An All-Parties Conference (APC) regarding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was held on Sunday in Islamabad to allay the concerns of opposition parties over the exact shares of each province. The government claims that the project is completely transparent and fair; but has neglected to elaborate on this point. Already there have been claims of bids being handed out to the second lowest bidder on the Western route. Both Balochistan and KPK are perfectly justified in wondering whether the province is getting more than just roads, however, the focus must be on the benefits from CPEC rather than creating a perfect route. The project is being taken as another opportunity for the opposition to play politics and further delays only puts the investment at risk and sets bad precedents for other countries or foreign countries that may want to invest in Pakistan.

As far as following the advice of the Chinese government goes, the government might not have it easy in trying to convert Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) into a province. GB has to become a province if it is in our national interest, not China’s. The Chinese prodding may expedite the issue, but giving GB province status will be a too radical a move to begin with, not to mention the opposition that would be faced from the AJK government as well as other parties that may want to ally against the ruling party for their own purposes.

In a separate development, the commanders of the Pakistan Navy and the PLA Navy issued a joint statement announcing that they would work together to protect the sea trade coming in from CPEC, so it seems that the military establishment is behind the project. However, with a thinning fleet of merchant ships and the Karachi shipyard not deep enough to build ships that are in line with modern standards, the Pakistan Navy reportedly needs a serious overhaul before it can be deemed capable to offer protection to merchant ships on such a massive scale. While information regarding the CPEC remains shrouded in mystery, if any new shipyards in Gwadar at the port or Hyderabad have been planned, the government has neglected to say so this far. The safety of the maritime silk route cannot be ignored. It must be remembered that the whole point of CPEC is to establish trade route from China to the Arabian Sea, facilitating both countries in the process.

A project as big as CPEC will also obviously bring with a myriad of potential hurdles to cross, however there needs to be consensus about whether it is in the national interest and what that interest is.