CPEC: A Bane Or Boon For Balochistan?
“The morality of a society isn’t judged by the behaviour of an oppressed class but by the rules and laws made by the state, which either protect or exploit an already depressed section of a particular society.”
Whenever I come across a saying or read a book where people are fully tortured, tyrannized and suppressed, I often remember Balochistan – the biggest province of Pakistan, comprising nearly 44 per cent of the total land area and with a population of 12 million (less than 6 per cent of the total).
At the outset, the province has not merely been an apt candidate for political exploitation and blue devils but social repression too, given its abundant natural resources and relatively low economic and infrastructural development.
The current situation of the province is one that witnesses perpetual ignorance. It has been confronting manifold imbroglios. Keeping aside the infrastructure sector, Balochistan is entitled to home the largest child labour and out-of-school force in the country. Study in these circumstances remains a distant dream for many.
For eradicating the aforementioned problems, many initiatives were taken forth to bring the province into the mainstream. And the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – an economics-centred project signed in April 2015 by China and Pakistan. The focal point of the project is Gwadar, a deep sea port.
The Gwadar city remains the focal point of CPEC where $1 billion worth projects are to be run. China has traced a conclusion to grant $230 million in order to shape the Gwadar International Airport which would be operational in the upcoming three years. Over $800 million have to be granted to establish other projects launched under CPEC, which include a 300MW coal power plant in the city, a new well-facilitated hospital, an expressway, a desalinization plant and Eastbay Expressway.
This economics-oriented project is the most significant agreement between Pakistan and China which won’t only strengthen Pakistan and China’s economy, but also will have a great global impact on the world’s economy, especially of Afro-Eurasia.
Initially, Punjab has the highest share of $13 billion, Sindh $4.6 billion, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa $1.6 billion, Gilgit-Baltistan $900 million and Balochistan meagre $600 million in this multibillion project.
Here lies the sole reason behind the downfall of progress in the province, which has given impetus to the long-run Baloch insurgency. The war between the state and the insurgents in the region continues, as the common masses suffer the most.
The province remains the epicentre of many projects but gets the least share, provoking a question: whether would it be right to give the highest share to another province rather than Balochistan if the province contributes the greatest of its budget?
People who have access to the information never become happy or fascinated if anyone makes tall claims about the development of the province, for the people of Balochistan have witnessed nothing but frustration and sadness from the beginning . A handful of the politicians who want the good of the area never believe any unsubstantiated initiatives. One of them is the former senator and the current leader of the BNP-M in the provincial Assembly, Sana Baloch.
In one of his articles published by the News, he lamented, “Since 1948, countless promises have been made but the Baloch have only received death and despair. The result at the end of these 70 years has been over 81 per cent poverty, 70 per cent illiteracy, and the highest level of malnutrition and infant and maternal mortality in Asia.”
He added, “It’s not difficult to understand that if gas, gold, coal and everything else that the Baloch have contributed over the years could not have helped them then how will a meagre share in the CPEC – $600 million out of $46 billion – bring miracles in the life of the Baloch?”
Moreover, the CPEC, described as a game changer for the people of Balochistan, has not resulted much since Gwadar’s residents have not benefited from it. They are downtrodden and poor who don’t even have one time meal to eat.
The Gwadar Port was initiated during Pervez Musharraf’s regime. Though many years have passed, but little has changed for the residents of Gwadar and the circumstances of hospitals, schools, and sanitation and sewage facilities are witnessed to be same in the city.
The main existing problem confronted in the city is the acute water shortage which has compelled and put the people in trouble in a large scale. The former Governor of Balochistan, Achakzai, said at in a seminar titled “Water Crisis In Quetta Valley and Balochistan Way Forward” that the water shortage, if not tackled on time, can cause great harm to the projects related to CPEC.
The previous government announced to construct $26 billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam (in Gilgit-Baltistan) and the Dasu dam in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to cope with the current water shortage and electricity deficiency in the country under CPEC. Here the question arises: what would have gone wrong if half of the sum is spent on water supply in the city?
Another problem is the development of the Eastbay Expressway linking the Makran Coastal Highway with the Free Trade Zone of the port city. It will hurt the local fishermen who staged a demonstration and condemned the current model; however, the protest ended after some time.
What the people of Gwadar now believe is that they would be either converted into a minority in their native land or be at risk to lose the main assets over the non-payment of huge increasing loans from the Chinese government, like the lucrative Mombasa port of Kenya.
The answer to this question can be traced from various aspects or projects being run in Balochistan, be it Saindak or the Reko Diq, in which various natural resources are found but Balochistan gets the least share.
In 1952, the first oilfield in Pakistan was discovered in Balochistan near Sui. During the same time period, the Sui gas field, which remains the biggest natural gas field in Pakistan, was discovered and by 1955. It is important to note here that the first provinces to get supply from Sui gas were Punjab and Sindh. Whereas in Dera Bugti, located in Sui, the area which has come to be the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, is underdeveloped and remains deprived of this resource, let alone Balochistan.
Lastly, Balochistan provides Pakistan with numerous resources such as Copper, gold, silver, iron-ore, chromites, gypsum, fluorite, magnetite, barite, vermiculite, Asbestos, marble, granite, quartzite, sulphur, limestone, natural gas, coalfield and many to name but in return what they give to the people of Balochistan is poor education, poor health facilities, unemployment, poverty and tag the label of being backward, uncivilized and anti-state. Do they really deserve this?
Indeed, CPEC will definitely be a failure if it fails to accommodate all concerned parties, especially Gwadar’s local population.