The Second Phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will generate massive employment opportunities and help cash-strapped Pakistan to upgrade its key Industrial & Agricultural Sectors, CPEC Authority Chairman Lt-Gen (retd) Asim Bajwa has said.

Bajwa, the former Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations, the Military”s media wing, was appointed as the first chairman of the newly established CPEC Authority in November last year.

The USD 60 billion CPEC is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China”s resource-rich Xinjiang province with Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.

Pakistan, China”s all-weather ally, has also raised special forces to protect infrastructure projects as well as Chinese nationals working on CPEC-linked ventures.

Bajwa, tweeting from his new Twitter handle for the first time on Tuesday, said the CPEC project with across the board acceptability, is already bringing relief in energy and infrastructure sectors.

“Time to gear up for phase-II which is envisioned to generate mass employment through more projects, mass industrialisation, agricultural and Socio-Economic uplift,” Bajwa, who has also served as the commander of the Southern Command, tweeted.

His tweets came a week after Prime Minister Imran Khan directed all concerned ministries to set goals for schemes and ensure inter-governmental coordination for early conclusion of the phase II of the multibillion-dollar project.

The CPEC Authority was established through a presidential ordinance in October for coordination, monitoring and evaluation to ensure implementation of CPEC-related activities.

Commenting on progress made so far in the project, Bajwa said nine projects have already been completed, producing 5,320 MW electricity with the investment of USD 7.9 billion. The energy generating projects, he said, have provided jobs to 5,000 Pakistani citizens.

The CPECA Chairman added that eight more similar projects are being constructed to generate 4,470 MW electricity with an investment of another USD 9.55 billion and would provide employment to over 15,000 Pakistanis.

The United States has been critical of the CPEC projects in Pakistan.

Senior US diplomat Alice Wells recently said there was no transparency in the projects undertaken under the CPEC in Pakistan and the firms blacklisted by the World Bank have got contracts under the USD 60 billion project, which will increase the cash-strapped country”s debt burden.

Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia who was on a four-day visit to Pakistan said that there was no transparency in the CPEC projects and Pakistan”s debt burden was growing due to the Chinese financing.

While reiterating the allegations against the CPEC, Wells said that companies blacklisted by the World Bank had got contracts in the CPEC.

Commenting on her remarks, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad rejected the “negative propaganda” by the senior US diplomat against the CPEC.

The Chinese Embassy spokesperson said Wells” comments hold nothing new but were reflections of her speech in November, 2019, which was rejected by China and Pakistan. China had always requested the Chinese companies to operate according to local laws and regulations, the spokesperson said.