CPEC is an epoch-making project going to put Pakistan-China friendship and their economic cooperation to new heights.
The long robust bond of China and Pakistan reached its new heights when CPEC was envisaged back in 2013. The moment this mega development collaboration came on the surface all kinds of narratives and speculations started sprouting. The first and foremost was what is in it for Pakistan and how it will address the socio-economic animosity between provinces and federation specifically Balochistan that has stood decades of abandonment from the federation.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative which was forecasted in 2013 and became an on ground reality, two years later in 2015. So far, the momentum of the project is going with its intended velocity and it already has started benefiting Pakistan in major sectors, mainly infrastructural and energy. Pakistan being a country with unstable and ailing economy needed such measurements precariously to support and sustain its stature in the sub-continent as its backyard rival India is flattering a huge market for investors worldwide. The project itself is self-propellant which means that once it has gained its momentum, its pace will escalate with the completion of each target under the umbrella of CPEC.
One of the contours of this magnanimous project was the development of underprivileged areas of both Pakistan and China. These include the western part of both Pakistan and China. The Pakistani western province namely Balochistan has seen ages of deprivation. Both the states are facing similar tumult in their western sides hence CPEC is aimed to be the remedy for this. The project therefore, would be a ray of hope for the locals residing in both sides of the border whose grievances can now be heard and met.
Balochistan, the province of Pakistan with least population and largest land mass in terms of area has a considerable share in the economy of Pakistan. Balochistan is known for its mineral rich soil. For years Balochistan has been providing its resources such as natural gas all over the country but itself witnesses scarcity at home. With CPEC becoming a reality the untapped potential of the province will be able to be consumed. An amount of 7.1 billion USD was set aside as the initial investment for Balochistan solely. The sum had to be utilized on developmental projects in order to improve the overall situation of country. After decades of exclusion from federal government agendas, Balochistan has now turn out to be the linchpin of the project and it seems like Balochis will now be heard and provided with their rights in order to make CPEC a success and consequently take Pakistan forward in a collaborative manner. The project became the aide for the federal government to make good use of land mass in the province and address the hitches of people there. The resource blessed land of Balochistan is a hand of Midas for Pakistan, only if there is a will to use it in the right way.
A query on how CPEC will benefit Pakistan through Balochistan?, is simple to answer as through developments.Since it holds great market and trade potential due to resources in it, even a small infrastructural development of road will give a great benefit in terms of trade and economy. With infrastructural developments, better markets would be created. Resultantly, investors would be attracted leading to the creation of better and a large number of job opportunities. Consequently, though not immediately, but would gradually uplift the local way of living.
Hitherto, the project has brought fruitful results to Balochistan as the societal structure of the province got upheaval with the inflow of investment for developments. There are proposed sites for industrial zones in the province including Quetta, Gwadar, Khuzdar, Uthal, Hub and Dera Murad Jamali. Also, there will be minerals processing zones for separation of valuable minerals from the leftover rock. The road and rail network will help in effective and rapid movement of goods making the trade more efficient and expanding the economic arms of the country. Apart from the road and rail network, there are three major energy projects in the province also, namely, Gwadar Coal power project, HUBCO Coal Power Plant 1x660MW and Gaddani Power park Project. These projects upon completion will contribute approximately 2,940 MW of energy to the national grid thus assisting in countering country’s energy deficit.
Before CPEC, the security situation in Baloch land was not satisfactory as there were ongoing military operation against the renegades. But soon after the announcement of project, Balochistan became the center of attention as the fulcrum of CPEC. Recently, National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), Pakistan revealed in their 2018 report that there was an overall 21% reduction in terrorist attacks as compared to preceding year. The report also revealed that volatile and fragile regions of Balochistan and FATA had seen a demotion in the terrorist activities. Law and order situation is improving in Baloch society as the CPEC developments are materializing. Once the socio-economic fabric of the province gets strong, there will be large influx of people migrating into the province increasing the cultural harmony in the country.
Most importantly, Gwadar, the anchor and key driver of this mighty collaboration between China and Pakistan is located in Balochistan. Gwadar, having one of the world’s deepest sea ports is said to be Dubai 2.0 by the time project gets into its final stages. The geo-strategically important part of the Balochistan is going to be the bridge between Asia on one side and the West on the other, making Pakistan a center point of trade between the continents. The city itself will see massive modernization by the immense infrastructural projects and also with the renovation of Gwadar port. Theses project will not only help in curtailing the antagonized environment but also bring the federation and province closer to each other. Via Gwadar port the national assets such as carious mineral and resources would help profiting Pakistan’s economy subsequently enticing traders and investors to become a part of it.
The Bilateral economic alliance will bring hope to the economic dystopia of Pakistan. Its routes will help reduce the tensions between federation and provinces but only if the threads are connected rightly and skillfully to fully decipher the dire needs of Pakistan on its way to prosperity.
*Syed Nasir Hassan is working as a Research Associate at Islamabad Institute of Conflict
Resolution (IICR). He is a student of Conflict & Peace Studies.