Energy security: Development in CPEC vis-a-vis Western angst

By Shahzadi Tooba Hussain Syed

As per its master plan after the further development Gwadar Port has potential to become one of the largest ports in the world and may increase its cargo handling capacity upto 300 million tons annually. The new development in this regard is Gawadar-Kashgar oil pipeline that would carry one million barrel per day (1MMBD) Middle Eastern oil to China. It will start in 2017. Side by side one can easily see the growing anxiety in the West regarding CPEC Project.

Recently, European Parliament Vice-President Ryszard Czarnecki has said Pakistan is violently crushing dissent and indulging in human rights violations of the Balochistan people as the ‘China-Pakistan Economic and Defence Cooperation (CPEC)’ project is being constructed against their will’ in the US Congress on Thursday (7 July 2016), reports the Nation. He also highlighted that the failure of the international community to intervene and check atrocities by the Pakistan army in the areas proposed for the CPEC, would result in the escalation of human rights violations of innocent civilians in Pakistan.

The main concern of Mr. Czarnecki is human rights issue. Pakistan is anxiously waiting for his views on the human rights violations in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). Nobody is allowed to make a justification of human rights issues to intervene in another state’s matter; it should be tackled on non-discriminative bases.

Another concern was of the presence of Pak army there. In his remarks about the CPEC, Czarnecki highlighted the manner in which this project was being constructed against the will of the local population in Balochistan, leading to the heavy presence of Pakistani military and police apparatus in the area. In its reply, the major focus of the presence of Pak army is just to provide the safety to the Chinese engineers. Keeping in mind and ignoring this fact he further said that while the security deployment was apparently for the safety of the Chinese personnel and infrastructure, it had resulting in a situation where the human rights of the local population were being frequently violated.

Echoing similar sentiments, Paulo Casaca, Executive Director of Arc humankind, referred to the aggressive Chinese actions in the South China Sea, and lamented that while the US, along with its allies, was trying to maintain freedom of navigation in the area, Pakistan, the foremost beneficiary of US largesse over the years, was now supporting the Chinese regime.  The hidden concerns are very apt, to tackle the China and gaining “asheerwad” of West’s “player” in South Asia, It doesn’t want to see Pakistan on its own.

In response to concerns of the grievances of local residents, Lt. General Amer Riaz who heads security operations in the province, stated that locals would not be deprived of benefits, and that local Gwadar residents would have “the first right to everything. Pakistan’s Minister of Planning, National Reforms, and Development, Ahsan Iqbal, further stated in May 2016 that Gwadar residents would be regarded as “main stakeholders” in the city’s master plan, and that fishermen specifically would also be accommodated by the plan.

Though rich in mineral resources, so far Balochistan’s contribution to the economy of Pakistan has not been high. This has consequently affected its development. One of the major reasons of this was the geographical ruggedness of the terrain and poor population. For example, Turbat has only a population of 180,000 people and has the most difficult terrain of the western route in Balochistan. Pangjur, a district in the west of Balochistan, comprises three tehsils with a population of around 350,000. Now, with the construction of the western route of CPEC, property value has skyrocketed in these areas where roads have been built. Other cities like Qalat, Quetta and Zhob will also become more vibrant with the completion of planned road network which will give a boost to economic activities and other development projects under CPEC.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will open up new avenues of opportunities for the people of Balochistan. With estimated 7.1 billion initial investments through CPEC, Balochistan ranks second in its share from $ 46 billion according to the statistics of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform. Balochistan, in general, and Gwadar, in particular, is the linchpin of CPEC. The project will subsequently contribute to the development of the whole province and address various economic and social problems of Balochistan. It is envisioned that Gwadar would soon be transformed into an economic hub.

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Shahzadi Tooba Hussain Syed

Shahzadi Tooba Hussain Syed works at Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]

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