Islamabad: Pakistan on Monday approved an ambitious multi-billion dollar strategic economic corridor linking China to Gwadar port at the mouth of the Arabian Sea that passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the country's biggest road and rail project and the work on it started in December when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated a motorway from Havelian to Thakot as phase-I of the Islamabad-Raikot section of the corridor.
The CPEC is an development programme to connect Pakistan's southern Gwadar Port to China's northwestern Xinjiang via highways, railways and pipelines to transport oil and gas.
Once the corridor is constructed, it will serve as a primary gateway for trade between China and the Middle East and Africa.
The 60-km-long 4-lane fenced Hazara Motorway in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa province would cost USD 297 million and take two years to complete.
India has expressed its reservations to China over the Corridor as it is laid through the PoK. China defends the project saying it helps regional development.
The cabinet took several key decisions at today's meeting.
While presiding over the meeting, Sharif expressed deep concern over the reports of alleged use of money and influence for the forthcoming Senate elections and directed officials to ensure horse-trading free elections to be held on March 5.
"We attach great value to the sanctity of vital national institutions," he was quoted as saying in a statement.
He also set up two committees to talk to political parties to take measures to frame rules for transparent elections.
A detailed presentation was given to the cabinet on energy-related issues, including gas-run 3,600 MW power generation projects that would be completed by December, 2017.
The Cabinet considered and approved initiation of negotiation for Preferential Trade agreement (PTA) between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
It also approved for signing of loan agreement for energy sector reform programme between Pakistan and Japan.
Formal approval of the inter-government framework agreement signed between Pakistan and China for Government Concessional Loan to finance the Karachi Nuclear Power Project (namely K2 and K3) was also accorded by the Cabinet.
The cabinet further gave its formal approval for signing of the Reciprocal Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Pakistan and Iran.
It also gave the approval for signing an MoU between Oman and Pakistan in the field of Illicit Trafficking of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
Ex-post facto approval of the Cabinet for the MoU Signed between the Ministry of Food & Agriculture of Pakistan and the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation was also accorded.
The Cabinet also gave ex-post facto approval of the agreement signed between Nigeria and Pakistan for Cooperation in the field of agriculture.
Approval in principle of the Cabinet to start negotiations with South Africa for MoU on Cooperation in the Application of Plant quarantine and Phytosanitary Measures was accorded.
The cabinet gave its permission, in principle, for initiating negotiations for Memorandum of Understanding with United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the field of manpower.
The Cabinet considered a summary of the ministry of Petroleum and Natural resources and gave its Ex-Post Facto Approval, in Principle, of the Cabinet to start negotiations with Kuwait for Signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The Cabinet considered and gave its approval of Protocol Minutes of the Meeting with China National Petroleum Corporation of China regarding Gawadar Nawabshah LNG Terminal and Pipeline Project.
Earlier, the Federal Cabinet offered its condolences on the sad demise of Justice (retd) Rana Bhagwandas, former judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and ex-Chairman of Federal Public Services Commission of Pakistan, who died in Karachi early this morning.
One-minute silence was observed at the start of the meeting.
The Prime Minister appreciated the role played by Justice Bhagwandas for the service of nation during his long tenure as the apex court judge, saying he was a firm believer of rule of law, democracy and principles.