China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), $46.1 billion and a lot of job opportunities for young generation, is a ray of hope for depressed sections of Pakistan towards a better and prosperous future. No doubt, the CPEC is the biggest opportunity in the form of an investment in so many spheres. It aims to improve the life standard of people of Pakistan. But there are some questions arising in the minds of Pakistanis regarding CPEC which need to be addressed. Whether this project is beneficial for Pakistan or not and what exactly are benefits and losses to Pakistan’s cultural and traditional dynamics that affect daily life of the citizens? Whether it will improve the living standard of Pakistanis or is it just an economic game in the Chinese interest? All these questions possess a central position regarding future of Pakistan. Although many books and articles are available in our country to promote understanding about CPEC but this is a short critical write up about CPEC. Let us critically think about it and its future aspects.
The masses of Pakistan do not have the real idea of what CPEC is. CPEC is a complete programme having many dimensions and different departments and industries in Pakistan. These departments are Pakistan railways, highway network, energy, infrastructure, fibre optics, Gwadar city development, social sector development, economic zones and rehabilitation.
As far as energy is concerned Pakistan for several years has been energy deficient although there are many chances for Pakistan to produce electricity at a large scale but due to lack of investment and political instability Pakistan has not been able to gain any huge profits from it. In the beginning of 21st century, energy needs in Pakistan doubled and Pakistan’s shortfall of electricity by several thousand megawatts ultimately resulted in hasty decisions on emergency basis which were not in the interest of Pakistan. Several IPPs (Independent Power Power Producers) were made functional in Pakistan for which Pakistan has been suffering double losses. First loss while importing oil worth millions of dollars and second while producing very expensive electricity whose cost ranges between Rs. 18 to Rs. 20 per kilowatt. This has been a great loss to Pakistan’s economy as both commercial and domestic sectors are struggling because of it it. This results in low life standard, expensive agricultural and industrial production in comparison with the whole region.
Pakistan as third world country now promotes advancing industrialization for which large production of electricity at cheap cost is needed. Several projects under CPEC are there for compensating electricity shortfall in Pakistan. These projects are mainly coal-based energy projects of which plants of 10,000 megawatts are operational or under construction. There are also hydro power projects of around 1500 megawatts which are operational or under construction upon which $10.5 billion are being spent. Pakistan also has opportunity to spend billions of dollars on dams on Indus and its companion rivers. Also, large reservoirs on Indus such as Bunji and Katzarah have a capacity of 22,000 MW combined in addition to Diamer-Bhasha dam that has the capacity of 4,800 megawatts. Pakistan’s future relies on Indus River having capacity of generating 90,000 megawatts of electricity. Pakistan tried its level best to attract international investment in hydro power projects electricity generation as they can generate cheap electricity costing Rs. 0.5 to Rs. 2 per kilowatt. It is much more cheaper than coal generated electricity which costs around Rs. 8 to Rs. 12 per kilowatt.
A large amount of electricity is to be added into Pakistan’s national grid, so Pakistan should divert its economy to electricity by replacing oil. such as replacing diesel locomotives to electrified tracks as it generates 20 percent of the country’s oil demand. Pakistan should also expand technological machines in its industry and increase its agriproducts by giving high subsidies to agro-producers.
CPEC infrastructure projects are best in region as roads for smooth running of traffic are being constructed across country. This will physically integrate the nation by reducing the distances of all ethnicities and their major cities in Pakistan. It is delightful for Pakistan that Gwadar is tied to Khujarab via the road which is known as CPEC Road that starts its journey from Khunjarab where it is on way as Karakoram highway till Havelian, Hazara division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where Pakistan’s biggest dry port will be constructed. A part of trading can be done through railways. its first going to Havelian-Taxila-Rawalpindi section and then divert to ML-I till Karachi for which ML-1 upgradation plan is under consideratio, Another part of trade can be through Western route which is Havelia-Hakla-D. I. Khan- Zhob- Quetta- Gwada. The rest of Eastern route which is Rawalpindi-Karachi motorway can also be used for trade. Hence its not just a plan but a master plan on which very large amount of goods will be traded and for which a share of profit will be diverted to Pakistan causing prosperity.
We know that insurgency has been running for several years in Balochistan but due to this development, Balochistan will see stability and prosperity and the insurgency will be ended to to great extent. Gwadar is constructed in South West end of country although it’s a game changing city of Balochistan but Pakistan needs to end insurgencies in Balochistan. Due to absence of any big city in Balochistan all economic runways are tied with Karachi for the Balochs. When Gwadar gains the status of Karachi in next decades, circumstances may be changed as Gwadar as prosperous city will help federal to remove all clashes in Balochistan especially in areas along Gwadar.
Pakistan must construct Jiwani, Pisni, Ormara ports as gwadar and Karachi alone cannot bear the burden of all trade and transport of China along with Pakistan. It also appears that with the completion of CPEC, Central Asian countries along with Afghanistan can also approach Pakistan for their trade and hence it is not possible to accommodate all in just Karachi, Gwadar and Bin Qasim port. Several economic zones along with social sectors are being developed under the CPEC which will increase the exports of Pakistan for which Pakistan will gain its share of profit but it is criticized that with development of these sectors exports and supply within country alongside production will be in the hands of CPEC authority for which high subsidy on taxes has been given to it, which can cause the local industry to collapse. Not to mention that millions of Pakistanis are attached to the small or medium industries and a collapse of this small and medium level industry can cause unemployment on large scale and crisis in the country. Besides, all raw resources are to be under CPEC authority and local people would get only small employment. The 9% profit to be earned by the government seldom would reach to the local people.
Pakistan had its own dignified culture tradition Islamic values which must be affected by social development under CPEC as it has large number of Chinese employees. Already Pakistani industry is at death bed due to availability of cheap products of high quality produced by China and after the establishment of economic zones of CPEC local industry may totally collapse.
In modern International Relations, every state has its own interests and aims which may be revealed through its history and current behavior. No state invests this much in infrastructure in another state, without its own greater national interest, which means China has great ambitions. Meanwhile the connection of Pakistan to Russia via Silk Road raises suspicions that it may be an effort to gradually convert Pakistan into a socialist or Commuinst state. Also important is the fact that track record of China is not so smooth in such investments in other parts of the world and especially Tashkent and Colombo of which consequences we have already witnessed. Pakistan’s higher authorities should commit only to that matter which is in favour of nation so that there is no national security risk involved.
About The Author
Saad Bin Ubaid studies Mathematics at Quaid-i-Azam University. He is interested in National Security as well as Agricultural and Industrial development. He is a keen observer of International Relations and Strategic Affairs.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale-47.