It covers 44% of Pakistan’s total land mass. It is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran internationally while locally it is bordered by Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Its location is of extreme significance because it provides the shortest route from seaports to Central Asia; hence it is always in the scope of competing global interests. In this paper we will look at the salient features of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and more importantly, its impact and influence in the Baluchistan province and the perceptions of the local population as well as public officials regarding this project.The research takes an exploratory approach into the inner working of the CPEC focusing on the opportunities and challenges the CPEC project promises and faces in Baluchistan. The aim and objective of the study is to look at all the opportunities that will come about to enhance the livelihood of the citizens of the region and the uplift, the region will face due to the cultural changes and economic development. The study also focuses on the issues and challenges the government of Baluchistan is facing at local levels in the implementation of CPEC. CPEC is a project that has many different areas under its umbrella and these include a multitude of projects of different nature. From road infrastructure to port development projects, enhancing the trade capacity of Pakistan internationally and locally.
At the same time CPEC has a multitude of projects not related to trade such as schools, hospitals and other social projects. CPEC aims to build not just a trade network but it is a development project comprising of different areas of work. We can broadly classify these into five distinct areas ranging from Economic development, Social development, Transport infrastructure development, Port development and Power projects. Out of all these five projects the major or the core projects are both of the transportation infrastructure and port development as these represent the bulk of Chinese investment.
The transportation projects promise to increase the development of the region by providing more jobs while constructions on the projects are going on and after when they are completed in maintenance and operation. The advantages of note are not limited to only transportation in road networks but also the railways of Pakistan are also going to face an immense boost with plans under ways to upgrade the existing track network and also expansion of the railway tracks. The creation up gradation and operation of Gwadar port will boost the amount of trade that will flow through the region as this port has been set to not only assist in the movement of Chinese goods but many of the Central Asian States (CAS) will also benefit as majority of these nations are landlocked state and currently have majority of their trade flowing through either Russia or Iran.
The economic development in the region will be boosted not only by the collection of tolls and transit fees that Pakistan will collect but through the multitude of small and medium enterprises that will spring up in the wake of this new development. They can be accredited or will be seen in the form of service industry rise as hotels and rest station along the roads and also the rise in automobile industry will be seen as the need for spare Parts will become more and more apparent. The social infrastructure projects will see a growth in two ways; firstly, due to the projects that the Chinese government will be building and secondly, the major challenge in Baluchistan is of accessibility to far flung areas and the lack of quality roads. With the increase of main line roads further development of branches may and are being built will be increased connecting the whole of Baluchistan which is an objective that has never been achieved throughout the history of the region.
The final advantage as characterized by us is the increase in the power project by the Chinese private power producers this will not only once again enhance our ability to meet our demand but will also stop the crumbling industry of Pakistan which is still stuck in the pitfall due to not being able to get out of this power crises. Baluchistan is the largest province of Pakistan with respect to its size but when it comes to the population, this province has the lowest of all. Another unfortunate situation is that this province is the least developed of all despite being rich in resources and covering such a large portion of the land area of Pakistan. Human resource is available but extremely underdeveloped which renders it inadequate as well as the fact that the people still follow the tribal culture and do not want any sort of change. The provincial governments over the years have also failed to do anything productive for this region which added to the underdevelopment problem.
According to the PILDAT paper of 2012, the literacy rate of Baluchistan stands at 51. 5% which is a serious concern. Urbanization has been at minimum levels and the unemployment index stands at 20% which have added to the problem of low annual growth rate. Over the last decade, Baluchistan had a flimsy growth performance and when compared to the other provinces, the GDP per capita is the lowest among all the provinces. Post the creation of Pakistan in 1947, special focus was placed upon Baluchistan but the lack of infrastructure combined with the weaknesses in the institutions negatively affected the outcome and performance of the plans. The development efforts taken during this period could not yield any positive results, which in turn initiated a negative reaction among the locals as their demand for increased socio-economic development was not paid any heed. In order to address the concerns of the locals, successive governments have carried out various politico-economic measures.
The provincial government, however, lacks the capacity with added resistance from the tribal leaders which has obstructed the entire process. (Pakistan-china. com, 2017)Because of the development taking place through China’s collaboration, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is said to increase opportunities for the people of Baluchistan. The vision is that Gwadar shall be transformed into an economic hub and hence will add to the development of the entire province, hence resulting in catering for the various socio-economic problems prevailing in Baluchistan. Mining is another potential sector which can help in changing the fate of the province. It is rich in minerals and hence the mining sector is likely to flourish when the CPEC will become operational. It shall help in reducing unemployment in the local areas as well as enable the local government to develop and enhance its human resource. (Cooperation, 2017)The corridor, under construction at the moment, carries the potential to transform Pakistan into a transit hub for China, the second largest economy of the world. This link is of particular importance as more than half of the oil transported to China via Gulf States has to cover a vast distance of around 16,000 km, whereas through Pakistan the distance is only 2500 km. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is another step to make these trade relations stronger between the two countries. China Pakistan Economic Corridor is a trade agreement which would create economic opportunities and strengthen trade. CPEC aims to connect Gwadar (Pakistan) to Kashgar (north western China).
This connection would be made through a network of roads, railways, oil and gas pipelines and fiber optics. This would make Gwadar fully operational and an important deep sea port. It is expected that Gwadar would be in time transformed into an economic center. (Sial, n. d. ). The western route of CPEC would pass through Baluchistan. This route would create opportunities for the people of Baluchistan. According to the statistics given by Ministry of Planning and development CPEC aims to make and initial investment of $46 billion. Out of these $46 billion $7. 1 billion would be invested in Baluchistan. By this amount Baluchistan stands on the second position in terms of investment. The sites selected for industrial zones in Baluchistan include the main cities of Baluchistan- Quetta, Gwadar, Khuzdar, Uthal, Hub and Dera Murad Jamali. The mineral economic processing zones include-Khuzdar (chromite, antimony), Chaghi (chromite), Qila Saifullah (antimony, chromite), Saindak (gold, silver), Reko Diq (gold), Qalat (iron ore), Lasbela (manganese), Gwadar (oil refinery) and Muslim Bagh (chromite). (Khetran, 2016). Almost 2282 Acres of land has been given to Gwadar Port authority, under the land lease agreement signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in April 2015. This land is considered as land for the free zone. This land has been specifically acquired for Gwadar port free trade zone project of cost of Rs 6. 499 billion.
This project is to be completed in 3 phases. By the end of the phase three it aims to establish logistics centers, manufacturing industries and industrial parks. Keeping in view the transporting requirements of the port, East-Bay Expressway, Gwadar Port would be constructed. This expressway would be 18. 981 km 4-lane expressway with 30 meters of railway track and would bridge the gap between Gwadar port and Makran coast. Pak-China vocational institute and Gwadar international airport would also be constructed in Gwadar. Along with all these projects, the Gwadar port capacity would also be increased by the construction of additional berthing areas and channels. (Khetran, 2016)After the construction of the road networks under the CPEC projects, economic activities in Baluchistan have seen a boom. People have started taking benefit of the completed areas of the projects by setting up businesses such as shops, hotels and houses. Construction and mining industry have also picked up pace and increased their businesses. With development of CPEC the areas of Baluchistan which had low population and were considered difficult terrain, are now considered as high property value areas.
The economic and social changes are becoming highly visible at this stage. CPEC would bring further development in Baluchistan by creating job opportunities and economic activities. Challenges that provincial government need to address to allow these opportunities to benefit the local communityBaluchistan’s literacy rate stands at 51. 5% accompanied with a high unemployment index of 20% both have contributed in a slow and stagnant growth of the province over the years. (PILDAT Working Paper, 2012). The development taking place under CPEC is majorly taking place in Gwadar which might not concentrate on rest of the province, hence those resources might remain untapped and people won’t be able to avail opportunities from this transit corridor. The misconceptions in the minds of local people is the biggest hurdle which provincial government needs to overcome to make this huge project a success, as this is the only way to strengthen small and medium sized industries being setting up in Baluchistan. The recent uproar in the Baloch people in relation to changing the route of corridor has increased the concerns of people and as the major chunk of development is going to take place in Gwadar so the rest of the province from the very start is feeling deprived and neglected. (Pakistan-China Institute 2014).
Provincial government of Baluchistan is concerned not only about the unfair distribution of economy, revenue and employment generating projects but also have concerns over the handling of Gwadar Port for fifty years to China without a legitimate and transparent process. (The News Opinion). The Baloch nationalists blame the federal government of employing and having contracts with non Baloch firms and have divided profit sharing as 50% and 48% in Islamabad and Chinese company respectively by only leaving 2% for the province itself. Another major concern of the Baloch government is the displacement of the locals from one place to another because of the implanting of different economic activities. (Greed, creed, and governance in civil conflicts: a case study of Baluchistan-Research Article).
The benefits of a trade network have had far reaching effects throughout history and especially in the Indo-Pak region as this used to be a link of the old Silk Road and as a result of the trade brought by this road network many cities exist along that old historic route to this day. These cities have transformed into major cities today and serve Pakistan in either being the divisional or district headquarters of the regions these pass through. Thus any trade network that exists also brings about a major economic activity and gain whether it is in the form of resting stations or trading outposts.
With the construction of this new road network Baluchistan will see an increase in not just the economic activity but also a huge rise in the population of Baluchistan as whenever there is an economic opportunity the masses huddle towards it. As we have seen in the past with the rise of Khuzdar rise to prominence with the introduction of a proper road linking it to the rest of Pakistan. (Ali, 2017)