The attack on a Chinese man in Karachi has become one of the first politically motivated attacks related to CPEC. A scribbled note was found at the site that denounced ‘foreign control over Sindh’s natural resources’. This mentality stems from a lack of education and information about the CPEC and other subsidiary projects. If the government works on spreading greater awareness and increasing transparency, the new 13000-strong army division formed to protect the corridor might have an easier job.

Nationalism is perfectly justified, and can normally work wonders in keeping society cohesive and unified in a country, but it is another story entirely when this strong feeling of a shared identity turns into jingoism. At any rate, nationalism based on provincial boundaries only makes the country more divisive, instead of bringing the people together. This project is not about which province uses what resources, but instead about national development. Punjab has been rightfully accused of taking the lion’s share of resources in the past, but this project will benefit Balochistan and Sindh as well. This is not a national project, but an international investment. It must not be sabotaged if our economy is to survive. Additionally, it is not a welfare project. Demands for equal distribution cannot be met as the aim is profit maximisation. The priority is for China and Pakistan to make money, rather than to alleviate poverty. Yes, Balochistan and Sindh must be developed and the standard of living of their people must be raised by the government. The CPEC can do this, but as an externality, not as the main aim.

Additionally, the news of Balochistan lodging a formal complaint with the Indus Water System Authority (IRSA) over Sindh stealing its water is only further proof of how the provincial lines seem etched in stone. This allegation might be true, but has become a matter of routine over the past few years. All that is needed to overcome this is updating the water measurement systems from the outdated devices currently used. Doing this now would go a long way in avoiding conflict later, and provincial divides can only be mitigated if long-standing issues are resolved.

These incidents do not bode well for investment prospects in the future. If the Pakistani authorities cannot be seen as capable of successfully protecting foreigners and sorting internal disputes, then CPEC is going to end up becoming an empty highway, with not much development on either side. CPEC needs to be used as a catalyst for more investments, as well as for national cohesion.