By Shehzad Paracha
ISLAMABAD: After skipping the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank annual meetings due to graft case in accountability court, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is not attending the 16th Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Ministerial Conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Pakistan Today has learnt.
The 16th CAREC meeting will be held on October 27, 2017, in Tajikistan’s capital, where the forum will uncover CAREC’s new long-term strategy (CAREC-2030).
Since this is a ministerial conference, it requires the participating countries to send their ministers. However, a source privy to the development told this scribe that from Pakistan’s side, Finance Secretary Shahid Mahmood will again lead the delegation comprising of the officials of different ministries.
On the other hand, an accountability court in Islamabad indicted Ishar Dar last month in a reference pertaining to his owning “assets beyond his known sources of income”.
Documents available with Pakistan Today indicate that CAREC 2030 envisages the simplification and harmonisation of customs procedure and documentation, including the ICT customs modernisation and data exchange and regional transit development.
In addition to this, the forum will also discuss the very important aspect of CAREC transport corridors. The purpose of transport corridor is to connect six identified CAREC transport corridors by 2020 through aggressive investment.
Documents stated that Pakistan is making $5,567m dollar investment in seventeen projects related to roads, rail and improvement of border facilities at Torkham, Chaman and Wagah borders in the first phase. Furthermore, the government has prepared new CAREC project lists which the finance secretary will present in the coming meeting.
The new projects include the $400m 280km Peshawar to DI Khan road, $97m 130km DI Khan to DG Khan road, $400m DG Khan to Rajanpur four-lane expressway, $300m 224km Rajanpur to Shikarpur road, and $60m Shikarpur to Ratadero road.
The CAREC transport corridors consist of Europe and East Asia, Mediterranean and East Asia, Russian Federation-Middle East and South Asia, Russian Federation and East Asia, East Asia, Middle East and South Asia and Europe-Middle East and South Asia. The member countries in the coming meeting will discuss how we can enhance the trade by constructing roads and railway systems.
It merits mentioning here that the 15th CAREC MC was held in Islamabad on October 26, 2016, in which the deposed PM Nawaz Sharif had suggested CAREC member countries to establish a pool of experts of multi-disciplinary professionals. He also offered cross-listing of listing instrument of Central Asian countries at Pakistan Stock Exchange. Furthermore, the former premier suggested that Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority has air service agreements with few CAREC countries on a bilateral basis, and these should be brought under the regional umbrella of all member countries as ‘CAREC Aviation and Open Skies Agreement’.
CAREC programme is a proactive facilitator of project-based cooperation in transport, trade, energy and other key sectors of mutual interest. It is a partnership of 11 countries (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and six multilateral institutions (Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, IMF, Islamic Development Bank, United Nation Development Programme and WB) working together to promote development through regional cooperation, leading to accelerated growth and poverty reduction.