China-Pakistan Economic Corridor deserves support of all citizens | By Zia Tanoli


China-Pakistan Economic Corridor deserves support of all citizens

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a flagship of the Belt and Road initiative launched in 2015.

In its detail, the initiative deserves goodwill of all people specially the Baloch in order to maximize its intended goals.

The CPEC is a clear manifestation of historical and solid ties between Pakistan and China. The multibillion project reflects China’s economic progress which it wishes to extend or share with its neighbours and beyond.

Several commentators refer to it as a “game changer” due to its intended plan of connecting up a vast arch of regional markets from China to South and West Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe, thus, creating fresh markets with massive business opportunities both from within and beyond the region.

CPEC aims at promoting economic development and inter-regional connectivity which are partially achieved with both infrastructural, industrial and socio-economic development projects, especially in Sindh and Balochistan. Due to its strategic location, Gwadar is already transformed with an International Airport and modernized port that are making the zone an outlet for new local and international investment that will soon make Pakistan a regional hub for trade, transportation and economic activity.

The port alone is presumed to be a spur for industrial production on a vast scale. The other industrial zones in Balochistan including major cities such as Quetta, Gwadar, Khuzdar, Uthal, Hub and Dera Murad Jamali have been mapped out and phase one activities are ongoing amidst pockets of challenges.

Besides the infrastructure developments, Gwadar as one of CPEC’s economic zones, is witnessing multiple social welfare programs such as Gwadar Women’s Employment Development Centre aimed at skills enhancement and poverty alleviation among women. China and the Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division and Ehsaas Program Pakistan have signed a memorandum of understanding for the betterment of local communities.

The planned roads, health facilities, schools and middle and small scale business opportunities are all meant to empower the Baloch communities and eventually make them self-sufficient. The CPEC Authority of Pakistan in collaboration with the Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment have so far installed 3,000 units of solar panels at Nighori Ward in Gwadar, aimed at providing free-of-cost electricity for local users.

Beyond Balochistan, Chinese and Pakistani companies are in collaborations that have established healthcare projects like a 200-bed intensive care unit for accident-related emergencies at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences hospital in Islamabad.

Several NGOs are also active in the environment and climate change programs that are geared towards combating the escalating global warming and to promote Pakistan’s green development agenda. In the domain of Technology, Pakistan and Xiaomi, a leading Chinese technology company, are in joint efforts to begin manufacturing mobile phones in Lahore.

This mega project will immensely reduce the prices of mobile phones. Local companies and individual farmers are also introducing new and cheap technology that can improve agriculture, a sector that employs almost 40 per cent of the population, mostly women.

Media reports, economists and planning experts argue that CPEC is helping Pakistan and will continue to increase its exports, debt servicing, employment opportunities, energy production, infrastructure development and entrepreneurial opportunities in general, and Baluchistan, in particular.

PML-N Government, Beijing determined on CPEC

Within a few days in office, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his party the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) are highly aligned with CPEC. The local media reported that during his first speech to the Pakistan’s National Assembly, Mr. Sharif categorically indicated that Pakistan-China relations are a priority in Pakistan’s diplomacy.

He is quoted to have said: “We shall accelerate, enhance and expand all facets of the Pakistan-China relationship”. He pledged that his government will work with China to get rid of all the obstacles impeding the progress of CPEC.

To him, CPEC is a “precious gift” from the Chinese government to Pakistan and he believes that the electricity shortages being experienced nowadays would have been worse if there were no CPEC energy projects established. He has, therefore, set the CPEC agenda as one of the priorities of the government.

Beijing, through its Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, has expressed readiness to work with the new Pakistani government to strengthen the practical cooperation, accelerate CPEC related projects and to work towards the realization of a new era and well-being of the people of the two friendly countries.

With such assurance from the second largest economy in the world, coupled with the Prime Minister’s strong standpoint on CPEC, the people of Pakistan should support the initiative in all the mapped zones of BRI. The goodwill of the general is an essential precondition for the maximization of CPEC benefits.

Additionally, government workers and private sector enterprises involved or related to CPEC, must embrace it wholeheartedly and not be obstacles on the path of progress. There is a need for pragmatism and enthusiasm from all stakeholders. With plenty of experience in infrastructure projects in Punjab, Mr. Sharif’s government is likely to move a long way in the realization of CPEC goals.

Condemning attacks on Chinese and need for civic education

As stated earlier, China deserves applause for the investment and support rendered so far that have immensely contributed to Pakistan’s economic, technological and social development.

CPEC is not China ‘s sole sensation, but rather a massive investment from the two friendly countries (Pak-China). More so, many other countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada and Germany to mention but a few, are also investing huge resources in the project.

Reports indicate that close to 18 countries have so far invested in Allama Iqbal (Industrial City) in the areas of textile, information technology, agriculture and science and technology sectors.

The wrong perception or propaganda against CPEC should be tackled through civic education about the essence of the initiative.

The media are primarily mandated to highlight the achievements of the project to the ordinary people, offer intelligible discourse about the related developments and make projections of the future.

The academic institutions too have a great role to play in mainstreaming CPEC in research and in all the academic disciplines. Research done so far on BRI should be available to the public to raise awareness. Civil society organizations from both China and Pakistan can also be a part of the sensitization initiatives about CPEC.

The anti-CPEC elements in Balochistan need to be addressed peacefully through dialogue and adult literacy.

Religious and cultural leaders need to be engaged to clarify the goals of the initiative. The local communities in the Province must be involved in the decision-making process and it should be demonstrated to them that the developments in the region are for their own prosperity.

All the participatory approaches and development communication theories ought to be employed to allay the fears of the Baloch people.

There can never be any justification whatsoever for the continuous attacks on the Chinese workers and missions in Karachi by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA).

Such elements are condemned in the strongest possible terms. Government, in collaboration with the local communities must fight these wrong elements and bring them to book.

More investigations are also needed to rule out foreign intervention from the known enemies of Pakistan’s progress in the region and Chinese economic prosperity.

These militant outfits cannot survive in areas where the population is fully sensitized about the benefits of CPEC. It is, therefore, prudent for all Pakistanis to stand against all elements that are intended to fail the nation’s progress.

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