Pakistan on August 03 ousted Asim Saleem Bajwa, a retired army general and replaced him with Khalid Mansoor as the new head of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, the Pakistan component of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. The move is being seen as an attempt by Pakistan to appease China as Mansoor is reportedly a favourite of Beijing.
Welcoming Mansoor in his new position, Pakistan’s Planning Minister Asad Umar Tweeted, “I welcome Khalid Mansoor to the team as SAPM for CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) affairs. His vast corporate experience, with extensive work with Chinese companies and his direct involvement in leading some of the biggest CPEC projects makes him an ideal person to lead the next phase of CPEC.”
I welcome khalid mansoor to the team as SAPM for CPEC affairs. His vast corporate experience , with extensive work with Chinese companies and his direct involvement in leading some of the biggest CPEC projects makes him an ideal person to lead the next phase of CPEC— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) August 3, 2021
As per a Nikkei Asia report, Mansoor in his 32-years of career has worked at top management positions in many energy-related companies including Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company and Hub Power Company Limited, the latter of which has been involved in CPEC projects.
China was unhappy with delays
Reports suggest that the change of chief was because of Beijing’s displeasure at the slow progress of CPEC projects in the country. A number of projects under the CPEC, including those in the power sector, are currently facing delays leading to discontentment.
The multi-billion-dollar economic cooperation projection has not been able to complete the projects over the last three years including the five energy projects. Energy projects form the single largest component of CPEC.
Since Bajwa assumed office as CPEC authority chairman, the apex body (chaired by both Pakistan and China jointly to take decisions regarding the project) had held no meetings.
China’s favorite man on the job
Reportedly, an official working with the Pakistan government revealed that even though Bajwa had developed a good working relationship with China, Beijing wanted someone in the job who was more familiar with Chinese companies and working culture.
“Khalid Mansoor, who has worked with many Chinese companies including directly leading CPEC projects, fits the bill as China’s favourite man for the job,” said the official.
China’s upper hand in CPEC
The move has been objected to by certain business communities in Pakistan who felt Bajwa was doing a splendid job and had a great grip on the matter. Meanwhile, some experts see this as giving an upper hand to China in the CPEC project and letting it dictate terms to Pakistan.
This change in leadership also comes after nine Chinese engineers were killed in a bomb attack on a convoy transporting Chinese personnel to the Dasu Hydropower project in Pakistan’s Kohistan district last month.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one of the most ambitious projects of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. The project was announced with great fanfare in 2015 and was said to be a ‘gamechanger’ for Pakistan’s economy.