By Zulqarnain Sewag
In the contemporary world economy is treated as a religion. The time has gone when the superpowers had large arsenals and extensive colonies. This is the era of economic independence and self reliance. Now the nations which are economically independent, sovereign and self reliant are dominant. The story behind the success of Western powers, China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and other fast progressing countries is their economic independence and self reliance. But unfortunately, the situation in Pakistan is totally averse. Though Pakistan is rich in natural resources but it is very poor in their management. Sixty seven years have passed since the inception of the country but none of our systems has been developed properly. In Pakistan, there has always been remained a wide gap between political rhetoric and economic reality.
The 3000 kilometre long Kashgar to Gawadar China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) previously known as Silk Route and now ‘One Belt One Road’ as well, is an infrastructural developmental megaproject, a railroad, pipeline, and other roads, aiming at enhancing economic well being of Pakistan and a transit route for Chinese exports and imports, Central Asian and Middle Eastern oil and gas. It is said a network of networks. It is the shortest route as compared to the Chinese existing trading route of the Strait of Malacca. For this purpose, the recent visit of the president of China and singing of $45.69 billon projects (on energy 33.79, on rail 3.69, on roads 5.90, on mass transit to Lahore 1.60, on Gawadar 0.66 and on China-Paksitan fibre optics 0.04 billion dollars respectively) with Pakistan are worth considering and detrimental but how do we get maximum advantage from this deal is the biggest question? Do we have such rational policies beyond political point scoring and malpractices that could yield maximum benefit? What is its due completion timeframe? It is not clear yet that the investment is aid, loan or grant. The scepticism is still there that we failed to provide security to the NATO supplies so how will we guard the Chinese commercial supplies?
CPEC is the beginning of Chinese link with the Middle Eastern and the SAARC counties. After its completion, if it bestows desired results, it will link Central Asia including China to Europe as well. But it will take at least a quarter of the century. The project which is known as game changer should also be the game changer for Pakistan too but it depends on the shrewdness and far-sightedness of Pakistani leadership and policy makers.
The importance of exports in the actual development of a country is undeniable. Singapore and Japan have solely built up their economies on the grounds of exports but China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) has no special place to boast up Pakistani exports. This plan my further give a huge set back to already declining Pakistani exports to the Middle East and other regional countries. On the other hand, we will have to deploy Pakistani security forces on the route to protect the Chinese exports and cargos on our own cost. This may raise further costs and causalities as the proxy wars and the protracted war on terror are still not over.
The issue of changing routes and alleging the project as Ittefaq Foundry corridor can’t be ruled out. The change in the route will add fuel to the fires of deprivations. The ethnic insurgencies in Baluchistan may get further fuel from it if they are ignored and not handled properly. The route should be the one that is most suitable and economic for the country instead of politicizing it like Kala Bagh dam. The route should be analysed on the basis of economy, Pakistani exports, security, special economic zones, neighbouring countries, proxies and infrastructural and social development in the country. Gilgit-Baltistan should also never be ignore and should be given due share in the development. It is time for our policy makers’ to consider these elements before it the due time is over and if it becomes over it may cost heavy costs. Though under the recent APC chaired by PM, the issue of route is settled but apprehensions are still there. Punjabi dictatorship needs be curtailed for the perpetual wellbeing and equal development and prosperity of the country.
Terrorism plagued and energy starved Pakistan will hardly reap any benefit from this scheme until and unless it is able to overcome its water and energy and security problems. Therefore, we must overcome the grave problem of water and energy crisis by tapping our own natural resources and constructing small and medium dams mostly on the natural reservoirs of the Swat, Kabul and Indus rivers. Secondly, a deteriorated law and order situation in the shape of terrorism, sectarianism and extremism has deteriorated Pakistan in every sphere of life. It must be controlled in any case. It must focus on improving at the first its agricultural sector and then on it its industrial sector, only then Pakistan can get maximum output from the economic corridor. In the list of sister cities Lahore with Chengdu in province Sichuan and Gawadar with Zhuhai in Guangdong, Gilgit, Peshawar and Karachi too should have had sister cities.
To mitigate the unemployment, the labour and other allied personnel from Pakistan should be employed on China-Pak Economic Corridor and other associated projects as did by FDR after Great Depression of 1929 in USA. Industries should be built up all around the route to give rise to both the exports and the employment. The project should primarily be a networked economic corridor instead of a strategic facility. The project should not merely aim at facilitating Chinese exports to the rest of the world and transit route for Chinese goods but there must have a plan to exploit it for Pakistan’s interests as well. The project should practically believe in the mass movement of people, goods, supplies and services from both sides.
Timely execution, implementation and completion of the projects will in reality bear fruit and prove whether it is game changer or mere sloganeering. Pakistan needs to improve its legal, institutional, financial and logistical commitments, requirements, jigs and fixtures in this regard. Transparency and accountability are the key agents of good governance that could better shun the fears of corruption. There are many international observations and reservations over CPEC. Pak-China needs to complete the corridor at earliest keeping in view and realizing each others’ interests and benefits on equal terms.
The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily