Opposition rejects CPEC body formation through ordinance – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The major opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — have rejected the government’s act of setting up the CPEC Authority through a presidential ordinance and termed it an “illegal” move in violation of recommendations of the parliamentary committee concerned.

PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal, during a press talk after attending a meeting of the opposition’s Rahbar Committee here on Tuesday, said the setting up of the CPEC Authority through a presidential ordinance was a “backdoor legislation” and that his party would not accept the move.

Condemning the government’s act of establishing the authority through a presidential ordinance, he said the “rulers have expressed no confidence in civil institutions”.

“President Dr Arif Alvi has bypassed the [related] parliamentary committee and parliament by signing the controversial ordinance,” he alleged.

Says the move is in violation of parliamentary committee’s recommendations

PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar said it appeared that the government wanted to “hand over the CPEC [China-Pakistan Economic Corridor] project to the military”.

“We don’t want militarisation of civil society,” the PPP stalwart said, adding that his party would take up the issue in parliament.

Before Prime Minister Imran Khan’s departure for China on Monday, President Alvi had promulgated two ordinances to set up the CPEC Authority and grant tax concessions to the Gwadar port and its free zone.

“The CPEC Authority Ordinance 2019” and “The Tax Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2019” have been promulgated by the government to oversee and implement the ambitious project of the economic corridor and give income tax, sales tax and customs duty exemptions to the Gwadar port and its free zone.

The authority has reportedly been given vast powers to call for any information related to CPEC activities, and in case of failure to provide the information, it will have the powers to impose penalties on those who defy its orders.

Earlier, in a statement, Ahsan Iqbal said the PML-N would strongly contest and protest against this act in parliament and other relevant forums.

He pointed out that the National Assembly’s Committee on CPEC had unanimously opposed and rejected the formation of such a body. “Bulldozing parliament and implementing this authority through an ordinance” was an “intentional effort to make this giant national project controversial”, he said.

Ahsan Iqbal, who had worked as minister for planning and development in the previous PML-N government, said he had personally sent a message directly to the president that the creation of this body would be an illegal act and, therefore, he should not sign it under any circumstances. However, the PML leader claimed, the president ignored the advice of the top national institution — parliament.

“The creation of this authority is a clear message to undermine trust in civilian institutions,” Mr Iqbal said, adding that this investment of $28.5 billion did not come through any such “authority” rather it was brought over by a civilian political government through democratic and constitutional institutions.

“It does not take such bodies to complete and operate CPEC. It takes money and vision, and the current regime is devoid of both.”

The former planning minister said that the formation of this authority would create problems and complications in collaboration between ministries and departments. This would create bureaucratic hurdles and limitations that would hamper and stall CPEC.

Mr Iqbal said the NA committee had recommended that the matter of formation of this authority should be presented before parliament where it should be exhaustively debated.

The committee, he added, had also advised the government not to go ahead with the creation of any such body in any way other than an act of parliament (through legislation).

He alleged that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government did not “believe in the parliament and wants to hide everything from the people, which is why they have shut parliament down”.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2019

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