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Concerns about CPEC start emerging from Pakistan

Dr Raj Kumar Sharma writes: It seems that the initial hype around the CPEC is gradually declining in Pakistan and the reality is slowly setting in. The media, economic and security experts and political figures are now expressing concerns about the potential negative impact of CPEC on Pakistan.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an economic corridor which comprises of investments in infrastructure and energy projects worth USD 46 billion. It will connect Kashgar in China to Gwadar port in Pakistan through rail and road network. The Pakistani leadership and military establishment has gone into a public relations overdrive to project the CPEC as a nation savior and harbinger of the regional economic integration.[1]

However, it seems that the initial hype around the CPEC is gradually declining in Pakistan and the reality is slowly setting in. The media, economic and security experts and political figures are now expressing concerns about the potential negative impact of CPEC on Pakistan.

The business community is Pakistan is afraid of the CPEC as they see it as a threat to their domestic industry if the government fails to protect them through special measures. Pakistan has also suffered losses due to the free trade agreement with China which promotes more exports from China to Pakistan rather than vice-versa.[2]

Lawmakers from Pakistan’s upper house have expressed fears that the CPEC could turn into another East India Company if Islamabad fails to promote its interests. “Another East India Company is in the offing; national interests are not being protected. We are proud of the friendship between Pakistan and China, but the interests of the state should come first,” Senator Tahir Mashhadi, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development had recently said about the CPEC.[3] Some lawmakers have even expressed concerns that China could use the CPEC to further promote trade with India.[4]

Experts have also pointed out that all along the western and eastern routes of CPEC, ruthless investment sharks are likely to expropriate land from existing owners. As a consequence, the working classes here will be pushed out and marginalized. Subsistence fishermen in Gwadar are concerned about the closure of the old fish harbor and shifting of the people to a new site. Farmers in Gilgit-Baltistan fear possible loss of cultivable land to non-agricultural uses for CPEC.[5]

There are also issues of accountability and transparency with regards to the CPEC projects. Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan has been forced to say that the federal government needs to be more transparent about the details of CPEC energy and infrastructure deals.[6]

These concerns show that the public opinion is divided over the alleged benefits of the CPEC accruing to Pakistan and the federal government could be forced to take these views in account in its future deliberations with the Chinese.

Endnotes

[1] CPEC spillover to benefit entire region: Nawaz, http://www.thefrontierpost.com/article/413802/cpec-spillover-to-benefit-entire-region-nawaz/

[2] CPEC project: Nascent industries afraid of big Chinese firms, http://tribune.com.pk/story/1237534/cpec-project-nascent-industries-afraid-big-chinese-firms/

[3] ‘CPEC could become another East India Company’, http://www.dawn.com/news/1290677

[4] Senators fear China may use CPEC to enhance trade with India, http://www.dawn.com/news/1296886

[5] CPEC’s territorial impact, http://www.dawn.com/news/1297738/cpecs-territorial-impact

[6] Pakistan should be more transparent on $46 billion China deal: SBP, http://tribune.com.pk/story/1004177/cpec-needs-to-be-more-transparent-sbp/

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