Certainly, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a splendid gift and demands equitable implementation. Materialization of the project can be made possible with investment from Chinese companies to develop western part of both the countries through good coordination provision of needed facilities, connectivity enviable trading, financial integration and people to people contact. Addressing the reservations of Khyber Pukhtunkhawa and Balochistan will give a new impetus to the execution process. Decision to form a 10-member special committee under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister aims to defuse tension and remove suspicions caused by misunderstanding and communication gaps. It also conveys a message that in democracy contentious issues are resolved by sitting across the table.
Salient points of the agreement finalized during a high level meeting on 15th January, 2016 under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister are, the location of industrial parts would be decided in consultation with the Provinces, while developing allied facilities and infrastructure would be the shared responsibility of both the Federal and Provincial Governments, construction of the western alignment of the corridor would be prioritized as per demand of KPK and Balochistan governments under the principle “one corridor, multiple passages” by July 15, 2018 and that the allocated funds of Rs.40 billion would be enhanced, if need arises. The western alignment would initially be of four lanes expressway and its subsequent conversion into six lanes and acquisition of the land will be the responsibility of the KPK government. To squeeze the communication gaps and regulate interactions amongst the technical experts, a cell has been established in the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform. Putting in place the regulatory mechanism manifests top leadership commitments to CPEC project. It will facilitate judicious benefits to everyone. CPEC’s smooth and in time execution will show statesmanship approach. It is also the silver lining on the horizon which some pessimists depict that the nation is falling in the abyss of controversies as is observed in Kalabagh Dam project.
Chinese investment in CPEC will boost economic development in the long run. While speaking on the occasion of Pak-China Business Opportunities, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform has termed 46 billion dollars investment as a beginning, hoping to have 500 billion dollars investment through industrial and commercial cooperation.
Earlier, a four member Committee was formed under the chairmanship of Speaker KPK Provincial Assembly during visit of Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform. The Federal Minister clarified that Chinese Government was not giving any cash and was rather financing its companies for investment in Pakistan. He further explained that the plan was signed in July 2013. The execution could not be started in 2014 due to political turmoil in the country. KPK government was of the view that the CPEC in the Province was not a western route but a road which was tantamount to wilfully ignore KPK, Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan. KPK Chief Minister also complained that the three Chief Ministers were not taken on board including non-allocation of any funding for the western route in the budget for 2015-16.
Albeit the agreement for US$ 46 billion was signed earlier, but the timeframe is not available. Perhaps politicizing the mega project made the process bumpy. The Prime Minister has laid the foundation stone of western route of CPEC – Zhob-Mughal Kot of 81Kms to be completed at the cost of Rs.8.8 billion and 126 Kms Qila-Saifullah-Wagum for Rs.7.5 billion. The western route of 2458 kms of CPEC from Zhob would connect Gwadar, Quetta, Sorab and Hoshab. During Multi-Party Conference by KPK political parties on 7th January and Baluchistan on 10th January 2016, the participants urged the Federal Government to follow recommendations of the Conference held on 28th May last year.
The actual cause of concerns is the provision of allied facilities along the western route like (i) gas pipelines, (ii) electricity transmission lines, (iii) fibre optic cables, (iv) railway lines and (v) Liquefied Natural Gas facilities for industries to be set up along the western route. The Multi-Party Conference of Balochistan also adopted 13 points resolutions relating to people of Gwadar, like complete control over Gwadar part of the Mega Project, ban on settlers’ inclusion in electoral polls, provision ofclean drinking water and other facilities, preference in appointments, alternatives for fishing community, provision ofscholarships and free education, health facilities, return of confiscated land, partnership of locals in investment, induction in security forces and non-transfer of old city of Gwadar to new site, condemned the issuance of new cards to citizens and opposition to policy of dividing the people of Gwadar.
China sees CPEC, a key to vivid prosperity in the region being a long term and systematic project with a scientific planning and its implementation. Currently, bilateral trade is US$12.290 billion of which 2.1 billion dollars is Pakistan’s exports. CPEC, no doubt, is a part of President Jin Xi’s foreign policy initiative “One Belt One Road” which aims to increase Chinese foot from Central Asia to Europe through use of loans to build infrastructure and transport network. The head of visiting 100 businessmen Mr. Sha Zukong has termed Pakistan as a convergence point of Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st century Maritime Silk Road.
The CPEC project can prove a launch pad of Chinese One Belt One Road policy. It can facilitates political stability and economic development in the country provided its implementation is done to the satisfaction of every Federating Unit.
—The writer is Islamabad-based political analyst.