No land leased to Saudi
Arabia yet: Waqar
By ZAHEER ABBASI
for Investment, Senator Waqar Ahmed Khan Monday said
Pakistan had not given land to Saudi Arabia or any other
country, however, the Gulf states were keen to acquire land
in the sub-continent for agriculture purposes due to growing
fear of food scarcity as underground water level in these
countries had significantly declined.
Giving a detailed briefing to the Standing Committee of the
National Assembly about new investment policy here, the
minister dispelled the impression that the government was
giving over five hundred thousand acres of land to Saudi
Arabia for agriculture purposes.
"We have not yet given land to any country, including Saudi
Arabia. However, legal work is being carried out by the
Punjab government for such a project in Cholistan," he said,
adding the land was a provincial subject and intending
countries would be referred to the respective provinces.
The minister said Gulf countries were keen to acquire land
in Pakistan for agriculture but nothing concrete had
surfaced so far in this regard. He said the federal
government's proposal was based on crop sharing with locals
on 50-50 basis, and land would not be transferred to foreign
investors but to be given on lease for a specific period in
the light of investment made by them.
Earlier, in his briefing to the committee, the Secretary
Investment said the policy was framed to create industrial
clusters and the Economic Co-ordination Committee approved
the establishment of SEZs by the private sector.
He said, "The policy provides tax holidays and duty-free
import of plant and machinery with one widow facility to
investors." He said the zones would be of various type
including export processing zones, free trade zones, hybrid
export processing zones, multilateral economic zones,
reconstruction opportunity zones, regional development
zones, and sector development zones.
The Secretary said each province would have a SEZs
authority, and alternate dispute resolution through
arbitration was also suggested in the policy to satisfy the
foreign investors, particularly those from the USA, who were
worried over tedious dispute resolution process in Pakistan.
The minister said the policy would be placed before
parliament by next month provided it was cleared by all
stakeholders and parliamentary committees. Waqar said
foreign investors were more concerned about issues like
transparency and continuity of policies instead of security.
"The first question they ask is whether the policies and
political stability would continue with the arrival of a new
Keeping this in mind it was decided to place the policy
before parliament to involve all the political parties and
get unanimous approval. The investors would be provided all
kinds of protection in the policy for which the legislation
was in process. The minister said foreign investors were
ready to invest in agriculture, IT, oil, gas and
infrastructure, but their precondition was assurance about
continuity of policies for the next 10 to 15 years.
To a question, he said the government planned to set up an
LNG plant in Karachi to address the issue of energy. For
this plan, he said, the government would have dialogue with
energy providing countries to devise a mechanism to have
this facility within two years.
Gas would be pumped into SSGCL infrastructure that would
help in at least two million metric tons load management.
The minister said Pakistan had huge reserves of 220 billion
tons of coal in Thar, and the government's plan was to set
up a plant for generating over 5,000 mega watts electricity.
He said Thar coal reserves could sustain for over 150 to 200