CPEC: is there a consensus in the cards?


Because we’ll need one, and soon, if we’re to realise its potential

 The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project identifies the new realities of national and international economic corridor between China and Pakistan. The CPEC goals to connect Gawadar port in Pakistan to China’s Xinjiang region via a network of highways, railways, energy projects and pipelines spread over 3,200km. Work on several sections has already started but the entire project is expected to take several years to complete. The money China is planning to CPEC project is more than twice the amount of all foreign direct investment (FDI) Pakistan has received since 2007.


It is easy to understand that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a flagship project that could change the economic landscape of Pakistan. However, controversy over CPEC created in the smaller provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, Sindh and Balochistan suggests that lack of consensus is big obstacles in the way of execution of the project.


Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) accused ‘big brother’ Punjab of not sharing benefits from such projects. KP government raised their concerns that the CPEC includes both energy and mega projects but it appears that it is only Punjab that will get the lot of the mega projects while the other provinces will just end up with roads.


Sindh is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy attracts millions to its workforce and generates a lot of economic activities. But it is getting fewer amounts of resources from Federal Government, which is dominated by one province, and that is Punjab Province. Sindh has been assigned only three projects in CPEC, including the Karachi Circular Railways, Keti Bandar and Special Economic Zones (SEZs)


Our ruling government need to realise that CPEC is a brilliant opportunity to end Balochistan`s deprivation. The ownership of Gawadar should be given to locals and by simply providing them their fair share in CPEC projects and making it part of the decision making machinery.


According to an estimate, out of the total of 332 projects, 175 are in Punjab while only ten projects have been allocated for Balochistan. At present, 54 per cent of the total projects are being assigned to Punjab.


Controversy continues around CPEC project that there has been demand for more transparency toward CPEC implementation, particularly regarding the route map, financial arrangements and allocation of resources. The government has not yet succeeded in allaying the concerns of allies and opposition leaders that still consider the multi-billion dollars energy project as controversial.


However, on the other side many experts rightly evaluated the strategic importance of CPEC and concerned that opposition parties spending more time and energies in finding faults, loop-holes and raising doubts only because of political scoring and speculations.


Just imagine, had this multibillion-dollar project assigned to another developing country, the national response would be, how do we synergistically plan to gain maximisation advantages from the project?


We should be happy to be blessed with such a big project. We as a nation need to work together and implement CPEC without any major political and security confusion. The government also respect all internal stakeholders and should involve provincial representatives in decision-making process to achieve transparency and consensus on this important project.


The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is not a solitary road; it is an enormous network and ‘game changer project’. The CPEC provides an opportunity to reinvigorate Pakistan’s economic structure, revive exports, poverty alleviation, jobs creation and development of energy sector through fostering a greater connectivity.