China-Pakistan economic corridor raises violation concerns in Balochistan

A view of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. [AP]

China is finding it tough to justify its many violations in Balochistan, research has revealed.

Titled, 'Construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under the BRI Vision, a research paper published recently indicates that while the two governments are leaving no stone unturned to promote the benefits of the CPEC for Pakistan's economy, they are finding it increasingly difficult to justify the oppression of local dissent coming from the ethnic group within the region of Balochistan, from where a large portion of CPEC passes.

This is besides destroying their environment and marine life, and denying jobs to locals.

The research highlights the way the Chinese view the CPEC, or more appropriately, want to view the project.

The existence of CPEC and its completion has been more frequently questioned now as the resistance against it has increased from both within Pakistan and outside it.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was established in 2015 with an aim to transform Pakistan's economy by modernising its road, rail, air, and energy transportation systems while connecting the deep-sea Pakistani ports of Gwadar and Karachi to China's Xinjiang province and beyond by overland routes.

Reports however indicate the project has achieved very little and instead has left Pakistan in precarious situation economically.

Recent reports including the World Bank and Institute for Policy Reforms have painted a grim picture of a struggling economy with very little to show in terms of infrastructure with the Lahore-based think tank institute maintaining Pakistan could be slipping into a debt trap, raising national security concerns.

Last year, World Bank projected Pakistan's economic growth in 2021-22 to remain below potential in its latest outlook. As per the bank's annual flagship South Asia Economic Focus report, the economic growth will be an average of 1.3 per cent. "Pakistan's exposure to debt-related shocks will remain elevated," reads the report. The World Bank has also projected Pakistan's debt at 93.9 per cent of its GDP, forecasting it to go up to 94.4 next year.

To bring the country's economy back on track and protect it from a possible debt trap owing to heavy Chinese loans, the Pakistan government is approaching different countries including its arch-rival India.

According to Geo-politik, Pakistan's domestic security situation with respect to the CPEC has deteriorated, casting a shadow over the completion of its construction.

The people of Balochistan are about 4 million in number, being the lowest in terms of representation among the four main ethnic groups in the country.

Further reports indicate there is a lack of opportunities available to Balochis with inadequate rights to participate in the decision-making process. This is because nearly 60 per cent of Pakistan's administrative resources are under the monopoly of people from the Punjab province, leaving little access for the Balochis to the Central Cabinet Ministry and other senior positions.

The researcher Wang Junchao, a post-graduate student at the Centre for School of Anti-Terrorism of Northwest Politics and Law University acknowledges that the province of Balochistan is also one of the most resource-rich regions of the country, a fact that laughs in the face of the low standard of living and conflict-ridden life of the people there.

This has led to people feeling increasingly insecure about their future.

"It is interesting that this research paper, coming from within China, is well aware that the construction of CPEC has made matters worse for the locals as the focus of Pakistan's government is now solely on the development of resources without paying much attention to the interests of the people," read part of the research.