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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan requested China for provision of $ 2.43 billion loan more than a year ago but the payment of the loan is still awaited, Railways Minister Azam Swati informed the Senate Tuesday.

The Economic Affairs Division (EAD) formally submitted a loan application to Chinese government on November 25, 2020, for loan of Package-1 amounting to $ 2.43 billion, for which commitment of loan is awaited from Chinese government, the minister stated in written reply to a question posed by Afnan Ullah Khan from Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) regarding progress on ML-1 project to date.

The Planning Development and Special Initiatives Ministry in the meeting held on August 5, 2020, approved the PC-1 for upgradation of Pakistan Railways existing Main Line (ML-1) and establishment of a dry port near Havelian at ‘rationalised’ cost of $ 6.806 billion, the written reply, shared in Senate sitting presided over by Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, read.

Under the prime minister’s directives, a high-level financing committee was formed under the chairmanship of deputy chairman Planning Commission which held nine internal meetings and four meetings with Chinese authorities, Swati stated.

According to his reply, in a meeting with a Chinese government representative held on March 30, last year, Pakistani side requested to be provided with a date for loan commitment, timeline for tender advertisement, award of contract and date for ground-breaking ceremony.

There is no mention in the minister’s written reply whether the Chinese authorities accepted these requests. He said tender documents for the sections included in Package-1 have been finalized and planned to be advertised after receiving the commitment of loan from Chinese government.

The Package-1 comprises of five sections: Upgradation of Nawabshah-Rohri Section (183 kilometers). Upgradation of Multan-Lahore Section (339 kms). Upgradation of Lahore-Lalamusa Section (132 kms). Realignment of Kaluwal-Pindora Section (52 kms) and upgradation of Walton Railway Academy.

In reply to a question by Shahadat Awan from Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Swati said Pakistan Railways has leased out an area of 4,451 acres of land in the last three years.

It has planned to commercially exploit its available lands through public-private partnership, inviting expression of interest for hiring of consultant for commercial exploitation of 25 mega sites in 2021. In addition, 111 new commercial sites were also identified for commercial projects under public-private partnership in the second phase, Swati said.

“Unfortunately, Supreme Court of Pakistan, in case number 9/2010, in its hearing held on 14-06-2021, imposed ban on Pakistan Railways to commercially utilise its land by leasing on short or long-term basis. Thereafter, lease process has been held up due to above said ban,” Swati said in the written reply.

Later, speaking on the floor of the House, former chairman Senate Raza Rabbani from PPP said Parliament was not taken into confidence on the formulation of National Security Policy (NSP). He said military personnel (retired or serving) were appointed at top positions in at least 15 state-run entities.

Responding to Rabbani, Parliamentary Affairs State Minister Ali Muhammad Khan said, “We are getting to hear about civilian supremacy from a party whose top leader – Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto — was the one and only civilian martial law administrator in the history of this country.

A retired general—Lieutenant General ® Naseerullah Babar — was the Interior Minister in Benazir Bhutto’s federal government—you are talking about 15 departments—I can name 1,500 government departments where civilians are at top positions. If a retired military man meets the criteria and gets appointed on merit, what’s wrong with that? Please don’t try to create civil-military divide,” he said.

Mushtaq Ahmed from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) sought the details of the retired armed forces officials serving in Nadra (National Database and Registration Authority). Khan replied that no armed forces official was appointed on deputation in Nadra while six officials from civil government departments were serving on deputation in NADRA.

However, the JI senator said, he sought details of those armed forces officials who were serving in Nadra on regular basis and not on deputation. The state minister asked him to furnish a fresh question on armed forces personnel appointment in Nadra.

Leader of the House in Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem said all the stakeholders were invited to share their input on the NSP. He said the draft of Pakistan’s first-ever NSP was shared in the parliamentary panel.

Taking a jibe at the opposition, he said, “Those who were talking about the (hidden) ‘hand’ have been outsmarted by that hand.” The Senate was adjourned till Friday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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