Pakistan has appointed a retired army general as the first chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority, formed in October to ensure timely completion of the multi-billion corridor project.
Lt-Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa, former head of the military’s media wing Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), has been named as chairman of the CPEC Authority.
The Authority was established through a presidential ordinance in October, ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing during which Pakistan assured China of its determination to complete the mega corridor project.
The CPEC Authority was set up for coordination, monitoring, evaluation and implementation of the project activities.
The former DG ISPR, who also served as commander Southern Command, has been appointed for a period of four years.
The idea of the CPEC Authority was floated in 2016. However, the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had shot it down.
The appointment of Lt Gen Asim Bajwa comes as the US has voiced criticism of the CPEC.
About two months ago, a joint parliamentary committee on CPEC also opposed the setting up of the authority through a presidential ordinance.
The selection process for the appointment of the CPEC Authority chairman started and was completed the day the government formally announced replacing Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar with Asad Umar as planning minister.
The CPEC Authority has reportedly been given vast powers to summon any information related to CPEC activities and impose penalties on those who fail to do so, Dawn reported.
Opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party, have already rejected the CPECA and termed it a violation of recommendations of a parliamentary committee.
While the PPP criticised the creation of the CPECA and said it undermined the authority of parliament, the PML-N was of the view that it would create problems and complications in a collaboration between the ministries and departments. This would create bureaucratic hurdles and limitations that would hamper and stall the CPEC, they claimed.
On Tuesday, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also criticised the formation of the CPECA and said the government was making the corridor project controversial.