By Bushra Saqib
China Pakistan Economic Corridor is the life line for China’s goods transit system and the artery that would serve as the source of pumping new blood in the ailing Pakistan’s socio economic system.
While we chant Pakistan Zindabad, we are nervous from the inside when we see the Pakistani institution failing and falling apart. The national treasury burdened by the weight of loans, payable to the IMF and other loaning institutions. Today Pakistanis must selflessly embrace the incoming opportunity by putting behind the rat race of amassing riches and help in bringing Pakistan on the track of growth.
About China Pakistan Economic Corridor
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an under-construction mega project connecting Gwadar, in Southwest Pakistan, to Kashgar, in northwest China. It stretches over 3000 km, making its way through the heartland of Punjab following one of Asia’s oldest trade routes, the Grand Trunk Road. Chinese Foreign Ministry envisions the corridor as a driver for connectivity between South Asia and East Asia leading to a greater regional integration between China, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.
The project involves developing highways, railways and pipelines, mainly to transport oil and gas. The proposed route drastically cuts the 12000 km long route the Middle East oil supplies have to undertake currently to reach China. So far 30 projects have been outlined by China and Pakistan under the CPEC, in addition to the highways and railways, while it is expected that many more would be added over the course of next few years. As of yet, 9 projects have been approved and out of these, the Gwadar port was completed in 2007 and handed over to China on a 40 years lease starting 2015. The port is currently undergoing expansion to enhance its capacity and upgrade the facilities to a modern standard. A 3000 acre piece of land has also been earmarked for the construction of a new international airport that would replace the current airport which does not allow movement of wide-bodied aircraft, hence, limiting the international connections of the airport. The construction of Gwadar-Ratodero Motorway is currently underway and it is expected to be completed by December 2015. The Karachi-Lahore motorway link and the Hazara motorway link both have been approved with construction in progress on Hazara link due to begin later this year. A feasibility study for Khunjerab Railway and Havelian Dry port is also underway while a preliminary approval has been granted for the Havelian-Khunjerab rail link. To ensure the safety of these land links and the transporters, an Economic Corridor Support Force is being raised as a new unit by the armed forces with a cost of approximately $250 million.
The initial phase of the CPEC involved the development of Gwadar port and an international airport. The port was completed in 2007 and was handed over to China Overseas Ports Holding in 2013. It is currently undergoing vast expansion to establish it as a deep-water commercial port of an international standard. For the subsequent phases, Pakistan and China have signed agreements to upgrade the Karakoram Highway, more famously known as the ‘Shahra-e-Resham’, as well as constructing an international airport and laying a fiber-optic link from the northwestern border of China to Rawalpindi.
In November last year, the Chinese government expressed its intentions to finance energy, communications and infrastructure projects in Pakistan to the tune of $ 45 billion under the CPEC in a bid to further the co-operation and alliance between both the countries. It is expected that $34 billion would be provided to the energy sector while $11 billion would be spent on communications and infrastructure development. The proposed projects would bring tremendous improvements in Pakistan’s communication and transport links, regionally as well as locally.
Also, the substantial investments in the energy sector would help alleviate the power shortages in the country with the proposed hydro, coal, wind and solar power plants having a total generation capacity north of 10,000 MW. The planned gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan would similarly assuage the gas shortage plaguing the industry by providing an alternative supply of cheap natural gas. The Iranian part of the pipeline has been completed while the Pakistani side of the pipeline is expected to be completed by 2017.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would bring development and prosperity to the regions it passes through, some of which have so far been neglected by the state. It would also bring with it an influx of new foreign funding and business opportunities that, as yet, do not exist. The jobs created by the CPEC would go a long way in addressing the employment concerns of the bulging youth population of the country, the economic activity generated in the northern parts of the country could bring back the long lost stability and peace to the terrorism hit areas.
The project promises to bring prosperity to Pakistan.