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 the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) formerly known as the one Belt and One Road (OBOR) Initiative which is designed to connect about 60 countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Ever since CPEC was launched, it has become the center of attraction for Asian analysts. Exponents of this plan in China and Pakistan believe CPEC is 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.
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Understanding the matter better
CPEC is basically an integral part of China’s bigger BRI which was originally launched in the year 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Geographically, China Pakistan Economic Corridor extend about 2000 km through the road and railway network which connect Pakistan’s 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 networks, sea and airports 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 Pakistani government is to spread the benefits of this investment through the equitable distribution of resources and projects to all provinces. Since Balochistan and Gwadar port is 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.
CPEC project will not only create economic opportunities for the rural population of Balochistan but also 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 PKR 600 billion for different development projects in Southern Balochistan, including 31 dams, a 150 MW 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, then it will definitely create job opportunities and would usher in a new era of development and bring long-time prosperity to Balochistan.” He immediately made two visits to Gwadar after assuming power and oversaw the work on Gwadar CPEC projects.
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The CPEC project will help to produce2.3 million jobs between 2015 and 2030and 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 the creation of Special Economic Zones, industrial parks, trade centers 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 to the province
First, these projects will diminish political tensions between the province and the center 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 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 center 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 reduction of unemployment.
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However, many negative external elements have created hurdles in the development of the CPEC with false propaganda and creating a negative sense in the mind of local people as they want to keep them uneducated, underdeveloped and economically dependent. As these elements know that if this project is completed successfully, then it will be a game changer for the socio-economic development of Balochistan as well as of Pakistan in the 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 reap fruits for the coming generations of the province.