CPEC: Prospects for Balochistan

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Asad Tahir Jappa

The CPEC projects are going to provide roads, hospitals, schools, and economic opportunities to Balochs, eventually giving them independence to decide their own fates and not to be dictated by the anarchist elements

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) promises to open up new vistas of socio-economic development and employment opportunities for the people of Balochistan. Balochistan in general, and Gwadar in particular, is the linchpin of CPEC. The project will contribute to the development of the whole province and address various economic and social problems of Baluchistan. Gwadar would soon be transformed into an economic hub after the completion of several projects under the CPEC.
It is heartening to see that more countries other than China are also taking advantage of the investment opportunities offered by SEZs. It is also satisfying to note that CPEC is being successfully implemented in Pakistan, particularly, in Balochistan. The mega project aims to uplift the socio-economic status of the country. The Gwadar port and Baluchistan are at the nerve center of this development.
The project is going to benefit them the most. Various energy, industrial, connectivity, and socio-economic projects are being undertaken under the CPEC. Completion of these projects is going to change the socio-economic landscape of Baluchistan and it will be at par with other developed areas in Pakistan. However, there are various nefarious elements who have always opposed development in Baluchistan. They are also opposing and targeting CPEC with false propaganda and creating a sense of negativity in Baluchs about CPEC. These vested interests and selfish elements want to continue deciding the fate of Baluchs people by keeping them under-developed, uneducated and economically dependent.
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. Panjgur, 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 CPEC projects are going to provide roads, hospitals, schools, and economic opportunities to Balochs, eventually giving them independence to decide their own fates and not to be dictated by the anarchist elements. Development of CPEC projects is going to bring socio-economic prosperity in Baluchistan. 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.
There are numerous road and transport, energy, education and training, industrial and other socio-economic projects being carried out under the CPEC. Energy projects include a 320MW China Hub Coal Power Project, and 300MW Coal-Fired Power Project at Gwadar. Likewise, connectivity projects encompass the 19 km 4 lanes East Bay Expressway Gwadar which is near completion. It will link Makran Coastal Highway N-10 to Gwadar Port. Those under construction are Zhob-Quetta, Kuchlak (N-50), Khuzdar-Basima Road (N-30), Hoshab – Awaran Road Section (M-8), Nokundi-Mashkhel Road, Awaran-Khuzdar Road Section (M-8), Up-gradation of D.I. Khan (Yarik) – Zhob, N-50 Phase-I, Mashkhel-Panjgur Road and Quetta Mass Transit. Upgradation and development of fishing, boat making and maintenance services to protect and promote livelihoods of local population is being carried out under the Gwadar Livelihood Project.
The proposed sites for industrial zones in Baluchistan would include major cities of the province – Quetta, Gwadar, Khuzdar, Uthal, Hub and Dera Murad Jamali. Gwadar will become both a conduit and a destination for new investment, making Pakistan a regional hub for trade, transportation, and economic activity. Bostan Industrial Zone covers an area of 1000 acres which is situated at district Pishin. The SEZ Approval Committee officially approved the Bostan SEZ on 4th March 2020 in the 5th Board of Approval meeting and awarded SEZ status on 5th May, 2020. Development work on Phase-I (200 acres) has been completed. Phase-1 of Bostan SEZ has been launched for allotment of industrial plots.
Fruit processing, agriculture machinery, pharmaceutical, motor bikes assembly, chromite, ceramic industries, ice and cold storage, electric appliance, and halal food industry units will be established there.
As a matter of fact, CPEC will affect the province economically, commercially as well as geographically. It must have some infrastructural impact as better and improved road will provide access to Balochistan not only to Pakistan but also towards China. Positive impact is likely to be effecting in shape of mitigation of poverty, reduction of unemployment. It will be catalyst for change in shape of reduction of inequities of undeveloped provinces.
It is hoped that CPEC will be game changer for the staggering economy of Pakistan in future. Huge investment from China in different project will bring the prosperity in the country. Pakistan is facing the energy crises which are expected to be talked in shape of investment in these sectors. Foreign Direct Investment is also expected to be pour into the country which will provide an opportunity to increase the diplomatic bargain of Pakistan.
Expectations from CPEC are very high and promising as it will develop the economic disparities and will help in trade and commerce. The major parameters for optimism are regional connectivity, infrastructure development, employment creation, entrepreneurial opportunities, improvement in energy resources and economic prosperity for both the countries in particular and for the whole South Asian region generally. A vast majority of the economists and planning experts agree on effectiveness and benefits attached with CPEC for Pakistan, in general, and Baluchistan, in particular.
Furthermore, many credible researches testify to the potential and effectiveness of CPEC project for the province of Balochistan. Beyond the shadow of any doubt, CPEC development has the scope to positively impact the livelihood of an ordinary inhabitant of Balochistan. Furthermore, the dream of prosperity and development provincial level provides better vision for Pakistan particularly in Balochistan, where CPEC is being considered to be the vital for the economy.
As majority of population consists of pastoral living hood, hence, these projects would have practical implication with regard to infrastructure development, security improvement, job opportunities and thereby may become part and parcel for their prosperity. The potential of CPEC in Balochistan, particularly, small traders which substantiates the notion that the economic activity generates ample income at every level and to capacitates the people to consolidate saving abilities.
However, all constraints have created the hurdle to development and prosperity, producing less development and poverty due to some external negative forces. The rampant unemployment can be curbed through these kinds of vital projects which are near completion. Hence, almost all indicators suggest that the financial potential of CPEC will gain the importance in the livelihood of people all over the Pakistan, though, it has the special benefit and effectiveness for the province.
It is so very reassuring to witness that social and economic activities have already picked up momentum in Balochistan, following the construction of road networks as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Local people have started setting up hotels, shops and houses along the completed portions of the CPEC’s western route linking Gwadar with China. Likewise, boom in construction industry and mining of marble and granite industry is expected. New oil storage facilities will also come up. A palpable social and economic change in Baluchistan is becoming visible and this will be further strengthened as more jobs and business opportunities are created for the youth of Balochistan.