China and Pakistan are good brothers sharing weal and woe. Pakistan offered much help to China after the coronavirus outbreak. Islamabad is playing a decisive role in China’s fight against the spread of the virus. The Pakistani government has mobilised medical supplies nationwide to aid China. Punjab Chief Minister Mr Usman Buzdar and Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid sent letters of support to our Consulate General, for which we are very much pleased. China has also provided immediately best possible and all available assistance to the Pakistani community, especially to those students residing in China, who are being taken good care of. On 9 March, 12,000 coronavirus testing kits and more than 70,000kg locust control materials provided by the Chinese side reached Pakistan. The positive trend in preventing and controlling the epidemic in China is gaining momentum. As a result, production and life are getting back to normal. Thanks to the hard work done by our government and people. We have a staunch belief that Pakistan will soon be able to put the coronavirus epidemic under control and eventually get through all these.
China and Pakistan are good partners always moving forward side by side. In recent years, bilateral economic and trade cooperation has been continuously expanded as China has become the biggest trading partner of Pakistan for five years in a row. Meanwhile, China also emerged as the biggest investor in Pakistan for six consecutive years. The spirit of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation are what China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) emphasises, which is in the common interests of the two countries and is the right answer to promote regional development and prosperity.
CPEC cooperation enjoys the support of the people, serves their well-being and has won highly reputation of the two countries. CPEC construction has achieved fruitful results over the past five years, with 16 projects completed already, and another 16 under construction, and with total investment amounting to $ 25.3 billion. 9 energy projects have been put into commercial operation, with total installed capacity of 5320MW and with investment amounting to $ 8.175 billion. The actual power generation of CPEC projects was 17.728 billion kWh during Pakistan’s fiscal year 2018-19, accounting for 14.5% of the total power generation of Pakistan’s national power grid. In the meantime, CPEC has created 75,000 jobs directly and 200,000 jobs indirectly for Pakistani people, enabling Pakistan’s per capita income up 23%. More than 100 small and medium-sized enterprises have been involved in CPEC construction, offering over 100,000 jobs. According to Pakistan government’s analysis, CPEC is expected to create 2,300,000 jobs for Pakistan from 2015 to 2030, and fuel the average annual economic growth rate up by 2~2.5%.
As the most populated and a significant economic province, Punjab, where the Chinese Consulate General in Lahore is located, plays a decisive role in Pakistan’s economy. At present, several CPEC energy and transportation infrastructure projects in Punjab include Sahiwal Coal-Fired Power Plant, Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park (Bahawalpur), Karachi to Lahore Motorway (Sukkur-Multan Section) were completed, providing convenient transportation and sufficient power supply to over 100 million people in Punjab. As of the end of February 2020, total power generation of Sahiwal Coal-Fired Power Plant topped 23.4 billion kWh after its establishment in 2017, which is to meet the electricity demand of more than 10 million people and fill a quarter of Pakistan’s power shortage. 300 MW Phase I Project of Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park (Bahawalpur) was completed and put into operation in 2016, with total power generation of 1.88 billion kWh. Karachi to Lahore Motorway (Sukkur-Multan Section) was completed and opened to traffic in October 2019, cut nearly two hours if travelling from Lahore to Multan by road, and created around 23,000 jobs for local people, and trained over 2,300 management personnel and technical staff as well as over 4,500 skilled machine operators. What’s more, nine schools, 79.6 km roads, 20 bridges, 54 wells and over 300 ditches were built in the villages along the project route. Voluntary medical consultation for over 3,900 villagers was conducted by a medical experts team, and over 3,200 packs of medicines were distributed among them.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, Chinese Consulate General has maintained close liaison with the enterprises being involved in CPEC projects, particularly ongoing Lahore Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) Project, Matiari to Lahore +660kV DC Power Transmission Project and Faisalabad M3 Industrial Park. Operation and maintenance service contract of OLMT project was signed on 25 February 2020, and recently high-speed rail joint commissioning was officially started. It is expected to start commercial operation in June. Matiari to Lahore DC Power Transmission Project has begun to install wires, with 80% completed already, which is expected to complete by the end of this coming June. The number of enterprises that have already signed agreements to move in Faisalabad M3 industrial park has reached 21. These Chinese enterprises are still in production and manage to run a business while preventing and controlling the epidemic.
Coronavirus epidemic in China is not over yet by far while new confirmed cases are being reported in Pakistan daily. Under such circumstances, travel restrictions have been imposed on travellers from the two countries to some extent, which has certain impacts on CPEC projects more or less. However, CPEC project has been proceeding as scheduled through the concerted efforts by both sides. We firmly believe that the epidemic will gradually be brought under control or even ended. Being a major pioneering project of BRI, CPEC will move into a new phase, with the scope of bilateral cooperation broadened and enhanced. Industrial Zones, agriculture and socio-economic uplift with livelihood projects have become key areas of mutual cooperation. China will continue its efforts to push forward mega projects construction including Allama Iqbal Industrial City and ML-1 Railway Refurbishment and Expansion while removing all kinds of interferences or obstacles and maintaining the momentum of sound development benficial for the two countries and their citizens. CPEC will continue to make headway and advance Sino-Pak all-weather strategic and cooperative partnership to new heights so that all-round bilateral cooperation will make greater progress.
Mr Long Dingbin
The writer is China’s Consul General in Lahore.