Parliamentary Committee on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on Monday proposed to add the agricultural sector as part of CPEC and also asked the government to define the role of railways in CPEC. Careful deliberation on each project - energy, infrastructure etc., - and what impact it will have on different sectors is the need of the hour. If China is going to step into agriculture, the foundation of our economy and society, many things have to be considered. It is pertinent that the concerns of the local inhabitants of the areas where these projects are going to be implemented are addressed and their lives should not be adversely affected in any way.

As Pakistan is likely to miss the GDP growth target of 5.5 percent this year, the CPEC offers a unique opportunity to fix our persistent problems in the infrastructure and energy sector and perhaps the agriculture sector as well. Attaining food security remains a big challenge for the government and adding the sector to the list of CPEC related projects would prioritise it and give it the attention that it requires. In addition, the membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation would provide Pakistan an access to a large market for its exports, and attract investments in the energy and infrastructure sector.

However, there is a difference between Pakistan gaining new markets for growth, and Pakistani farmers having to exit the market due to Chinese competition on Pakistan soil. It is not clear what the CPEC polices will be, if agriculture is included. The gut feeling is that it should be left alone. The corridor is already very intrusive, and there is a clear feeling of dependency on China this year. There are also growing fears that native industry will collapse, and political parties are becoming more vocal about the problems of the CPEC. The government should not introduce more controversy in agriculture- and if it does, it should make all plans transparent and open to debate. This it cannot do, it is not how our ruling party works. Thus it would be better to leave things as they are and focus on the already agreed to CPEC plans.