China-Pakistan Economic Corridor seems to be in full swing now more than ever. The $46 Billion economical handshake between Asian giants Pakistan and China commences as the world watches. With the country almost $50 Billion in debt, CPEC can prove as a game change for Pakistan.
CPEC serves as the belated first-born for the long Pak-Cheen-Dosti scheme which started a while back. The corridor consists of several projects for the development of Pakistan – Highways, Railways, Expressways, Motorway, Freight Train Services, Solar and Energy projects, Hydro-power, Fiber Optics, detailed infrastructure and of course, the big fish, Gwadar Port.
The enormous deal between Pak-China on CPEC has seen all the provinces strive hard to make the most of this benevolent opportunity that has come their way. Exempting Sindh and KP, the two provinces that will surely gain from the project – the question arises – what about Punjab and Balochistan?
As for Balochistan, as fancy as CPEC sounds for the province with the nurturing Gwadar Port – that’s pretty much it for Balochistan, other than the roads and routes constructed for the project. One wonders, how many of the 32 districts of Balochistan will actually benefit from CPEC – other than Gwadar? Since every province is out offering SEZs (Special Economic Zones) for the industrial mechanics – it seems Balochistan once again is being turned on.
The other three provinces KP, Sindh and Punjab have already finalized almost 24 SEZs for industrial development. Since the current stakeholders of Pakistan, the ruling party, is from Punjab – it seems direly impossible that the fathering province of the nation does not benefit the most.
In an official presentation to the Federal Government, the Punjab regime has already offered Sheikhupura, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Bhalwal, Vehari, Chunian and Faisalabad for the industrial zones for investing interests. Besides these; thousands of acres of land have been allocated for funding estates of Jhang, Wazirabad, Okara, Chakwal, Rawalpindi, Gujrat, Faisalabad, Dera Ghazi Khan, Bhakkar and Shorkot for potential investments.
The Punjab government has also requested leverage and exemption on Custom duties for importing of machinery, good and required equipment for the industrial development of the province through CPEC. All this, not counting the 100 MW Solar Power Plant that is to be set up in Bahawalpur and the 27.1 km long $1.6 billion Orange Line train service for Lahore.
One has to wonder, is the P in CPEC actually for Punjab?
Returning to Balochistan, certainly the unluckiest portion of land that falls under Pakistan’s label, seems to be missing out on a golden opportunity once again. It seems that the masses actually want Balochistan to be happy with a Port and a constructed road, whilst the rest of Pakistan enjoys energy and industrial projects that will cater to the locals in terms of job opportunities.
Out of 32, 29 districts of Balochistan are living below poverty line, with little or no earning at all – minus any job opportunity that has ever come their way. The vastest chunk of land in Pakistan can definitely offer more SEZs than Punjab and the other two provinces combined, but once again, the government seems to have another plan.
Even though Balochistan has the Gwadar Port, it isn’t difficult to foresee how the rest of Balochistan will benefit from this multi-billion dollar deal. It seems that once again rest of Pakistan has outwit Balochistan – CPEC might just become one more example for the history books.