Gwadar residents voice concerns over CPEC benefits

Published: February 5, 2016


The port city of Gwadar will boast Pakistan’s biggest airport, car factories and a stream of five-star resort hotels along the coastline as a result of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). However, many locals remain skeptic over the benefits of the $46 billion Chinese investment.

Pakistan hopes the corridor will turn the country into a vital land route for the world’s second-biggest economy, but many wonder whether trucking goods over one of the world’s highest mountain ranges will ever be cheaper than existing sea routes. They believe China is more interested in Gwadar as a potential naval base near the oil supplies of the Gulf.

Govt sees 2016 as take-off year for CPEC

The project is also viewed with skepticism by the fishing community, who fear moving to new harbours 40km away.

“This is all being done for China, not the people,” said one such fisherman, Elahi Bakhsh, who views plans to turn Gwadar into China’s deepwater access point to the Arabian Sea with caution.

As a result of the project, he, along with many others, stress on the chronic underdevelopment and lack of health and education services in the city as a result of the project.

“The whole area has been captured by the government with local people pushed aside,” he said.

In a district judged as food insecure by the UN in 2009, the project will bring in 2 million more people into the city that already has a population of 80,000 over the span of just two years. Around 20,000 of these are likely to be Chinese residents, according to an official at the Gwadar Development Authority.

Making sense of the CPEC controversy

“The corridor passes through what is currently the heart of the insurgency,” says Kaiser Bengali, an economic adviser to Balochistan’s chief minister. He said the notion that the two special brigades formed by the army will be enough to protect road traffic is “laughable”.

Chinese visitors say they remain worried about security despite the elaborate efforts to keep them safe.

“For the locals it’s like being a prisoner in your own town,” said Shamshad Ahmed a retired service man who has been coming to the town for years as part of his work at the Pearl Continental, Gwadar’s only five-star hotel that recently reopened after being mothballed for years.

“Of course they are not happy about their freedom being taken away,” he added.

Officials believe that CPEC will lead to job creation and weaken support for insurgents, many locals believe that the Baloch, with their tiny share of the national population, are entitled to only 6% of government jobs and are rarely qualified for the best ones.

“The suspicion is that all the Baloch will get from CPEC is the right to repair punctures on Chinese tires,” said Bengali, the economic adviser.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif struck a conciliatory tone in December at a ceremony to inaugurate a section of CPEC. He said Balochistan must have “the first right over all resources which have been explored in the province”.

CPEC for Punjab or Pakistan: Myth and reality

However, he also announced upgrading an existing highway running along the sparsely populated desert coast that would allow Chinese trucks to head east towards Karachi before going northwards on secure roads in other provinces, bypassing much of troublesome Balochistan entirely.

This article originally appeared on The Guardian.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Fast
    Feb 5, 2016 - 5:23PM

    cpec is all the way a great success, these small troubles are temporary and will lead to a stronger Pakistan.Inshallah!!!Recommend

  • Malik Saab
    Feb 5, 2016 - 6:04PM

    It seems that the local Baloch is never happy in any manner. When government do not invest anything then they ask why they are not investing?, And when they finally invest, then why they are investing?,
    Baloch have to realize that they can work on the model of Dubai where locals are in a minority, but they embrace others and as a result good working relationship emerges. Resisting development will alienate the Baloch as workers from other regions will work instead of them. But in the future they should not complain that they were left out with this attitude. Recommend

  • CPEC?
    Feb 5, 2016 - 6:37PM

    However. skeptics wonder whether trucking goods over one of the world’s highest mountain ranges will ever be cheaper than existing sea routes.
    I am one of those skeptics. The only item of substance that China imports from the ME is oil and CPEC doesn’t include an oil pipeline to China. Lets hope nobody is foolish enough to think that China is going to transport vast quantities of oil via trucks. Also – any items imported via CPEC will end up in a sparsely populated area of China and have to be transported long distances to it’s major population centers in the East.
    Exports from China have similar problems. Most of the goods China mfg for export are built near existing ports/railways in the East/North. In order to use CPEC those goods will have to be transported long distances within China via infrastructure which hasn’t been built yet.
    CPEC promoters also imply that Pakistan will make big money charging fees for use of roads/terminals …. but they tend to overlook that the Chinese businesses that export are no longer controlled by China govt and their owners aren’t going to use CPEC unless it makes economic sense. That places a limit on what Pakistan may charge – might even put pressure on Pakistan to subsidize the rates.
    As a skeptic I predict that CPEC will end up being a few power plants, roads, and pipelines all built under “no bid” deals. Whether those make economic sense is an unknown but “no bid” is a red flag. The promised road to China and related business won’t materialize anytime soon and Gwadar will become a White Elephant and probably abandoned at some point down the line.Recommend

  • Fahim
    Feb 5, 2016 - 6:52PM

    As usual and expected people are expecting free money. They can’t see the benefit they can get from working. Government should tell all provinces that no free lunch unless you work.Recommend

  • SHAH
    Feb 5, 2016 - 8:11PM

    Absolutely, and people who feel threatened must be spoken to and large fairs and exhibitions be organized for people to know what they can do to improve their lives and income by being part of the change and development. The Change is always very scary… as one feels insecure and do not know what comes next.. It is important for the Government to hold such mega-information transfer events.. in local Gwadar and surroundings, including along the route…. with entertainment, food and facilities for local populace to participate and shed their fears. At the end of the day, all will benefit, China, Pakistan, International countries, CIS, Russia, local people and all will have opportunity to improve their living. Recommend

    Feb 5, 2016 - 8:50PM

    The Baluchis will get nothing from the CPEC………It is for the rich and powerful only……Recommend

  • jim
    Feb 12, 2016 - 5:16AM

    the chinese will use gwadar for the forthcoming third world war, THIS IS IT, Recommend

  • Abhijeet
    Feb 28, 2016 - 11:19AM

    Pakistani people will only get the right to repair punctures on Chinese tires,”,

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