By Peer Muhammad
ISLAMABAD: The much-publicised China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) may benefit many, but it will render more than 10,000 people of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) jobless once the existing dry port is relocated from Sost in G-B to Havelian in Hazara division of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
There is no industry in the whole of G-B and more than 10,000 people are associated with the Sost dry port including businessmen, transporters, hoteliers and other people, whose livelihood is directly and indirectly linked with the port.
The people of G-B are concerned about their future as the federal government has not given any concrete assurance in black and white for establishing economic zones in the region to compensate the people.
At present, trucks and containers loaded in China are off-loaded at the Sost dry port for customs clearance, which automatically generates economic activities for local traders, labourers, transporters and trade agents.
It is stated that unlike the existing situation, under the CPEC, all the containers and trucks will be loaded in any city of China and then off-loaded at Havelian and there will be no activity at the Sost port.
“Livelihood of thousands of families of Gilgit-Baltistan is linked with the Sost dry port and it would be an economic disaster for them if existing activities are shifted to the newly proposed dry port at Havelian,” said G-B Chamber of Commerce and Industry former president Javed Hussain. “We will not allow the project to materialise if our concerns are not addressed.”
Former speaker of G-B Legislative Assembly Wazir Baig said, “We are not clear about the benefits of the CPEC we will get, but we are much certain about the adverse effects due to relocation of the dry port,” he noted.
On the flip side
Commenting on the concern, CPEC Project Director Zahir Shah said no relocation of the Sost dry port is on the cards as far as the corridor is concerned.
He said it is premature to say that the Sost port will be redundant once the CPEC project is implemented because long-term planning and negotiations are under way. “As far as I know, it would be more vibrant once the project is completed,” he said.
Meanwhile, sources said the land that had been acquired for the dry port in Havelian belongs to some key influential politicians and they are influencing the government to shift the dry port.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2015.