Muhammad Imran Aslam

 “This will be my first trip to Pakistan, but I feel as I am going to visit the home of my own visit”. President of China Xi Jinping Wrote in an open editorial stating. 20th April 2015 was a historical day for Pakistan facing many crises and that day Pakistan and China sign an agreement to commence work on $46 billion. This amount is roughly 20 percent of Pakistan annual GDP. Days ago everyone uses to say Pak-China friendship is higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, sweeter than honey and stronger than steel but President Xi expressed it now as “iron brothers”.

The CPEC basket, which includes energy projects, roads, industrial parks and Gwadar deep seaport, is not only geared towards meeting Pakistan’s immediate needs but also helping her get back on its feet after years of terrorist violence and power outages took a heavy toll on its economy. It was in April, 2015 when 51 Agreements were signed as part of the CPEC during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan. A little over than a year, what we see is a phenomenal progress on the various projects. It is history in the making. A new chapter of friendship is being written in the annals of inter-state relations. This is something unheard of in recent history.  During his historic address to the joint session of Pakistan’s Parliament, President Xi described Pakistan as an “Iron Brother” and the development activities on the ground only testify that China is living up to its promise, helping Pakistan out of its power woes and putting it on the path of sustainable socio-economic growth.

The CPEC is a flagship project of President Xi’s One Belt One Road vision. We, in Pakistan, look at this vision as being crucial to regional progress and stability. The scope of the “Belt and Road” initiative includes promotion of enhanced policy coordination across the Asian continent, financial integration, trade liberalization, and people-to-people connectivity. China’s efforts to implement this initiative will leave an impact on the region’s economic architecture patterns of regional trade, investment, infrastructure development. The Belt and Road vision is also characterized by initiatives to promote greater financial integration, create an “Information Silk Road” linking regional information and communications technology networks, and lower barriers to cross-border trade and investment in the region, among other initiatives.

It is reality that over the medium to long term, successful implementation of the initiative would help deepen regional economic integration, boost cross-border trade and financial flows between Eurasian countries and the outside world, and further entrench Sino-centric  patterns of trade, investment, and infrastructure.

Now it is worth mentioning that out of total energy projects of $33.8 Billion, the cost of the projects being installed in Punjab in the power sector is $ 6.6 Billion. These include 1320-MW Coal-fired Power Project at Sahiwal; 1000-MW Solar Power Project at Bahawalpur; 1320-MW Coal Fired Power Project at Muzzafargarh and 1320-MW Coal-fired Power Project at Rahim Yar Khan. In Punjab, the power projects of close to 5000 MW capacity are being installed. They are at various phases of implementation. Sindh’s share in the energy projects under the CPEC is 5630 MW at an estimated cost of $ 12,334 million.  In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one project of 870 MW is part of the CPEC at an estimated cost of $ 1802 million.  Three projects of 2940-MW capacity at an estimated cost of $7400 million fall under Balochistan’s share of CPEC. Azad Jammu & Kashmir has a share of two projects of 1820 MW at an estimated cost of $ 3817 million under the CPEC.

Under the CPEC energy portfolio a total of 17,045 MW of electricity will be generated at an estimated cost of close to $34 Billion, which will almost double Pakistan’s existing generation capacity once these projects come online. It is matter of reality that 70% work on 1320-MW Sahiwal Coal Power Plant has been completed. Though the project was to be commissioned by December 2017, the construction work is ahead of schedule and it will become operational by June 2017, six months ahead of commercial operation date.

Chief Minister Punjab Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif visited China a week ago. CM was accorded a warm welcome, on his five day visit to China, at Beijing airport by senior Chinese at authorities and ambassador of Pakistan. Talking to media Chief Minister said the purpose of his visit to china is to further speed up wheel of development cooperation.  Leader of Communist Party of China and Minister, Zheng Xiaosong hosted a dinner in the honour of Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif at Beijing. Addressing on the occasion, the Chief Minister said that role of Communist Party of China in the development of China is of historic importance. Leaders of Communist Party of China have proved from their act and character that if work is carried out with commitment, enthusiasm and continuity then no hurdle can stop development process. He said that the credit of the popularity gained by China in the world community goes to the leadership of Communist Party of China. Leader of Communist Party of China and Minister Zheng Xiaosong addressing on the occasion, welcomed Chief Minister Punjab Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on arrival at Beijing and said that work is being carried out on a big project of transferring different industries including technology to Pakistan on priority basis in China. He expressed satisfaction over best arrangements for the security of Chinese engineers and other persons in Pakistan and said that Pakistan is an important member of project of regional cooperation of China and has unprecedented importance in this regard.

Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif met Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli in Beijing. It was agreed in the meeting to take effective measures to promote contacts between Communist Party of China and Pakistan Muslim League-N. Chinese Deputy Prime Minister said that there is a need to explore new avenues for strengthening contacts between the two political parties and all out cooperation will be extended for this purpose. He said that China is fully aware of the importance of Punjab with regard to economic cooperation between the two countries. Chinese Deputy Prime Minister also expressed good wishes for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and said that the whole Chinese leadership is praying for his early recovery. The Chief Minister also met Chairperson Exim Bank of China Madam Hu Xiaolian in Beijing today. The Chairperson of Exim Bank of China paid historic tributes to the speed of implementation of projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. She said that term Shen-zhen Speed was used for speedy completion of projects in China but now Punjab has left this term far behind and the term Punjab Speed is used in China with regard to rapid execution of projects. She further said that Chinese investment in Pakistan will increase manifold in the days to come and a number of projects are being completed in Punjab with the investment of billions of dollars by Exim Bank. It may be mentioned that Shen-zhen is among those cities of China where the first industrial economic zone was set up and the Chinese surprised the whole world by its speed of construction. Chief Minister thanked Exim bank for timely provision of funds for Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project. He also expressed his pleasure for the term Punjab speed in china for him. It is an honor of Punjab Government and people of Pakistan.

Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif also met Minister for International Department of Communist Party of China, Song Tao in Beijing who said that relations between Communist Party of China and Pakistan Muslim League-N are ideal and ties between the two parties have strengthened in the tenure of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He said that exchange of delegations at the party level with Pakistan will be welcomed and it is his desire that maximum number of youth delegations of the party should be sent to China.  CM also deliver letter of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif to Minister for Communist party of China written for President and Prime Minister of China. An agreement was also signed in Beijing in the presence of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif for setting up an industrial park. Under the agreement, Chinese investors and industrialists will construct an industrial park in Chunian Industrial Estate in Punjab. Chinese investors in private sector will set up factories in the industrial park spreading over an area of 2000 acres. The project will cost Rs. 20 billion. The agreement has been made between Gharibwal Cement Group and China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITC). Shehbaz Sharif while speaking on the occasion welcomed business-to-business agreement between Pakistan and China and said that it will promote investment in private sector. Meanwhile, Director General Chinese Ministry of Industries & Information Technology Luo Min met Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Matters regarding promotion of cooperation to accelerate industrial process and information technology were discussed in the meeting. Chairman of an organization 300 industrial estates, Shi Rongyao also called on Shehbaz Sharif.

Next day seven agreements and seventeen MOUs sign in presence of Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif  between different government and private companies of China and Pakistan at Pakistan embassy in Beijing. These agreements pertain to textile industry, establishment of industrial estates, training of master trainers in different skills, promotion of trade fairs and exhibitions, energy, infrastructure and water treatment and other sectors. Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif met Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui in Beijing. Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Minister said that Pak-China friendship is a precious asset of every Pakistani. He said that completion of China Pakistan Economic Corridor will change the destiny of the region. He said that implementation of CPEC projects will result in promotion of exports of Pakistan and different countries of the region as well as create job opportunities besides curbing the trend of extremism. He said that Pakistan has always supported China on “One China Policy”, Tibet as well as regional and international issues. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui said that China has always stood by Pakistan and will continue to help Pakistan achieve progress and prosperity. Meanwhile, the Chief Minister while talking to the representatives of Chinese print and electronic media, news agencies and radio in Pakistan Embassy in Beijing said that Pak-China love and friendship is based on golden principle of honesty, trust and transparency. He said that people of China and Pakistan should learn each other’s languages as it will them closer. He said that there is a need for visits of delegations of traders, industrialists besides scientists, artists, students and teachers. In next ceremony CM addressed Pakistani students in Pakistan embassy in Beijing. Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif also met President Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Jin Liqun, Vice Chairman National Development and Reforms Commission Nuer Baikeli, Chairman of prominent Chinese group in energy sector Huaneng group for speedy work on Sahiwal coal power project, Administrator National Energy Administration Noor bakri.  Chief Minister also visited command and control centre of transport management of Beijing, public security bureau. Briefing was given to Chief Minister about transport management and public security Bureau.

Punjab Shandong Business Conference was held today in the Chinese city of Jinan, capital of Shandong province. Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif and Vice Governor of Shandong province, Ji Xiang Qi jointly presided over the conference. Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif also addressed the conference which was attended by a large number of investors, industrialists and businessmen. Chinese businessmen investing in Pakistan especially Punjab shared their experiences and impressions on this occasion. Heads of leading public sector companies of China, ministers of Communist Party, senior office-bearers and investors from private sector participated in the conference. Prominent Pakistani investors, industrialists and businessmen were also present. Vice Governor of Shandong province Ji Xiang Qi while speaking on the occasion warmly welcomed Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his delegation on behalf of senior leadership of China. He said that Shandong and Punjab will add a new chapter to development cooperation. He said that Chinese leadership has given instructions for extending full cooperation to Punjab and all out efforts will be made in this regard. The Chief Minister during the conference invited senior officers of Chinese companies working in Pakistan especially Punjab to come to the stage and share their experiences with others, frankly and honestly in Chinese language. He requested Chinese investors and industrialists to listen to them and take decision immediately. The Chinese investors said that their experience of working in Pakistan especially Punjab has been excellent and they were provided all necessary facilities on priority basis. They said that Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, his team, politicians and bureaucrats extended them all out cooperation. Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif also met chief executives of the consortium of Chinese companies working on Sahiwal Coal Power project in Jinan. During the meeting at Huaneng headquarters, senior officials of Huaneng Shandong and Ruyi Group were present. The Chief Minister thanked Huaneng Shandong and Ruyi Group for working speedily on 1320 megawatts Sahiwal Coal Power project. Chief executives of the Chinese companies while talking to the Chief Minister said that the fast pace of work on Sahiwal Coal Power Plant is a result of cooperation extended by Chief Minister Punjab. The Chief Minister also visited Huaneng headquarters. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif met Secretary Communist Party of China, Shandong Province Jiang Yikang in Jinan. Talking to Shehbaz Sharif, Secretary Communist Party of China, Shandong Province Jiang Yikang said that efforts are being made speedily for transforming Pak-China friendship into solid economic cooperation and Communist Party of China is playing a vital role in this regard. He said that the visit of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif to China will go a long way in stability of friendship between the two countries and timely completion of CPEC projects. He also announced setting up of a committee comprising senior officials of Shandong province for promoting cooperation between Punjab and Shandong in education, health, energy, infrastructure, transport, culture and other sectors. Secretary Communist Party of China also hosted a dinner in honor of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Senior Chinese officials, office-bearers of Communist Party, Chinese investors and members of Pakistani delegation were present. A memorandum of understanding was also signed for promotion of cooperation between Punjab and Shandong province on this occasion. Vice Governor of Shandong Ji Xiang Qi and Punjab Minister for Industries Ch. Muhammad Shafiq signed the MoU under which Shandong and Punjab will work for promotion of cooperation in different sectors. Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif also visited Liver Transplant, Beijing Friendship Hospital and inspected medical facilities being provided with regard to liver transplant. He also reviewed treatment facilities available in the hospital for liver diseases.

Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif addressed ‘Punjab-Qingdao Business Seminar’ in Qingdao, an important trade and industrial city of China. Vice Mayor Qingdao Sun Lijie also spoke on the occasion. In his address to the business seminar, Vice Mayor Qingdao warmly welcomed Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the industrial and trade hub of China. He said that Punjab government has provided a very conducive atmosphere to Chinese investors and due to personal interest taken by the Chief Minister Chinese investment is increasing in Punjab. The Chief Minister while addressing Punjab-Qingdao Business Seminar announced provision of free of cost land to big Chinese investors on investment in Punjab and said that provincial government highly values Chinese investors. A large number of Chinese industrialists, investors, businessmen and senior officials of government departments attended the seminar. Chairman Planning & Development Jehanzeb Khan and Secretary Industries Khalid Sherdil gave briefings to the participants of the seminar on the facilities being provided by provincial government to investors and industrialists. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif while talking to a delegation of Chinese investors and industrialists in Qingdao said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has ushered in new era of friendship between the two countries and this cooperation will leave a positive impact on the entire region. Shehbaz Sharif also visited leading industrial organizations Haier and Hisense Group in Qingdao and inspected there various sections. He was also given a detailed briefing on the production capacity and items produced by these industries. The Chief Minister also met Secretary Communist Party of China Qingdao, Li Qun. During the meeting, agreements and memorandums of understanding were signed between Punjab and Qingdao. A joint working group will also be set up to explore possibilities of promotion of cooperation between Punjab and Qingdao in different sectors. Memorandums of understanding were also signed between Punjab Investment Board, Industries Department Punjab and Qingdao. Investors of Punjab and Qingdao also signed agreements and MoUs under which cooperation will be promoted in the setting up of economic zones, textile sector, transport, industrial estates, infrastructure, e-commerce, technical and vocational training and other sectors. . Secretary Communist Party of China Qingdao also hosted a dinner in honour of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his delegation. Minister and a leader of Communist Party of China Zheng Xiaosong, senior office-bearers, Vice Mayor Qingdao Sun Lijie, Director General Foreign Affairs Qingdao, senior officials, members of Pakistani delegation and a large number of Chinese and Pakistani businessmen were present. It may be mentioned that a total of 45 agreements and MoUs were signed during the visit of Chief Minister out of which 20 are agreements and 25 are MoUs. Chief Minister travelled from Jinan to Qingdao by a first train earlier he had also travelled from Beijing to Jinan by train.

Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif also talked Chinese investor and Chinese media during his visit of Jimo city. He also visited Economic Development Zone.

Chief Minister Met Chinese delegation in Lahore soon after his return. Chief Minister said while talking China Pakistan Joint Energy Group meeting, I personally chair meetings regularly to review the security arrangements of the Chinese professionals in addition to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Law and Order looking after the security-related matters. Security of Chinese engineers and professionals and the CPEC projects is a matter of immense significance for us. While the Government of Pakistan has raised a Special Security Division of Pakistan Army, the Punjab Government has established a Special Protection Unit comprising 5000 personnel as a dedicated and stand-alone force for the security of the Chinese professionals and installations. During my five-day visit to China a week ago, I found an extraordinary interest among the Chinese Government authorities and the leadership of Communist Party of China to further deepen and promote relations with Pakistan. Huge reservoirs of goodwill existing between our two countries at all levels are being rendered into concrete economic cooperation.

China and Pakistan stand at critical juncture in history. A bright and promising future awaits us, thanks to the dedicated support of our great Chinese friends. We are mindful of our responsibility to realize the dream of progress and prosperity. The nation stands fully behind the leadership in his struggle to put the country back on track. Together with the support of our people and friends like China, we will pass the acid test. We would not fail the expectations of the masses.