The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s route through Balochistan promises to be a boon for the people of the province, but not without a cost. A recent report by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) claims that the native population of Balochistan could be outnumbered by the influx of Chinese nationals and from other areas of the country by 2048 after completion of CPEC.

On the face of it, it is shocking that the province will undergo such a demographic change if the CPEC project is successful and Chinese business interests are present for the next thirty or so years. But the deeper issue is the insecurity that such a prediction brings. Will the revenue generated from the corridor actually help the native Baloch? Additionally, it does not help Balochi morale that nearly 1,000 dead bodies of political activists and suspected armed separatists had been found in Balochistan over the past six years, according to a report by the BBC on Wednesday.

A change in the population is only acceptable if the people of Balochistan take precedence initially in terms of important developmental outreach programmes such as education and skill training. The government cannot just leave the fate of the people of Balochistan up to market forces. There has to be some investment in welfare programs for the Balochistan, and immediately, so that in the next few decades, they are not further disenfranchised, facing unemployment, migration and worst of all, protesting against the state. This will be expensive, and may not generate immediate votes for the ruling party, but without it, we will just see further mistrust, poverty and violence in Balochistan.

Changing demographics are a reality everywhere in the globalised world, and Pakistan’s security situation had, so far, prevented this from happening here. But as Pakistan moves towards becoming the land of opportunity, this is only to be expected. Foreign residents stand to bring important skill-sets to the country that can later be developed locally. In today’s financially and economically integrated world, the government has to ensure the protection and economic survival of its nationals. Protection is the primary reason for the state; making money and winning elections are just the means to do this, not the ends.

Pakistan’s provincial divide is something that it must get over, if the federation’s unity is to stand unquestioned. People-to-people exchange is just as important domestically as it is on the international scale. The inevitable change that something like the CPEC brings must not be shunned, but managed for the sake of the Pakistani citizen.