Balochistan takes lead in CPEC
WHILE there is enough attraction for the international players, regarding the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the uphill task has been to save it from the internal and external spoilers. The credit goes to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, where so far he has been able to do this job well. Most of the uproar on the issue has been on faulty assumptions and non-availability of complete information about the upcoming projects that would keep unfolding as the overall CPEC programme keeps materialising. In the broader context, it is a century long project that would eventually inter-connect AsiaEurope-Africa under the broader umbrella of One Belt One Road(OBOR). Finances are readily available through Asia Infrastructure Investment Bankthat has a projected equity of US$ 200; other major financial institutions have also shown interest in investing in CPEC projects.
Pakistan and China had signed an agreement on April 20, 2015 to commence work on CPEC development projects worth over $46 billion, which comes to roughly 20 per cent of Pakistan's annual GDP. The corridor aims to connect Gwadar port in Balochistan to China's Xinjiang region via a network of highways, railways and pipelines spread over 3,000km.
As per its track record, India has raised objections to the project and has set aside US$ 300 million to cause disruptive activities both physical and political.India has lodged permanent representatives of most of self-exiled separatist Baloch leaders andprovides them forum for venting anti-Pakistan sentiment within India and other countries. Gravity of the matter can be gauged from the fact that during the construction of M-8, there were 207 attacks on the FWO workers by miscreants that caused 26 deaths of its staff, while 18 from the helping staff also lost their lives.
On February 03, Prime Minister inaugurated Rs13 billion Gwadar-TurbatHoshab Road (M-8), a part of CPEC. Army chief General Raheel Sharif drove the prime minister on the newly-constructed 193-km long highway, which will connect the western, central and eastern routes of CPEC with the Gwadar Port. The premier on the occasion said his government accorded top priority to development in Balochistan, and regarded the road construction as a dream come true. He termed Pakistan's prosperity as the prosperity of Balochistan and 2016 as take-off year for CPEC; Army Chief has already declared 2016 as timeframe for eradicating terrorism from the country. Both these are laudable visions but would require gigantic effort to accomplish.
Nawaz Sharif said that the Central Asian Republic was keen to use the elaborate network of roads in Pakistan to reach to the open seas, adding that the road linkage would benefit as many as three billion people of the entire region. He lauded the FWO team for completing the road despite numerous challenges, and appreciated the army chief for his interest in the project, as well as overall peace in Balochistan. Prime Minister said that building the nation is not fun and he is determined to bring a real revolution in the country. He said that solid work does not need slogans but it requires determination and strategy.
The Prime Minister announced three new road projects: Quetta-Khuzdar Highway would be dualised. Work on Baseema-Khuzdar, Shahdadkot and BelaAwaran highways will start soon. The completion of these roads would link Quetta to Gwadar and to Afghanistan through Chaman. He said the Pakistan Army and FWO are proud of their work on the M-8 project which was initiated under the directives given by the Chief of Army Staff on February 6, 2014. Completion of the project within such a short time under adverse security situation is indeed a commendable job.
The seminar on "Peace and Prosperity in Balochistan", held in Quetta on February 02, proved to be highly educative in the sense that it served as a platform to discuss all aspects of the Balochistan issue and how to address them. The highlight of the seminar was address of General Raheel Sharif who minced no words in identifying the causes of the trouble in the province with foremost being the proxy war being fought by different regional and distant powers for their own ends. He also explained the strategy being pursued by the Army to help restore normalcy in the volatile province. Since the Army Chief is in the know of things, everyone should take his words seriously and listen to his appeal for joining hands to counter conspiracies of the enemy. His revelations crystallize two things - there is gross foreign interference with some foreign powers training, arming and funding anti-state elements and hence the need for a combination of measures to address the challenge effectively. As for exploiting of the situation by foreign agencies is concerned, our agencies are countering their activities but there is dire need that the political leadership should highlight the issue during engagement with world leaders. Similarly, our diplomats should sensitize public opinion especially governments and media in host countries about designs of these powers.