ISLAMABAD: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a window of opportunity for Islamabad to boost its economy, noted speakers attending an international seminar on Tuesday.
A day-long seminar on the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Economic, Political and Security Perspective” was organised by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies and chaired by Pakistan Council of China Executive Director Dr Fazalur Rahman.
Terming the project an uplift package from the Chinese government to boost Pakistan’s economy, the executive director said, “China is much committed to launching this project and it is now up to the main stakeholders in Pakistan including the federation, provinces, civilians and military establishment to undertake sincere initiatives in order to make it a success.”
He acknowledged that confusion still persisted pertaining to the economic corridor and no one from the government had bothered to clear the air.
Former foreign minister Inamul Haq said the CPEC was a historic initiative and Pakistan needed to attract investors to invest along the long route of the corridor, which would create jobs and business opportunities for the locals.
“Most of the $45-billion investment announced under the CPEC is in the energy sector, but there is no major project on the agenda for repairing the dwindling transmission lines,” he pointed out, saying these lines were the main cause of power crisis as 25% of the total installed energy capacity was wasted.
Haq voiced concern over the security challenges associated with the project as the chief minister of Balochistan had sought Rs2 billion for raising a special force, comprising 1,100 personnel, to safeguard the Gwadar Safe City project.
“Those who are against Chinese investment are working at the behest of foreign elements and must rather work for attracting investment to Pakistan in the same quantum as China wants to make,” he stressed.
National Defence University Assistant Professor Humayun Khan said the CPEC was a comprehensive package of competitive economic initiatives from China and the energy projects initiated would kick-start an industrial boom in Pakistan.
Shahzada Zulfiqar, a researcher and journalist, said there were widespread reservations in Balochistan about the project. “Baloch people have always been deprived of their due rights. Now, since the project has been initiated, and there is a lack of skilled workers in Gwadar, the Baloch fear that outsiders will come and fill the gap, leading to demographic changes which could be damaging for them,” he added.
“The development of Gwadar Port will give a tough competition to Chabahar and Dubai ports,” said Dr Zafar Jaspal of the Quaid-e-Azam University.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2015.