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International Seminar Report
Seminar urges Transparency, Political Inclusion, and Security on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Published: Aug 28, 2015


The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is rightly hailed as a game-changer. There is a need to take care of the oft-discussed transparency, political and security issues around it. Yet, it is hoped that it gets completed in time, strengthening further the bilateral relations between Pakistan and China.


These were the views expressed by several speakers at a daylong international seminar on the CPEC, organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) in Islamabad. The exclusive seminar was arranged for an incoming delegation from China’s Institute of Ethnic Minorities Group Development and Research.

Welcoming the delegation, Muhammad Amir Rana, Director PIPS, in his opening remarks, shared the seminar is intend to invoke understanding among Chinese and Pakistani about the corridor, the myriad challenges it faces, and way forward to overcome those obstacles.

Thanking the hosts, Mr. Chango Bo, head of the delegation from China, said that the proposed corridor, CPEC, is part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative and will herald its success. He hoped the completion of corridor will further strengthen the mutual harmony between the two countries.

The keynote speaker, Inam ul Haq, former foreign minister, appreciated the Chinese mega investment in Pakistan. He stressed for more research into how this investment could be tapped to the benefit of the two countries. He, for instance, called for investing more in energy sector: Pakistan, he said, is facing energy shortage due to line losses, which can be fixed through the proposed investment.

On whether or not the United States of America has publicly uttered anything against the corridor, Mr. Haq said he hasn’t come across any statement, despite perceptions to the contrary.

The first session of the seminar discussed economic and political perspectives of the corridor. The session’s moderator, Dr. Fazl ur Rehman, pointed out that the idea of the corridor predates the signing of the recent agreements. General Musharraf (1999-2008) would often talk of the corridor on his visits to China, Dr. Rehman reminded.

Seconding this opinion, Hamayoun Khan, Assistant Professor at National Defence University, said the much of what has been signed recently in light of the CPEC projects were existing projects. The corridor came in the limelight in 2015, when Chinese President Xi Jinping met Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

In his backgrounder on the corridor, Khan said that while there have been Sino-Pak engagements at political and military levels, it is the first time that the relation is built at economic level. The project, to be completed in 15 years, will benefit 3 billion people from China, South Asia, and Central Asia.

Professor Hamayoun also made distinction between the corridor project, encompassing several comprehensive packages, and the route, which has been the source of political attention in Pakistan.

Taking that point forward, PIPS researcher Muhammad Ismail Khan narrated how the route alteration has become a point of contention among political parties and provinces in Pakistan: despite government’s vow to construct first the western route, which will go through the economically-deprived western provinces, most of the funds are allocated to the eastern one.

Ismail also talked about ensuring transparency on the corridor, as little is known about the corridor's implementation status. “Most of what is known is read through press statements released after some work on it is done", he said. He asked the government to make sure that the key political parties popular in areas where the corridor goes, are involved in decision making on the corridor.

A region that feels excluded from the decisions on the corridor is Gilgit Baltistan, which touches China’s Xinjiang province, said Peer Muhammad, a journalist hailing from GB. Peer argued the country should settle for the administrative status of GB, so to involve them in decision making of national projects. Otherwise, the status could be exploited by external players, to the disadvantage of CPEC.

Peer pointed out GB’s existing Sost Dry Port will turn redundant once new dry port is established, at a site in the south, beyond the domain of GB. He hoped that the project would not damage the ecosystem of GB, the glaciers of which are the source of the country’s fresh water.

Likewise, Shahzada Zulfiqar, a journalist from Balochistan, argued that his province too feels disconnected from the project, even though its main site at Gwadar is there. One of the fears expressed is that the projects ushering out of the corridor, will result in an influx of people from outside Balochistan, thereby reducing the numerical strength of Baloch in their province. That is why they should be taken into confidence, he said. Already, some elements have taken arms against the state.

Thanking the views from Pakistan, Yu Xiahui, an academic from China speaking in his personal capacity, echoed security concerns to the corridor. He broadened the horizon to include regional and global challenges to the proposed corridor.

Barrister Shahzad Akbar, renowned lawyer and founder for Foundation for Fundamental Rights, highlighted the legal aspects of foreign investment and special economic zones in Pakistan. SEZs, he said, are established under Special Economic Zones 2012, which provides certain benefits to investors like one-time exemption from customs.

Yet, he said, foreign investment may faces challenges, from insecurity, policy shift, legal system such as delays and inability of enforcement of court orders, corruption, under-developed skills in labour market, and shortage in electricity and gas.

The second session discussed geostrategic and security perspectives to the corridor.

Mr. Chang, now moderating the session, said that although the Pakistan has been confronted with problems like security at their western and eastern borders besides internal security threats but we believe this will not hamper the progress over CPEC route.

Presenting an overview of militant landscape in Pakistan and region, Azaz Syed, investigative journalist, said that the threat of the ISIS looms around, especially after the reported infighting among Afghan Taliban ranks and decline of the Al-Qaeda in the region.

Taking part in the discussion, PIPS’s Director Muhammad Amir Rana said Pakistan’s internal security dynamics presents a challenge to the completion of this corridor, even though military operation in North Waziristan resulted in a substantial decrease in terrorist attacks across the country.

Mr. Wang Jianming, visiting Chinese researcher, expressed concerns over the threats to the corridor by a diverse array of groups, including Taliban fighters. He recommended that local people should be engaged so that they don’t feel alienated. “Involvement of local people in CPEC development will keep the pace of the project abreast of the time”, he said.

Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Director School of Politics, Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad highlighted the geostrategic importance of CPEC for the two countries. The corridor, he said, is important for both China and Pakistan. He warned of external elements lurking to sabotage the corridor.


Express Tribune


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