A man waits to cross a portion of track once shared with the disused Karachi Circular Railway line in Karachi, Pakistan, May 24, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Caren Firouz

Pakistan is expected to be one of the chief beneficiaries of China’s Belt and Road Initiative as it pursues a long-term strategic partnership with the world’s second-largest economy, according to a senior Pakistani senator who spoke to Asia Times.

“The One Belt One Road links up 65 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, while Pakistan is the only country where the sea and land routes can merge,” Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan, told Asia Times in an exclusive interview in Hong Kong.

Gwadar Port, located in Baluchistan province in southern Pakistan, is a major CPEC project and will link northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with the Arabian Sea through highways and railways, the senator said.

Near the port, there will be a special economic zone, measuring about 2,400 acres or 9.71 million square meters, which is aimed at serving Chinese manufacturers and exporters, he said.

Pakistani Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed. Photo: Asia Times

In 2015, China announced the CPEC project and its plan to invest US$46 billion in infrastructure projects in Pakistan. Early this year, the investment was reportedly increased by 34% to $62 billion.

Last month, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, who was in Pakistan for activities commemorating the 70th anniversary of the country’s independence, signed a series of agreements with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to push forward the joint development of the power, transport, industry and service sectors in the South Asian country.

Gwadar Port. Photo: cophcgwadar.com

Prior to these developments, China Overseas Ports Holding Co Ltd, a Hong Kong-registered company, had been granted the right to operate Gwadar Port and the adjoining special economic zone for 40 years from 2013.

“Under CPEC, there are 19 early-harvest projects, which will be completed in the next three to four years,” Syed said.

Pakistan Railways network map Photo: Wikipedia

One of these projects is the development of a 1,687-kilometer-long railway linking Karachi in southern Pakistan and Peshawar near the border with Afghanistan. The first phase of the railway will be completed by the end of this year.

Hong Kong’s role in CPEC

In 2011, Hutchison Ports, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-listed CK Hutchison (00001.HK), started operating its first container terminal in Karachi Port. The company’s second container terminal commenced operation last year.

Syed said Pakistan welcomed investments from mainland China, as well as Hong Kong.

“Pakistan and Hong Kong were both British colonies with similar legal systems,” he said. “Hong Kong has its certain advantages, including transparency, rule of law and openness.”

Hong Kong’s strong human resources can help Pakistan develop its service and technology sectors, he said, adding that Pakistan is seeking to attract Hong Kong and mainland Chinese tourists to visit Buddhist sites in the country.

Pakistan-China Institute and Belt & Road Global Development Alliance signed a cooperation agreement on September 4. Photo: Dashun Foundation

Syed, 65, said he had visited Hong Kong and mainland China about 60 to 70 times since he first came to study in China in 1972. He is also the chairman of the Defense Committee of the Pakistani Senate.

On September 4 in Hong Kong, Syed attended the first Belt and Road International Financial Cooperation Summit, which was jointly organized by Belt & Road International Financial Cooperation Annual Conference, Dashun Foundation and Hong Kong Financial Assets Management Ltd.

Li Meng, former vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, gave a speech during the summit.

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