China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), the world’s largest contractor, has hit back against criticisms over how it was awarded a project to build a 392km motorway in Pakistan as part of the road link between Karachi and Lahore.
The company issued a statement on Tuesday to express its shock at the "groundless allegations" made by Murad Saeed, Pakistan’s minister for communication in the newly elected government of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Movement for Justice party.
Mr Saeed used a press conference on 8 February, to question the way former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former planning minister Ahsan Iqbal had signed a memorandum of understanding with CSCEC in July 2013 for the Sukkur-Multan scheme, and how they had arrived at the contract value of $500m.
CSCEC issued a statement on 19 February protesting its "profound respect for Pakistan and its people" and claiming that the "tendering, bidding process and award of the contract have been made in accordance with local laws and international practices".
The company added that the 2013 deal was a non-binding document and valid for a period of one year, and that it expired before the bidding process for the road started in June 2015.
It said: "After an open and transparent bidding process, CSCEC was declared the lowest bidder. Moreover, the final bid price was reduced substantially under the requirement of the government of Pakistan." It also provided a list of factors that had affected the final price of the scheme, such as changes in road lengths.
The statement concluded: "Currently, the project is progressing smoothly and expected to be handed over on schedule. It will indeed be a miracle to complete almost 400 km motorway within three years … CSCEC is the largest investment and construction corporation in the world. The company has earned its international status for its actual strength, quality, integrity, cooperation, mutual benefit and respect of laws, rules and regulations of every country in the world."
The motorway, to be known as the M5, has been under discussion for more than 20 years. It is considered a central element of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a transport and industrial link from northwest China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region through Pakistan to Gwadar, a strategic port on the Arabian Sea.
Image: Pakistan’s national highway network (Government of Pakistan)