The Imran Khan government has sacked a retired army general who was heading the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) administration and appointed a management professional in his place who will now oversee what is described by Beijing as the jewel crown of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa (Retd), a former army spokesperson, was on Tuesday replaced by Khalid Mansoor as the authority to lead the affairs of the CPEC, ET has learnt.

Beijing had expressed concerns over the slow pace of execution of the CPEC and decision to remove Bajwa came days after the Pakistan foreign minister visited China for consultations.

Khan had appointed Bajwa as chairman of the CPEC authority in November 2019 amid opposition’s criticism of the formation of the authority.

Mansoor has more than 32 years of experience in energy and petrochemical sectors in leading roles for mega-size project development, execution, management and operations. Mansoor had been appointed as special assistant to the Prime Minister on CPEC affairs with immediate effect. The appointment will be in an honorary capacity.

Mansoor's vast corporate experience, with extensive work with Chinese companies and his direct involvement in leading some of the biggest CPEC projects make him an ideal person to lead the next phase of the CPEC, according to Pakistan federal planning minister Asad Umar.

Earlier this week, Umar called for expediting work on the ongoing CPEC projects.

Chairing the second meeting of the Pak-China relations steering committee in Islamabad, the minister reviewed the ongoing projects under CPEC and discussed the issues faced by the investors.

Discussing the delays in the CPEC energy projects owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the committee directed the power division to formulate a policy to deal extensions issues of the power projects.

Umar also directed the Ministry of Communication to expedite work on the Thakot-Raikot and Zhob-Quetta road projects. The meeting was also informed about delays in the signing of an industrial framework agreement. The delay in the provision of utilities to Gwadar Port and Free Zone also came under discussion, Pak English daily the Dawn reported.

The local population in Pakistan has been contesting Chinese-led investment-oriented development strategies. Concerns about debt traps, lack of transparency, aggressive diplomacy, and friction due to excessive use of Chinese labour have often resulted in discord at the local level.