CPEC to develop Balochistan
PESHAWAR: Speakers at a seminar here on Friday said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects would be instrumental in bringing about socio-economic development to Balochistan and stabilize the province politically.
The seminar “CPEC: Geo-Economic Implications for Balochistan and the Region” was organized at the Area Study Centre (Russia, China & Central Asia) the University of Peshawar.
A former ambassador Asif Ali Khan Durrani was the guest speaker.
The faculty and scholars of the Area Study Centre, International Relations, Pakistan Studies, Regional Studies, Economics and Political Science departments, of the university, attended the event.
The speaker said the completion of CPEC by 2030 will be a game-changer for Balochistan in terms of socio-economic development and the province would become a regional transit trade hub through the Gwadar Sea Port.
Gwadar began its commercial activities back in March 2018 when China Ocean Shipping Group opened a shipping line to the Middle East.
He said since October 2019, Gwadar has been the entry point for Afghanistan. Ancillary services at the port have also generated desired local employment.
Gwadar Smart Port City Master Plan has been completed and approved by the Governing Body of the Gwadar Development Authority in August 2019.
It was added that Gwadar is a tax haven for investors with the design and construction of the 898-hectare North District in steady progress.
Construction of the 25-hectare Initial Zone has been completed and all plots were leased out to dozens of companies of multiple industries including hotel, banking, insurance, financial leasing, logistics, overseas warehouse, food and oil processing, fishery product processing, assembly of electric appliances and landscaping.
The speaker said the South District has successfully hosted Asian Parliamentary Assembly Conference, the first and second Gwadar Expo, Marble and Mineral Exhibition, China-Pakistan Youth Cultural Festival and other big events.
He said East Bay Expressway in Gwadar is proceeding as per the schedule and the New Gwadar International Airport is nearing completion.
Gwadar Port and East Bay Expressway Project have 280 and 697 Pakistani staff employed respectively. Gwadar Free Zone has become operational as well.
Pakistan Customs has cleared the first import-cum-export consignment of building material for the zone recently.
The former prime minister Imran Khan inaugurated the northern side of Gwadar Free Zone on July 5, last year.
This side constitutes 2220 acres of land. Previously, the southern side of Gwadar Free Zone, comprising 660 acres, was already functional, with 46 enterprises operating in it.
He said the work has begun on the 300 MW coal-fired power plant. As the first power project in Gwadar, it will play an important role in meeting Gwadar’s energy needs. For the socio-economic uplift of the people of the area, the projects such as the 1.2 MGD (millions of gallons per day) desalination plant, the China-Pakistan Friendship Hospital, and the Vocational and Technical Institute of Gwadar Port are underway. For the socio-economic uplift of the people of Gwadar, there are 17 socio-economic projects ongoing and more socio-economic projects will be added under CPEC in the future, for which a $ 1 billion grant allocation has been made.
The speaker added that the Bostan Industrial Zone, Pishin district near Quetta is being developed in an area of 1000 acres. Phase-I (200 acres) has already been developed and launched for investment through the MIS SEZ online portal of the Board of Investment.
Industrial sectors targeted for Bostan SEZ include Fruit Processing, Agriculture machinery, Pharmaceutical, Chromite, Ceramic industries, Ice and Cold storage, Electric Appliance, Halal Food Industry. Gas and electricity supplies will be ensured by December 2022.
Regarding the challenges faced by CPEC in Balochistan, he said the unrest in Balochistan was the biggest challenge to the success of the CPEC projects.
He said the federal government would have to take remedial measures to address the issues of missing persons, interference of the centre in provincial affairs, acute unemployment and malnutrition.
The poverty rate in the province is the highest which is estimated at 71 per cent as compared to 34 per cent at the national level.
He said there was a need to assuage the apprehension of the nationalist parties in Balochistan that that influx of people from other provinces in the CPEC projects may turn the Baloch population into a minority.
Prof Shabir Ahmad Khan, Director of Area Study Centre, in his concluding remarks stated that China faced similar problems in Xinjiang province due to the socio-economic underdevelopment of the region and addressed those issues by bringing development to its western province.
He said Pakistan had to follow that path and focusing the development of Balochistan.