ISLAMABAD: The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority and its executives, employees and staff have been given indemnity from any suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings by any agency.
Section 23 of the CPEC Authority Ordinance tabled in the National Assembly says: “No suit, prosecution or legal proceedings will be carried out against the CPEC Authority, its chairperson, member, executive directors of operations and research, employees, officers, experts, consultants or advisers in respect of anything done or purported to be done in good faith under the proposed law or rules or regulations.”
A somewhat truncated indemnity or immunity clause existed in the original ordinance that was promulgated the day the prime minister embarked on his first China visit in October 2019. This emerged when the two documents were juxtaposed. However, the present ordinance has been significantly expanded in many respects with the addition of some new clauses.
Section 27, which is a new provision, reads: “All actions duly taken under the ordinance will be deemed to have been validly taken and done and will be deemed to have been so taken or done. Any licence, order, agreement, directive, instruction or other instrument, issued, or executed under the CPEC ordinance will be deemed to have been issued under this ordinance and will continue to be in force until it expires or is cancelled or withdrawn by the competent authority.”
The ordinance further states that CPEC will report to the prime minister through the division concerned (which is not defined but it is believed that it refers to the Planning Development and Special Initiatives ministry). Among others, CPEC will implement decisions taken from time to time at meetings of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC). The function of planning will follow the existing arrangement being adopted by the Pakistan Planning Commission.
The JCC refers to the committee jointly headed by the minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives of Pakistan and the vice chairperson of the National Development and Reform Commission of China.
The CPEC authority will perform any other task which is necessary for the discharge of its functions under this ordinance with the prime minister’s approval. The CPEC chairperson is to be appointed by the federal government for four years on such terms and conditions determined by it and will be eligible for reappointment for one additional term of four years.
The prime minister or any person so designated by him may after conducting an inquiry remove the chairman from his office on grounds ofinefficiency, incapacity or misconduct. The ordinance also says no person will be appointed the CPEC authority chairman, member, executive director, or in the operations and research section if he or his dependents have any direct or indirect financial interest in or have any connection which might reasonably be viewed as giving rise to a conflict of interest with any person, institution or body involved in any CPEC project or initiative.
Furthermore, no person appointed as chairman, member, or executive director will during his term in office have or maintain any direct or indirect financial interest with any person involved in any CPEC project or initiative. They will not at any time during their terms engage themselves in any other service, business, vocation or employment.
The CPEC chairman, executive directors, other employee experts, consultants or advisers employed, hired, or engaged from time to time will be governed by terms and conditions of their appointment and will not be deemed to be civil servants within the meaning of the Civil Servants Act 1073. However, if a civil servant is appointed to a post in the CPEC authority on deputation he will be governed by this act.
The statement of objects and reasons of the ordinance states: “The legislation seeks to establish the CPEC authority to further accelerate the pace of CPEC related activities. It aims to find new drivers of economic growth, unlock the potential or interlinked production network and global value chains through regional and global connectivity. It would develop sound and implementable public policy by integrating advice of stakeholders in the decision making process and utilization of all available resources to achieve optimal results and for effective and efficient management in line with the memorandum of understanding between China’s National Development and Reform Commission and Pakistan’s Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives on the Outline of Long Term Plan of CPEC signed in Beijing on Nov 8, 2014.”
CPEC would be responsible for planning, facilitating, coordinating, monitoring and evaluating to ensure the implementation of all activities related to CPEC, ensuring inter-provincial and inter-ministerial coordination, organising and coordinating meetings of JCC and Joint Working Groups, conducting sectoral research for informed decision making and long term planning, monitoring and evaluation and to ensure implementation besides narrative building and communication of CPEC and other activities from time to time.
The ordinance has been extended by the National Assembly once as it was not passed by parliament within its original 120-day life and later expired. Five days ago, a modified ordinance was extended for four months in the hope that it would be approved by the legislature within this period.