ISLAMABAD: Asim Saleem Bajwa had resigned as Special Assistant to the PM on Information and Broadcasting but he is also no longer Chairman of the CPEC Authority because the ordinance that provided legal cover to the authority has lapsed.
Although administratively Bajwa continues as Chairman CPEC, the authority is operating without any legal mandate. Constitutionally, authorities are established through parliamentary legislation and cannot be created under administrative directions.
“I requested the honourable Prime Minister to relinquish me from the additional portfolio of SAPM on Info & broadcasting. He very kindly approved my request,” Bajwa tweeted on Monday
As things stand, no law exists to support the creation of the CPEC Authority. The legal tool which was used to appoint Bajwa as Chairman CPEC has also lapsed owing to which the appointment is no more valid and cannot continue, a senior official source said. Only recently, a senior official (not the chairman) of the CPEC authority cut a sorry figure and had to take a backseat when at a meeting of the CPEC parliamentary committee some members objected to his formal participation in the deliberations due to the lapse of the CPEC Authority ordinance.
“We pointed out that the official’s presence in the session is illegal because the CPEC authority ordinance does not exist anymore. We asked him to go to the back seats if he wants to observe the proceedings of the parliamentary panel,” former Speaker and senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who is a member of the forum, was quoted by The News in the story published recently.
According to Sadiq, when the official was asked whether he is getting a monthly salary for being associated with the CPEC Authority, he replied in the negative. He was told that since the CPEC ordinance had expired and the government had not extended it or got it passed by parliament, his presence in the formal proceedings of the panel was unlawful.
There were plans to lay the CPEC authority bill before the parliamentary committee, but it was not done. Some committee members had asked the government to produce the bill so that they could discuss and review it.
After the lapse of its initial four-month constitutional life, the CPEC Authority ordinance was extended in January this year for another 120 days. A day before Prime Minister Imran Khan left for China in October last year, the government had promulgated the CPEC Authority ordinance to expedite projects related to the multi-billion dollar road and rail network that links China to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan.
It was meant to give a message to China that Pakistan was serious and had put in place a legal mechanism for CPEC. However, the ordinance subsequently lapsed as it was not passed by parliament within the prescribed period. Under the Constitution, an ordinance can be extended only once.
There has been no explanation offered by the government for the delay in making a law to support the CPEC Authority. Last month, the government in a joint session of parliament passed some FATF- related laws but avoided passing a law to provide legal cover to the Authority.
According to a report, there is a demand from within parliament to have a 21-member bipartisan CPEC committee, comprising representatives from the National Assembly and Senate, which should have oversight over the CPEC Authority. It is also not yet clear what the government’s thinking is on the matter and whether the Authority would be under the Planning Division or would be an independent body answerable to the prime minister.