ISLAMABAD: On Tuesday, the government told a parliamentary panel that there was currently no Chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority as members of the National Assembly contested the deceased agency’s legal status and the working of its top management.
The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Planning, Growth and Special Initiatives deferred “The (CPEC) China Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority (Amendment ) Bill, 2020” to its next meeting after fascinating discussions and a short break to enable senior officials of the Ministry of Planning and Development to pursue clarification.
During a meeting of the standing committee, MNA Syed Agha Rafiullah asked about who was chairman of the CPEC Authority as the debate began on the resolution. “No one,” Secretary of Planning and Development Mathar Niaz Rana answered.
Then, the congressman wondered what rule the incumbent operates under.
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As the CPEC Ordinance had lapsed on May 31 , 2020, the secretary said he was only organising.
Lawmakers question legal status, functioning of the authority after expiry of its ordinance
When the ordinance had expired months before, Mr. Rafiullah wondered under what statute they were still operating. Dummies, are we? What sort of law-making do we do? “Asked him.
MNA Imran Khattak demanded officials from the planning ministry to let the committee know who was actually the chair of the CPEC Authority. The response was in the negative again.
The official response remained unchanged when MNA Naveed Dero asked the officials to specifically state who was the chairman of the authority at present.
Mr Rafiullah then asked that a formal explanation be given by the planning ministry that there was no chairman of the CPEC Authority and that it also clarify how it was operating when the ordinance had expired.
The chairman of the committee, Junaid Akbar, asked if there was actually no chairman of the CPEC Authority, what was the position of the incumbent and what were the advantages and privileges he was receiving?
Many members of the committee have questioned if any Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU) had been signed on behalf of the CPEC Authority following the expiry of its decree in May this year?
At this point, the chairman of the committee announced that he would pause the hearings for five minutes and asked the secretary of planning and development to request advice from the government for a clear stance.
After a bit, Secretary Mathar Rana returned and announced that Minister of Planning and Development Asad Umar could not be reached as he was attending a cabinet meeting, but CPEC Authority officials had stated that after the expiry of the decree, neither any MoU had been signed nor that the incumbent enjoyed benefits.
This did not please the committee who decided to issue and report a clear-cut and written clarification.
The secretary told the committee that he and the minister would take up the matter and informed him of the directives of the panel.
During the discussions, Secretary Rana informed the committee that, under the proposed bill, the role of Chief Executive Officer of the CPEC Authority was being eliminated and that the chairman would head the CPEC.
In the proposed bill, the chairman will be named by the division concerned and will report to the prime minister, he added.
In response to concerns, the panel was advised that compensation for acts taken in good faith by the top management of the CPEC Authority was in accordance with other authorities’ related provisions, but the members had doubts regarding the elastic concept of ‘good faith.’
The planning secretary said that he had spoken to the CPEC officers and stated their response in “good conscience” on the orders of the committee.
It was noted that the government revoked the earlier ordinance on the same subject; thus, the instant bill was adopted.
In a written statement, the National Assembly said that the committee asked under what statute the authority was carrying out its duties when the declaration was revoked and no longer in the region.
At the next meeting, the planning and development secretary assured the committee to brief it on what capability and under what statute the chairman of the CPEC Authority was conducting its functions.
The representatives recommended that the bill be discussed and deliberated on for some time. The committee voted unanimously to delay the bill before its next sitting.
Sher Akbar Khan, Saleh Muhammad, Syed Faiz-ul-Hassan, Nawab Sher, Sardar Nasrullah Khan Dreshak, Imran Khattak, Muhammad Sajjad, Muhammad Junaid Anwar Chaudhry, Sardar Muhammad Irfan Dogar, Naveed Dero, Syed Agha Rafiullah and Abdul Shakoor all participated in the conference.