CPEC Authority 2019: Legal, administrative way forward
by Yasir Habib Khan
Establishment of CPEC authority is undeniable reality and incredible success. In order to secure and consolidate this success, next way forward is to tune in its legal standing and administrative connotations to constitute its sustainability and keep it unhurt from internal and external adversaries.
Now question is how to enable CPEC authority on legislative ground and on management level to fulfill the ambitions of expediting entire pace of projects and fixing all innate bureaucratic hiccups at earliest.
CPEC authority, which aims to take charge of CPEC related activities, finds new drives of growth and unlock the potential of interlinked production network and global value chains through regional and global connectivity, and sees the light of day by Ordinance promulgated by the President of Pakistan Arif Alvi on October 5 in exercise of his powers under clause (1) of Article 89 of the Constitution. This ordinance is called “China Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority Ordinance 2019”.
As per legal status of CPEC authority under the Presidential Ordinance, it is loud and clear that CPEC authority has been established as per law enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan. But technically speaking, it has been formed on weak legal ground.
Unless and until Parliament, National Assembly and Senate, approve the Presidential Ordinance, fate of any legislation remains in limbo. CPEC authority has taken a birth through Presidential Ordinance and unless it is ratified by Parliament, sword of Damocles will keep looming on the final legal status of CPEC authority.
It is asked as to why CPEC authority has been structured through Presidential Ordinance instead of parliament. There are many reasons for this issue. One is that Constitution of Pakistan gives power to President to issue any ordinance and make legislation only in emergency particularly when Senate and the National Assembly are not in session and if he is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action. Because both sessions were not in motion, so President Arif Alvi had no choice but to promulgate CPEC authority Ordinance 2019.
Here it merits to mention breeding fault lines. First is that like each ordinance, CPEC authority ordinance’s validity will stay for 120 days. It will become null and void if President will not extend it further before the lapse of 120 days. And even Ordinance gets extension a number of times, its legal status will remain hang in balance. Ultimately Parliament has to approve it or reject it and if Parliament decides to discard, legal life of CPEC ordinance may come to end. This is a vivid pitfall in CPEC authority Ordinance 2019.
“Yes this is a gap in the establishment of CPEC authority. Since it has been formed through Presidential Ordinance, whatever the case is Parliament has to approve it or reject it sooner or later,” said by renowned senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, former chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on CPEC and currently working as chairperson of Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Another point to ponder is that since government came to power and passed its Parliamentary time over the last 13 months, all the lawmaking had to be carried out through Presidential Ordinance. As government lacks numerical strength in Senate, it has been continuously avoiding to get approved all ordinances including CPEC authority through Parliament. This practice signifies the fact that CPEC authority might not be approved by Parliament. So if it happens, existence of CPEC authority will remain in tight spot.
Meanwhile there are question marks on the powers of CPEC authority. From both Chinese and Pakistan sides, debate is heating up on functionality and autonomy of CPEC authority. The growing belief is that given the present bureaucratic mechanism and governance system, if CPEC authority is not given absolute powers to assert its rules of business and its independence is compromised, it will be an exercise in futile.
Present Parliamentary Committee on CPEC Chairperson Sher Ali Arbab said that CPEC authority by itself would go a long way for realizing the dream of fast-paced developments on the projects of special economic zones, poverty alleviation and economic prosperity. However, he said, such ambitions can only be achieved if CPEC authority was made autonomous and ruled by civil management.
Having applauded the formation of CPEC authority, China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) Chairman Zhang Baozhong said that success of CPEC authority will depend on how much powers are to be delegated to Authority. “If it is given a just a role of coordination and monitoring, benefits and expectations being pinned will fizzle out,” he cautioned.
Mr Zhang said “best scenario would be if CPEC authority has complete decision-making powers in its policies, strategies, action and implementation.”
It is hoped that administration of Pakistan and China will be holding meaningful brainstorming sessions to help consolidate the iconic breakthrough in shape of CPEC authority by providing it a complete and permanent legal cover. Efforts should be unleashed to approve CPEC authority through Parliament so that no legislative lacuna may fester. A clear-cut policy must also come into consideration to ensure autonomy and powers of CPEC authority.
Yasir Habib Khan, special commentator of Gwadar Pro, President of Institute of International Relations and Media Research (IIRMR).