Q. Is China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) facing a backlash in Pakistan?
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Aakriti Vinayak, Research Associate, VIF

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship component of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, was billed as a game changer by the Pakistani elites. Officially launched in April 2015, the economic corridor that would link Kashgar in Xinjiang to Gwadar in Balochistan five years later has entered its second phase. While the first phase was essentially about electricity projects and railway lines the second phase has special emphasis on development of special economic zones, agriculture,industry, trade and science and technology. However the plan’s details- the term of the investments and loans, the full extent of the projects and the overall cost to Pakistanremain opaque. The project faces gargantuan challenges on myriad fronts, which besets the cautious optimistic perspective.Though CPEC has been institutionalized and there is a lot of enthusiasm on the high tables, there seems to be anger and anti-Chinese sentiments amongst the local population.

CPEC is facing a backlash because the local population especially in Baluchistan, Gilgit- Balitistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) are voicing their concerns, as CPEC is being violently implemented against their express will. The locals complaint of land acquisition and land grabs, forced displacement of people, guided/forced migrations, resource exploitation, environmental problems (e.g., pollution, deforestation), and especially human rights violations. There have been periodic protests against CPEC projects; the most recent ones were in Baluchistan, Sindh, Pok and Gilgit-Baltistan against the newly signed Azad Pattan and Kohla hydropower projects. The protesters highlighted various concerns like subjugation of resources by Chinese, environmental impact of the dams and lack of inclusive development. While China can buy off the elites in Pakistan, it has failed to win the confidence of the locals and that can be a recipe for disaster.

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Date : 14/06/2021
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