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CPEC ambiguity

LAHORE: Every segment of society has welcomed China’s generosity on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), but the project continues to be under threat from quarters that are deliberately and secretly trying to hurt the two nations’ interests. Inter-provincial wranglings, the reservations of the smaller provinces, the government’s less-than-transparent attitude on the CPEC, the close ties between India and Iran, and some domestic and foreign mischief-makers are obstructing the accomplishment of this mega project. Internal political strife among various stakeholders are also becoming more visible.

The multi-faceted project has the potential of breathing a new life into the debt-plunged economy of Pakistan and is sure to benefit the whole Central Asian region.

Little has been revealed about the details of progress on the CPEC projects. This is also creating disquiet among the smaller provinces — specifically Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Examining the reservations of these provinces unravels the decades-long mistrust between the federation and these provinces. Their demands for equitable share are not unfair. Their aggressive reaction to the centre’s lack of transparency in how the CPEC will be handled should not be ignored.

Additionally, not a lot has been said so far about Gilgit-Baltistan’s share in the CPEC. The government’s favouritism towards Punjab is an open secret. It appears that it wants to secure Punjab electorally, which grants them the licence to rule the whole county. The government might have introduced some unique plans for the country, but its seemingly deliberate act of not unfolding the hard facts about the CPEC looks suspicious. The fast-changing regional circumstances, whether political or economic, terrorism, the perpetual opposition to the CPEC and the insurgency in Balochistan can hinder the ongoing progress of the Corridor. All these problem areas must be addressed in a transparent manner if Pakistan is to reap benefits from the CPEC.

Ahmed Bilal

Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th,  2016.

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