A Mandarin learner’s over one decade journey along Karakoram Highway: Stories of CPEC Pioneer
Chinese language has grabbed attention globally with the boom in Chinese economic growth in recent years. Since China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was launched in 2015, a growing number of Chinese language learners have emerged in Pakistan too. Yousuf Karim, office assistant at Karakoram Highway (KKH) Phase-II Havelian-Thakot, winning the award of “Outstanding Pakistani Staff of CPEC 2021” by the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, may be one of the few Chinese learning ‘pioneers’ who started to intertwine with the language as early as nearly twenty years ago.
“I obtained a diploma in Mandarin from National University of Modern Languages in 2007. I was amongst the first few students who opted to learn the Chinese language. CPEC has brought huge employment opportunities to the locals. It offered direct jobs for me on completion of the diploma,” Yousuf told Gwadar Pro.
Yousuf began to work as a Chinese language translator in 2008. In 2010, he joined China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) as an interpreter on KKH Phase-I project in 2010, and subsequently transferred to KKH Phase-II project in 2016.
The Karakoram Highway, spanning an 887-kilometer-long distance between the China-Pakistan border and Hasan Abdal, is a symbol of China-Pakistan friendship in both peoples’ eyes. The upgradation of the Khunjerab-Raikot section of KKH under Phase-I formed an important part of CPEC, and the remaining portion from Raikot to Islamabad divided into three sub-sections i.e. Raikot-Thakot, Thakot-Havelian and Havelian-Islamabad are being upgraded. So far, the Havelian-Thakot section with a length of 120 KM is already completed by CRBC under Phase-II.
“The upgradation of KKH will promote tourism in the picturesque Gilgit-Baltistan as well as generate economic activities for the local people. The construction of road network at such a fast pace reflects the prudent policies of Pakistan, which not only improve north-south connectivity, but also provide all-weather linkage to neighboring China,” Yousuf said.
Yousuf Karim (3rd L) is interpreting, as a ‘bridge’ of communication between Chinese and Pakistani workers. [Photo provided by Yousuf Karim]
For over one decade, Yousuf shifted his duties in different areas/stations, ranging from Hunza to Havelian along the Karakoram Highway.
“Being on this job for such a long time, personally I have not only improved the Chinese language, but also learned the administrative and official coordination and liaison process with government departments. I have two kids, both gaining quality education. I expect to further improve the standard of living of my family in the future,” he said with confidence.
Currently, although Yousuf’s daily work is busy, he still tries to arrange time to learn Chinese. “I love Chinese. Chinese is quite difficult, however persistence and hard work have paid off. Now daily communication at various levels within and outside the organization is much easier,” he said. He also suggests Pakistani youth of profession degrees like engineering, medicine, accounting, etc. learn Chinese, which will enable them to be more effective in doing jobs on CPEC.
In the future, Yousuf is willing to work for CPEC as always. “After completing this project, I aspire to continue my journey with this prestigious company as long as I have the opportunity to be part of CPEC,” he concluded the interview.