The Pakistan government on Tuesday replaced Lieutenant General (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa as chief of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority, in an effort to expedite the implementation of key infrastructure projects undertaken by Beijing in the country. A notification issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said Khalid Mansoor has been appointed as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on CPEC Affairs with immediate effect. The appointment will be in an honorary capacity, it added.
Mansoor with over four decades of corporate experience replaced Bajwa, who was appointed in November 2019 after his retirement from the Pakistan Army.
“I bow my head before Allah Almighty for giving me an opportunity to raise and steer the important institution of CPEC Authority as one window for all CPEC projects, charting the future direction,” Bajwa, a former he said.
Bajwa termed the USD 60 billion CPEC as a “lifeline for Pakistan”, saying it would “transform us into a progressive and fully developed country”.
Bajwa had served as Commander Southern Command before his retirement from the Army. He remained director-general of the Inter-Services Public Relations, the media wing of the military, from 2012 to 2016.
Pakistani media earlier reported that China was not happy with the slow progress in some of the CPEC projects in the country. Moreover, many Chinese nationals working for CPEC projects in Pakistan have been attacked recently. The latest incident happened in the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on July 14, killing 13 people, including nine Chinese nationals.
China rushed a special team to Pakistan to probe the blast that hit a bus carrying Chinese engineers and construction workers helping Pakistan build a dam in the province. A joint investigation concluded that it was a terror attack that killed 13 people.
Mansoor, the new chief of the CPEC Authority has more than 32 years of experience in the energy and petrochemical sectors in leading roles for mega-size projects’ development, execution, management and operations, the Dawn newspaper reported.
The CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan with China’s Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of China’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
India has protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The BRI was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.
The BRI is seen as an attempt by China to further its influence abroad with infrastructure projects funded by Chinese investments all over the world.
The initiative also led to allegations of smaller countries reeling under mounting Chinese debt after Sri Lanka gave its Hambantota port in a debt swap to China in 2017 on a 99-year lease.