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Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan set to visit China to rescue troubled CPEC

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (Photo: @CPEC_Official/Twitter)

Pakistan's cabinet committee on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is meeting today to sharpen the CPEC-related visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China. The mega joint project between two all-weather allies remains stalled due to multiple factors including investor disinterest.

Imran Khan is likely to visit China on February 3-5 to attend the Beijing winter Olympics with a focus on resolving numerous problems that haunt the CPEC. Just last week, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong met Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to discuss Khan’s visit and security issues surrounding the CPEC.

Pakistani newspaper Business Recorder reports that the Minister for Planning, Development and Special initiatives Asad Umar will chair today's meeting to finalise the agenda for Khan's visit which revolves around the CPEC. Besides meeting Chinese leadership, Khan will also interact with the private sector in China.

Chinese power companies have stopped work on CPEC projects as Pakistan holds up payments (Photo: Chinese ambassador to Pakistan)

Numerous issues ranging from safety to economic problems dog the CPEC–once touted as China's shining star in the global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Pakistan too was hoping to revive its economy and generate employment through the China managed and executed project.

However things have not worked that way for both countries owing to repeated attacks on Chinese nationals and non-payment of Rs 230 billion by a cash-strapped Pakistan to Chinese power companies.

The latest concern for Pakistan is the lack of interest by investors in the Gwadar Free Zone (GFZ) despite incentives by the government. Saudi Arabia also took a decision to relocate its petrochemicals complex from Gwadar to Sindh.

Today's meeting will also discuss a report by Pakistan's Board of Investment (BoI)–'Assessment of Investment Potential of GFZ' which says that there is no investor interest in Gwadar from either foreign or domestic investors.

The BoI conducted an independent assessment of investment potential in Gwadar and identified many hurdles to CPEC projects. These include persistent terror attacks on CPEC projects and Chinese personnel with strong local opposition by the Baloch nationalists.  

Other problems include lack of basic infrastructure like poor transportation and inadequate power and water supply.

On the bureaucratic and administrative fronts, the BOI said that Gwadar has not attracted investment because of non-performance of the Gwadar port being built by China and non-cooperation by the local government.

The Pakistan government has not been able to give a push to the CPEC projects as it could not even initiate work on its own iconic ideas that could have given a boost to the CPEC. Pakistan had proposed to China about the construction of the CPEC Business and Industrial Tower in Islamabad, Gwadar and other regional capitals.

The iconic project was meant to provide potential Chinese investors as well as Pakistani companies with adequate services, space and a conducive atmosphere. Even as some of the State-owned Chinese companies showed interest in it, the project has not taken off as suitable land could not be identified.

Despite the hype and positive diplomatic relations between the two nations, the $62 billion CPEC came to a complete halt last year. Khan's visit is about pushing China to revive the CPEC more than being an important spectator at the winter Olympics.