Even as Baloch, Sindhi activists hold anti-CPEC protest outside Chinese embassy in London, Kashmiris living in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir are also opposing the project, as Pakistan is forcing people to leave their homes. Both the countries are ignoring the environmental and social impacts in various regions too.
A sharp criticism and opposition is rising among Kashmiris in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) as Pakistan and China are constructing a multi-layered infrastructure project, which passes through Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a 51.5 billion dollar project that aims to connect Kashgar, in China’s western province of Xinjiang, with the port of Gwadar in the Pakistani province of Balochistan.
The road and rail network under the project traverses through Gilgit Baltistan.
While CPEC is being touted as a ‘game changer’ by the leaders, the people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan claim the project is another attempt to further make them slaves. The project brings no industry and fails to create jobs for the locals.
China will use CPEC to loot Gilgit Baltistan, POK and Balochistan and gain access to global market, says leading Pakistani daily ‘Express Tribune’. China using Pakistan to loot and plunder the people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan and simultaneously gain access to global markets, says Pakistan Daily.
Mohd. Ali Shafa, an academician and human rights activist in Gilgit said, “Our educated youth is roaming without any jobs. The SHO, Chief Secretary, IGP, SSP or any other good government post, people from Punjab have been appointed at all these places.”
“In the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), our people are not hired as they do not have any government backing. There is no one to raise our point at the assembly or in the senate. There are no jobs, no opportunities and no business,” said Shafa.
The CPEC enters Pakistan from China through the Karakoram Highway.
Though Gilgit Baltistan plays a key role in the CPEC project and all roads and pipelines crossing into China from Pakistan will run through this mountainous region, there are no plans for any special economic packages to support the people of Gilgit.
“CPEC is actually designed by China, for China. It will use Pakistan as a pathway to increase its access to global markets. Local entrepreneurs do not stand a chance at competing with an economy-of-scale manufacturer like China. With CPEC, China can access all of Pakistan, resulting in Chinese goods becoming even cheaper. CPEC is a trade route. If trade routes can turn the tables for nations, Egypt would have been the world’s biggest power as it controls the Suez Canal which alone generates billions of dollars in revenue. The world is run by those who use that route – not by those who collect the toll tax,” a senior Pakistani energy sector analyst, Mr Abdullah Ansari.
As per BHRO report, approximately 3000 families displaced in Balochistan to make way for CPEC forcefully. The people have been forced to leave their homes in Hoshab, Awaran, Jhalawan and Koh-e-Suleman and move to Karachi, Turbat, Hub Chowki and other areas without any assurance on accommodation, education, health, income earning or even ex-gratia for the families vacated. A total of 850 people have been killed in Balochistan to make the way for CPEC in 2016 alone and 250 of these were unidentified bodies. In the same year, some 40000 people have been abducted by Pakistan Government agencies and have gone missing and BHRO has managed to collect details of only 1,809 of them.
The locals, as stakeholders in the project, have been demanding that the Pakistani government shares details of the project with them, failing which they would consider the project, being constructed through an area contested by India, as illegal.
Nasir Aziz Khan, spokesperson of United Kashmir People?s National Party (UKPNP), said, “Pakistan has allowed China to get access into the PoK and Gilgit Baltistan and is signing new pacts without the consultation of locals. The local population has not received any benefit. The CPEC has no mention of the PoK and Gilgit. All benefits will go to Pakistan and China and they will use the land of Kashmir and exploit its natural resources.”
As a largely remote area with a delicate eco-system, Gilgit has been grappling with the problem of ecological imbalance due to uncontrolled deforestation.
Now, with the CPEC project planning to upgrade the Karakoram highway and build a rail network in the region, there are concerns that the project will displace thousands of locals and render them homeless, and also disturb the fragile ecology of the region.