ASIABUSINESSOPINION

CPEC: The need to address the lingering problems

By Sadia Kazmi

CPEC project provides Pakistan with an opportunity to emerge as a major economic hub for global trade and investment. Pakistan is located at the cross-section of three engines of growth in Asia which the CPEC aims to integrate into an economically interdependent network of profits and revenues. With the recent formal inauguration of the Gwadar port, this dream already has taken a shape of reality. Also the arrival and docking of first Chinese ship on the port, has been a major milestone achieved collectively by both the states despite all the skepticism attached with the probable success of this project.

However for it to keep moving towards its ultimate realization there is still need for proper measures to be taken especially in the security domain. At the same time the other domestic impediments also need to be addressed on the immediate basis. This is required because certain internal and external elements aiming at sabotaging the CPEC are also ramping up their evil designs. CPEC surely has a lot to offer but only if it is kept clean from the clutches of undue yet inevitable obstructions and controversies. The leadership and concerned authorities on both sides cannot afford CPEC to be politicized. There are certain interest groups that are exclusively working to create misconceptions and mislead the general understanding about the CPEC. However it is also a fact that there is no smoke without fire. There are particular issues which unfortunately still need to be addressed despite all the progress so far made on the project. These could prove to be huge impediments in the long run if not being given due consideration. Some of these problems are related to route map, priority route, transparency about the basic agenda and framework of the CPEC, structure and deadline of the Western route, facilities along both the routes and the methodology to be adopted for construction of economic zones etc.

The heart of CPEC i.e. Gwadar port has become functional and much more progress and development is being anticipated on it in the near future. Some of it includes developmental projects to be held at Gwadar in order to embolden the economic corridor, such as Free Trade Zone, Business Complex of Gwadar Port Authority, Pak-China Government Primary School at Faqir Colony, Sawar and Shadikor dams and Gwadar University. And for all this to become a reality, the politico-socio stability in Pakistan and especially in the Baluchistan region is very important.  At this point in time, more than ever before the political instability is not an option. It cannot be afforded by Pakistan, nor is it in the interest of China. The need of the hour is to dispel the controversies and ensure security measures. Pakistan must also foil India’s conspiracy of imposing war and ignore its deliberate provocations by adopting a wise strategy so as to maintain peace in the region. China on its part acknowledges the political tension in the sub-continent and the possibility of India cornering and sequestering Pakistan. However the good thing is that China has time and again showed confidence in Pakistan and ensured that China will work more on the economic corridor if necessary. China will not leave Pakistan stranded in the hour of need.

Simultaneously one cannot just ignore the factor of popular support when it comes to the success of any venture. There is a need to realize that these developmental projects be seen in the positive light by the locals, and or that some confidence building between the Government and common people also needs to be done. In this regard some partial information about the plans and framework of the CPEC can be made public so it could cultivate more trust and awareness among the general public too. Only recently the KP Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser moved an application with Peshawar High Court seeking multiple directives from the federal government regarding development of the CPEC’s Western route.

This shows that the problems related to the routes are still lingering and should not be allowed to develop into long lasting grievances. Several positive developments are in the offing which should not be mired by such irritants. Only recently a trade convoy covered three thousand kilometers journey from Kashgar to Gwadar after passing through Gilgit Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh. According to the facts some 873 kilometers of highways in Baluchistan have been constructed in two years. So the CPEC has to be seen in its exclusivity benefitting the whole country and not just one particular province. Hence the controversies regarding the promised industrial parks, economic zones, provision of electricity, gas and telephone lines, fiber optics, railway lines etc should chased away on priority basis.

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Sadia Kazmi

Sadia Kazmi works as a Senior Research Associate at the Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad. She is a PhD candidate at the National Defense University

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