The Himalayan giant extended its hand to strengthen its bond with Pakistan through CPEC in 2015. The project itself is an offshoot of China’s mass initiative of revamping of old silk route, frequently known as One Belt One Road. In Pakistan, CPEC is welcomed by every visionary person. Holistically Pakistan will be bagging enough through CPEC.
However, Pakistan’s largest province Balochistan will be benefiting the most. For long, the southwestern province of Pakistan has faced a lot of deprivation. Despite being mineral rich, Balochistan has received the smallest share of benefits and resources. This long forgotten part of Pakistan came under limelight when CPEC was drafted making Gwadar as its cynosure.
Balochistan has been seen as the excluded part of the country for long in many social and economic terms. Its very population has been showing grievances towards state for the past few years. The Pakistani state also gauges its security apparatus in Balochistan to counter the irritants. The not-so-friendly Pakistan’s neighbors has also been acting as sinister god of these nuisances to wage acts of terror against Pakistan with special emphasis on Balochistan region in order to destabilize it and sabotage CPEC in any possible way. Owing to the fact that Balochistan remains of key importance in the CPEC. Its importance has also made it Achilles heel for CPEC where hostilities are being conducted covertly supported by the foreign factions in order to make the Pakistan’s growth stagnant. However, despite the challenges, since China-Pakistan Economic Corridor became a reality Balochistan became kernel for CPEC’s prosperity.
The gigantic combo of 1+4 included Gwadar at its core along with energy, transportation, industry and infrastructural cooperation. In order to have secure, safe and feasible Gwadar its relative proximity must be developed too. Large portion of CPEC’s investment and projects is been injected in Balochistan to facilitate the successful maneuvering of CPEC. Overall, Balochistan alone holds 16 out of 22 approved and 22 in-pipeline projects as mentioned by Chinese Embassy. It also has one of the largest energy project in Hub, which costs around USD 2 billion.
Apart from the infrastructure and energy projects, CPEC also has done numerous social welfare projects such as contributing towards educational sector with cooperation from the locals. Faqeer Primary School is one such project where a primary school is being built on the land donated by an old man called Shair Muhammad.
According to the Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Mr. Khusro Bakhtyar, western route development is an important development made possible by CPEC and it would attract a lot of commerce activity and ensure development of remote regions of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Other projects such as construction of International Airport at Gwadar, a Hospital and a Technical Institute e.t.c., are also becoming a reality now.
Blame it to the low literacy rate of region or miscommunication; CPEC is not warmly welcomed by inhabitants. There exist lots of doubts and concerns among the Baloch masses regarding this opportunity. CPEC can be used as the tool to refurbish the ideas and society of Balochistan and reconstruct the damaged bridge between federal apparatus and the provincial people. Dr Malik, the ex-CM Balochistan stated that 29 districts on Balochistan are living below the poverty line. With CPEC creating opportunities of employment can improve the living standard of the population that has expressed these grievances. Through education and providing basic facilities, people will be able to comprehend what CPEC is and how it will benefit them as well.
Water Scarcity is another huge problem that a larger proportion of province’s population faces. Highlighting this, CM Balochistan, Jam Kamal Khan said that water sector projects can help improve the present conditions prevailing in the province pertaining to water scarcity. This definitely will assist in refining the image of Chinese investment and Federal government in the eyes of locals.
The reason that people of Balochistan have this notion in their minds that CPEC would not benefit them and it is just another gamble of state to pin them into the ruins is because they were never being told that what actually CPEC is and what opportunities are coming with it which are social and economic prosperity of Pakistan as a collective and its provinces as individual. When they were not addressed by Pakistan side the anti-thesis happened, they were fed by the anti-Pakistan camps and were exploited and used against Pakistan.
Nevertheless, if CPEC is fully ushered in Pakistan, it can make Pakistan a central player in the region’s economic ranks. Developments in Balochistan under CPEC is being done with robust on ground affects but there still remains a catch for government in Pakistan. The government needs to make full use of CPEC’s realities in Balochistan and include Balochistan and its people part of it. It is up to Pakistan to make CPEC an inclusive project for Pakistan and integrate the nation and provinces through it. Whereas not availing may result in not so appreciated results as it is visible now that foreign
The writer is a Research Associate at the Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR).