CPEC: The game changer for Balochistan | By Shahzadi Irrum

403

CPEC: The game changer for Balochistan

PAKISTAN and China are not only all-weather friends, but strategic partners as well. Their friendship, which is termed as deeper than the oceans and higher than the Himalayas, is based on mutual understanding, trust and shared aims and interests.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) formerly known as One Belt and One Road (OBOR) Initiative which is designed to connect about 60 countries of Asia, Africa and Europe. Ever since CPEC was launched, it has become the centre of attraction for Asian analysts.

Proponents of this plan in China and Pakistan believe CPEC as a “game changer” that will reshape the economy of China, Pakistan and especially of Balochistan province. Thus, the aim of this article is to highlight how this project will change the current status of Balochistan.

CPEC is basically an integral part of China’s bigger BRI which was originally launched in the year 2013 by the Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Geographically, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor extends about 2000km through a road and railway network which connect Pakistan port of Gwadar to Kashgar in China.

This multifarious deal involves many broad areas of cooperation such as coal-fired power plants, hydroelectric wind generated power plants, solar power stations, road and rail network, sea and air ports and infrastructure development for industrial zones.

CPEC has the potential to generate a plethora of chances for the people of Balochistan and it is believed that this plan will be a game changer for the entire province and has the potential to solve its interlinked economic and social problems.

China has promised to invest $46 billion in CPEC in Pakistan, which covers a highway network from Khunjerab to Gwadar, energy projects and the establishment of economic zones.

The stated policy of the Pakistan government is to spread the benefits of this investment through the equitable distribution of resources and projects to all the provinces. Since, Balochistan and Gwadar port are the backbone of CPEC, the project of CPEC will pose a positive impact on Balochistan and will contribute to the development of the whole province.

The project will address the social and economic issues of Balochistan and after the completion of numerous plans which are under-development, Balochistan in general and Gwadar in particular will change into an economic and commercial hub.

The CPEC project will not only create economic opportunities for the rural population of Balochistan, but also the decades old grievances of the people will be removed by the construction of road networks.

The Government of Pakistan has been investing heavily in CPEC, for several development schemes, Former Prime Minister, Imran Khan allocated about PKR600 billion for different development projects in Southern Balochistan, including 31 dams,150MW power project, Gwadar Airport and different roads and infrastructural development schemes.

Likewise, the current Prime Minister of Pakistan Shehbaz Sharif said, “when the CPEC project will be completed, it will definitely create job opportunities and would usher in a new era of development and bring long time prosperity in Balochistan.” He immediately made two visits to Gwadar after assuming power and oversaw the work on Gwadar CPEC projects.

The CPEC project will help produce2.3 million jobs between 2015 and 2030 and will increase its annual economic growth rate from 2 to 2.5%. It aims at bringing long-term development to the province.

The vision of CPEC also includes creation of Special Economic Zones, industrial parks, trade centres and technical cooperation. Many of the projects are in the implementation phase while extensive planning is underway on others.

The CPEC power projects will bring new changes in the province. First, these projects will diminish political tension between the province and the centre which are based on the perception that the land of Balochistan is exploited to serve the interest of others.

Second, in Balochistan the provision of electricity will boost economic activity and also improve the living standard of the people in rural areas and third, the development of these projects will create employment opportunities for the local population of Balochistan.

CPEC is successfully progressing in Pakistan as many other countries are interested to invest in Pakistan under this project. Balochistan is the nerve centre of this project and therefore this project will provide benefits to it the most.

Many projects of regional connectivity, industrial development, energy, education and vocational training that are progressing under the CPEC will soon change the socio-economic landscape of Balochistan and improve the lifestyle of the local residents by mitigating poverty and reducing unemployment.

However, many negative external elements have created hurdles in the development of the CPEC with false propaganda and creating a negative sense in the minds of local people as they want to keep them uneducated, under developed and economically dependent.

As these elements know that if this project is completed successfully, it will be a game changer for the socio-economic development of Balochistan as well as of Pakistan in future.

Therefore, for Balochistan to progress and to come at par with the rest of the country, it is important that the authorities invest their time and money in the development of CPEC and its related projects which in turn can bring dividends to the coming generations of the province.

—Assistant Research Fellow Balochistan Think Tank Network, Quetta

Previous articleDaily Cartoon 19-10-2022
Next articleCPEC-BRI and Green CPC 2022: A Policy Review | By Mehmood-Ul-Hassan Khan