CPEC and its legal challenges


Within reshaping world economy during worst hit of COVID-19 pandemic, CPEC has become a matter of survival for Pakistan. No doubt the Pakistan had has faced a chain of different attacks in field of political economy as foreign influence was taken so many times against the future of our nation.
After World War-II the division of sub-continent took placed as a split into Pakistan and India, perhaps the Pakistan luckily demarcated at a very significant geo-strategic location of the world or unluckily it has been placed as an interest attraction point of both the super powers of that time.
In emerging bipolar political world, the humanity dragged into a silent war – the war without deadly weapons but a war with conspiracies for seeking economic supremacy. Looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has not only been towards anarchy but also towards the re-imposition of slavery by overcoming the minds and views of the people of third world.
Exploitative forces intended to take control over religious beliefs and the social structureprevailing in different countries came into existence in result of the Second World War. It was at once unconquerable;to achieve this nefarious goal they designed a prolonged game of “Cold War” by developing enmity between the neighboring countries.
Final round of the cold war was fought in Asian region, especially on the soil of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The cold war turned into a militant struggle against the socialist camp in Afghanistan and resultantly states of world had gone to form unilateral polity, only in the nature of US supremacy.
Bilateral political relations of Pakistan with China were started to emerge from the day first as the China came into existence as an independent country as the Pakistan is one of the first groups of countries that have recognized China at first step. This journey has been continued in different modes of up and down and finally Pakistan & China came up with an initiative for betterment of world economy on the basis of One Belt One Road policy (OBOR).We can say that it has been the collective thinking and approach of national leaders of the both nations which become true under the heading of One Belt One Road initiative (OBOR) with a clearvision to improve the lives of people of Pakistan and China by building an economic corridor promoting bilateral connectivity, construction, explore potential bilateral investment, economic and trade, logistics and people to people contact for regional connectivity.
Establishment of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was first proposed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his visit to Pakistan in May 2013. The proposed project of linking Kashgar in northwest China with Gwadar Port on Arabian Sea coastline in Balochistan was approved on July 5, 2013. Thereafter, Chinese President Xi Jinping then visited Pakistan in April 2015, and both sides agreed to elevate their relationship to an “all-weather strategic partnership.” During Xi’s visit, the two countries signed fifty-one agreements at an estimated value of $46 billion.
Our policymakers should bear in mind the ground realities by looking into the hard times of the past history of political economy of Pakistan,that how the Pakistan has had lost the foundations of socio-economic and political basisi.e., energy & power, agriculture, industrial and institutional sectors and now how can we go ahead with CPEC with full care and safeguard ofthe interest of Pakistani nation for its better and safe future in the upcoming world as a global village. For achieving this essential goal, there must be a well-equipped legal system with sufficient conformity with international financial, commercial, investment, antitrust, arbitration, civil, criminal as well IT and digital market laws etc.
Fortunately, we have still some responsible personalities in our institutions who have the will to do at their level best for the sake of their nation. There has been a good example that ourjudiciary has given the guideline in a case law reported at 2019 PTD 1387 in the matter of Deewan Steel Mills Versus Federation of Pakistan.
The first line of action is given in this case law that business opportunities created through CPEC must focus on enhancing economic efficiency which increases the export and ultimately as a result the National Income of Pakistan will be increased. Within such guideline all the public and private partnership projects regarding power and energy, agricultural and mineral raw materials and products’ processing and import-export must be in the larger interest of the Pakistani nation.
We can do active in practice the competition laws available in Pakistan. It has developed as strong laws which addressing all the antitrust aspects at any level. The Competition Commission of Pakistan is fully empowered under The Competition Act, 2010 for promoting a competitive and fair economic play for the entire corporate sectorswhether international or intra-regional business or trade, while securing economic efficiency and protecting consumers from anti-competitive attitudes and practices.
The competition law actively interferes in the matters of prohibited agreements, abuse of dominant position, mergers and acquisitions and deceptive marketing practices. The question can be raised that whether the competition laws of Pakistan can be invoked against the Chinese undertaking or any foreign undertaking? The answer is provided in Section 1 (3) of the Competition Act, 2010 that the law applies on all undertakings and all actions or matters that take place in Pakistan and distort competition within Pakistan.
There would be a dire need on one hand that existing other lawsi.e., Labor, Import Export, Customs, Foreign Investment, Intellectual Property, Registration and Land Laws etc., must be updated with the demand of the timeto protect the interest of local and foreign investors, labor, employees, and any other individual or corporate soul having direct or indirect connection with the CPEC.
On the other handwe have to do more work for strengthening the operation of arbitration laws along with establishing an alternative dispute resolution authority for resolving the disputes regarding commercial, investments, and aviation’s, shipping or marine, laws of seas matters which may positively arise due to the CPEC project.