The projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) involves huge development of trade among the regional and international countries after construction of highways, railways and energy pipelines connecting western China with Pakistan and the Persian Gulf. We are firmly of the view that the CPEC is going to be a game changer for Pakistan’s economy prospect including much for investment-starved Balochistan but ironically the internal and external security threats to Pakistan and long-time fear in Balochistan may likely make hindrance to this project completion. For Pakistan, Central Asia is very important part of the region and for its smooth transaction of business and trade getting rid of threats much more important for economic prospective.
Developing Gwadar port in Balochistan will prove a milestone in promoting regional trade between Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and Central Asian states. The country is located close to the warm waters. Gwadar port is being developed into an international port with huge investment of China and the road network is being completed with the assistance of Asian Development Bank, which will connect Central Asian regions (CARs) with this port and would generate massive economic activity in the region. The goods produced in Pakistan can be exported to CARs at much cheaper transportation rates. CPEC will convert Gwadar into a regional hub of business, trade and commercial activity that will provide a solid base for the economic progress of Balochistan. The opening of Free Trade Zone, and Export Processing Zone (EPZ) will open the doors for development of small, medium and large scale industries generating revenue for the government and providing profitable avenues for both the skilled and non-skilled workforce in the province. Development of an integrated transport system and future road and rail links to CARs and rest of the country will enhance the local peoples’ access to new vistas of development and prosperity.
The potential investment areas in Gwadar include fish processing, crabs processing, cold storage, ice factories, sea-water reverse osmosis desalination plants, shrimp farming, boat building and naval architecture institute, oil storage tankers, ferry service for Karachi Ormara-Pasni-Gwadar and up to Oman and Dubai. Owing to the development of Gwadar port, a huge investment in infrastructure sector promises a brilliant economic future for the development of industry in the province and it will bring about a revolution in its communication sector. The project would initiate a mega development process with huge investments, which could make the province a new economic frontier of the country.
The CPEC and Gwadar port are expected to usher in a new era of industrial development in Balochistan. Balochistan possesses enormous industrial potential in key sectors- agriculture, livestock, fisheries and minerals. There are greater investment opportunities in all sectors of provincial economy for exploiting the industrial potential of the province. A large number of agro-based, livestock-based, fisheries-based and mineral-based industries can be set up in the province.
A fully operational Gwadar port will boost industrialization process in the province. With the functioning of industrial zone, Gwadar would become a hub of industrial and trade activities. The government has also reserved 3000 acres of land for the development of Gwadar Industrial Estate (GIE) to meet the demand of industrial plots. The government plans to establish a zone for the promotion of small and medium industries under the auspices of SMEDA in Gwadar. It also plans to open branches of banks and DFIs for making available loan financing to the intending entrepreneurs.
The CPEC and Gwadar port will catalyze the development process in the province bringing it at par with other provinces. A fully operational Gwadar port provides the province enormous opportunities to exploit its mineral resources, which have so far been untapped. Gwadar seaport and the planned regional highway projects will help the province become a world-class mining center. Foreign mining firms in Balochistan have shown keen interest in bringing their cargoes through the port of Gwadar. Besides, serving as transshipment hub, it would promote the development of a refinery and petrochemical complex and other industries. ECO highway, coastal highway and other mega projects in road sector will connect Gwadar port with Central Asian states, Gulf sheikdoms and rest of the country.
The port project also expected to bring a revolution in social sector changing the socio-economic conditions of the local people and raising their living standards. Many industries have been envisaged to be established in and around Gwadar. The skilled manpower would be needed for the operation of the port and the allied industries. According to one estimate, the Gwadar port has the potential to generate over $50 billion in transit trade annually and after becoming fully operational along with strong communication and transport links with Central Asian states, Iran, western provinces of China and commercial cities of the country, an estimated two-third population of Balochistan will become part of port-related activities. Commerce, industry, trade and economic activities would receive a boost after the development of two-phased seaport in the province.
Naturally the local people will benefit from the economic activities underway in their areas. The mega seaport project will open the doors for development of small, medium and large scale industries generating revenue for the government and providing profitable avenues for both the skilled and non-skilled workforce in Balochistan.
If CPEC timely completes and Gwadar port becomes fully operational as hub port, it will change the fortune of the most backward and the country’s poorest province. On the other hand, if the terrorist activities continue sabotage the mega development process in the next few years, it will be a disaster for the least developed province.
The deteriorating law and order situation in Balochistan is the main reason for slow progress on port-related projects in Gwadar. Today, the province suffers from a separatist insurgency. It reels from sectarian terrorism and targeted killings on ethnic lines. It is not the ports and pipelines which will bring peace and stability in the country but it is peace which will actually materialize the projects vital to economic progress and prosperity. Balochistan has ever remained on the political periphery of the country. The province has ever been at the receiving end. The long history of neglect and discrimination against the province and the military operations undertaken in the past and the one currently underway has turned it into a mega sensitive province.
And while taking external threats, Islamabad has been accusing India of using Afghanistan soil to fight a proxy war against Pakistan by sponsoring terror attacks inside it. The capturing of Kulbushan Jadhav, a serving Indian naval intelligence officer and a top agent of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) from Balochistan and other threats from India raises questions: Is India engaged in a proxy war to destabilize Pakistan through its presence in Afghanistan and Iran bordering Balochistan? Afghanistan is in virtual control of the US and it is not possible that the US is not aware of India’s anti-Pakistan activities. The US is apparently in alliance with Pakistan in war on terror, but actually it is allied with India too.
Whatever be the dirty game being played out by the external actors, it is the internal weaknesses and unresolved or mishandled conflicts in a country that are actually exploited by the external forces. The bad governance, corruption, socio-economic injustices and military handling of political problems has made things complicated in the country as whole and Balochistan in particular.