In the words of the Prime Minister, the fourth industrial revolution has come a-knocking and the commencing of the CPEC Road and Belt Flagship project is a herald of that said transformation. Where the prime minister’s speech paid ode to the development project and Pak-China cooperation, his words barely scratched the surface of what CPEC will entail and how the project can be utilised to its full potential to benefit all spheres of the populace.
Where the PM mentions the magical transformation of the deep seaport of Gwadar, the administration needs to be fully cognizant of the neglect and socio-environmental decrepitude that currently plagues the city that is being advertised as the global hub of trade. The people do not have access to potable water and sanitation, the revitalisation of the area before the advent of CPEC should be a major priority so as to not alienate or further exacerbate the immediate needs of the people through displacement for construction and development. Similarly, for Gwadar to become an ‘economic nucleus’ the government should ensure that economic prosperity is equitable and allows for a revival of the region rather than being remitted elsewhere. Quick to label CPEC as an example of an inclusive development paradigm benefiting all stakeholders, the government can remain true to its claim only if the people of Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan are extended equitable opportunities and rights under the project.
Where Pakistan is opening its gates to allow access to Western China, Central and South Asia and the Middle East, it needs to consider counter insurgency measures against being further implicated in proliferation of radical outfits, the more pressing example being of Uighar separatist outfits in Xinjiang. Similarly, where the PM made it a point to anoint CPEC as a talisman against extremism, the government cannot discount its responsibility in the crackdown and rooting out all forms of radicals parading unchecked in the country.
The establishment should be further cognizant of the implications and consequences of IMF reforms, economic clampdowns and the introduction of bureaucratic hierarchies that come with financing such frameworks. The government needs to be transparent and accountable of where and how dividends have been allocated. It needs to tap CPECs potential to revive our stagnating agriculture sector and concomitantly grant workers rights and reform its tax revenue policies to ensure a more holistic and equitable economic matrix.
Where CPEC does have the potential to change the socio-economic landscape of our country, it is not a cure-all to Pakistan’s innumerable lapses in responsible governance. As such the government needs to recognise how it can effectively utilize CPEC in tandem with effective polices and good governance. Those are the stones to carry before we are able move mountains.