFSA) would be built on modern lines.

The Pakistani side requested Chinese support for full upgrade of the National Forensic Science Lab in Islamabad. The Chinese side assured their full support for the purpose, according to the draft minutes.

The Chinese side has also committed to establish a training centre for the private security guards and the LEA personnel to equip them with the modern techniques and modules.

Some terror attacks on Chinese nationals dealt a major blow to the execution of the CPEC projects. In the past, China had even demanded of Pakistan to let its security people protect the Chinese nationals, according to sources.

In view of increasing incidents of terrorism, involving the non-corridor projects, Pakistan had proposed the establishment of a separate joint working group for coordination on the security efforts.

But it was mutually decided that a Joint Technical Expert Working Group (JTEWG) would be established for the security of non-CPEC projects. The JTEWG would evaluate the services of private security companies.

Energy cooperation

The draft minutes suggested that Pakistan had not been able to achieve its goal to fast-track the work on some of the CPEC energy projects, although it once again gave a commitment “to maintain the tax and tariff policies stable”.

Iqbal had suggested that China should expedite work on 701MW Azad Pattan Hydropower Project, 1124MW Kohala Hydel Project and 1,320MW Thar Block-I Shanghai Electric Co Power Plant, including 7.8mpta Mine. These projects have achieved 90% milestones for financial close.

The draft document stated that financial closure would remain dependent on clearance by a Chinese insurance company that was suffering badly due to non-payment of energy dues by Pakistan.

China has not backed out from its demand that Pakistan should timely clear the outstanding dues and set up a revolving bank account.

“The Chinese side appreciated the efforts made by the Pakistani side to fully pay the tariff of CPEC energy projects in a timely manner and hoped for a further increase in the tariff settlement ratio to ensure repayment of the bank loan and normal operation of CPEC energy projects”, according to the draft minutes.

The minutes referred to the CPEC Energy Project Cooperation Agreement signed in 2014, stating “the Chinese side hopes that the Pakistan side would establish a revolving account soon”.

Pakistan has set up an Energy Fund before the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s departure to Beijing but it is not equal to the revolving bank account.

In a positive development, China has agreed to help Pakistan meet its energy needs from indigenous resources through conversion of coal into other products for domestic demand as well as exports.

Transport sector

Pakistan and China have extended the Framework Agreement for $10 billion Main Line (ML)-1 project for the next 5 years, as both sides could not timely begin the project implementation.

The draft minutes suggested that the “Pakistani side has accepted the RMB financing proposal from the Chinese side for the ML-1 project” – withdrawing its demand to get the $8.4 billion loan in mix of US and Chinese currency.

Against Pakistan’s wish to sign a commercial contract, it was agreed that the bidding process of the ML-I project would commence immediately and it would be completed before the end of the year.

This will follow the signing of a commercial contract and financial close of the project. Both sides agreed on the project implementation milestones agreement where the ground breaking of the project is planned in March 2023.

Ahsan Iqbal said that President Xi Jinping has given directions for the fast-track implementation of the ML-I and the Karachi Circular Railways (KCR) project.

Both sides agreed to sign the Framework Agreement on the analogy of the Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project (OLMTP) for the execution of the $1.3 billion KCR project.

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