Wednesday, 10 October 2018
Naila Khaneen was a symbol of struggle. Speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry, delivered in London on occasion of condolence reference of late Naila Khaneen on 09 October 2018.
Naila Khaneen was a symbol of struggle.
Speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry, delivered in London on occasion of condolence reference of late Naila Khaneen on 09 October 2018.
Mr Chairman Usman Kiani, Chief guest, Zahid Tabbasam, and respectable guests Aslam o alaykam.
Naila Khaneen, Senior Vice Chair of United Kashmir Peoples National Party is no more with us. We have lost a great human being, a leader, a thinking person with a vision and love for humanity. She was a source of inspiration and strength, not only for women, but also for men as well.
She was polite, friendly and spoke softly; but she was an iron lady of Jammu and Kashmir. She tirelessly worked for united and independent Jammu and Kashmir with a secular and democratic society. She was a symbol of peaceful struggle against forces of occupation and oppression.
Mal Allah forgive her sins and grant her a place in Heaven. Despite her dedication and sincerity, her struggle is incomplete. The best way to pay her tribute is to continue her struggle; and spread her message to the suffering people.
In a male dominated society of Pakistani Administered Jammu and Kashmir, where women were not encouraged to go to schools, and were trained for submissive and domestic roles in homes. The forces of status quo feared that education will empower them and make them aware of their rights.
In that kind of society, where weak, and underprivileged were abused and exploited, and they did not feel appropriate to speak out for their rights, Naila Khaneen rose up and challenged the forces of status quo. She courageously confronted the forces of occupation and oppression. She encouraged education for female members of the society; and urged women to come out and play their due role for the betterment of the people.
Perhaps, it will be wrong to say that she spoke for rights of the women, as she also actively spoke for the rights of men too. She spoke for equality and fundamental rights for all citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. She spoke for rights of all minorities. She wanted independence and basic rights for Hindus, Pundits, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Muslims for all sects.
Many times, we have paid tribute to fellow men by standing up in their honour. I hope it is not too much to ask, if I request my fellow men to stand up for 30 seconds to pay tribute to the lady who is no longer with us, but her memories and tremendous contribution to the struggle will always remain with us. By standing up in her honour, we will send this message that we men know how to admire a woman who has made enormous contribution for the betterment of humanity.
Members of UKPNP, you should be proud of your party and the leadership. Despite the social, cultural and political taboos associated with the role of women in our society, the party trusted her skills and wisdom and provided her an opportunity to lead a revolutionary party in a male dominated society.
She accepted the challenge and proved beyond any doubt that she was the most relevant person for the role of Senior Vice Chair, and Acting Chairperson. She not only united the party cadres, but also effectively took the message of the Party to every nook and corner of Pakistani Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.
Her struggle was peaceful; and she wanted to empower local people, and resolve immense problems of those living on this side of the forced division.
Our struggle is for the fundamental rights of our people- citizens of Jammu and Kashmir State. We want them to live with respect and dignity. We want to promote peace and stability in our motherland. We want to help and support the under privileged and suffering people.
Our beloved Prophet was forced to leave his motherland, Makkah. After arriving in Madina, he concentrated on resolving problems of Madina. He did not say to his followers that people of Makkah are oppressed, or people of Jeddah or some other town are victimised; and that we should go and help them and liberate them. Instead, the Holy Prophet made agreements with non-Muslims for peace, safety and defence of Madina.
After ten long years, and after many battles and arduous struggle, when Madina was made safe, and peace and tranquillity prevailed there, only then He marched towards Makkah and liberated the city and the people.
Lesson of Holy Prophet’s practice is to make safe the area where you reside. Resolve problems of the people that they can live in peace, and with dignity before you go and help others.
It is sad that secret agencies and rulers of Islamabad, and their puppets and jihadi warriors force us to forget our problems, forget our miseries, and forget oppression and exploitation we have to endure daily, and cross the LOC with Pakistani weapons to fight India.
This strategy is illogical, impractical and clearly against interests of people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is sad that those who understand conspiracy of Islamabad, are projected as anti-movement and traitors. Friends and colleagues, your leadership understood this conspiracy a long time ago, and strenuously opposed it.
Friends, good thing is our message is getting across to the people, and more and more people are understanding that our struggle is on this side of the divide. However, we fully support those who are genuinely struggling for united and independent Jammu and Kashmir.
Long live UKPNP, and long live struggle for united independent Jammu and Kashmir.
Writer is a renowned writer and author of many books. He is also a senior leader of UKPNP and Chairman South Asia Watch, London.
Email: Drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com Twitter: @Drshabir
Monday, 1 October 2018
Is CPEC ‘China Punjab Execution Corridor’?
Dr Shabir Choudhry, London 30 September 2018
CPEC stands for China Pakistan Economic Corridor. However, some Pakistani critics of the Project call it China Punjab Economic Corridor, as in their view, the Project will benefit Punjab more than the other Provinces of Pakistan.
During the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 39th Session, I came across a new definition of the CPEC. In a seminar held on 19th September 2018, arranged by Universal Peace Federation, Professor Naela Qadri Baloch gave totally a new and somewhat amazing definition to the CPEC. She said:
‘China Pakistan Economic Corridor is not an economic corridor. It is anti-people, and anti Balochistan Project. If this project was for welfare of the people of Balochistan, then why they are abducted, tortured, women raped and killed. Why do we get mutilated bodies of our sons and brothers? What is our crime? Do we have a right to life? Is it too much to ask that we Baloch people want to live with peace and dignity. We want to use our resources for the well-being of people’. 1
I also met many other Baloch leaders, human rights defenders and political activists, they all told harrowing accounts of cruelty and oppression that was going on in Balochistan. It is sad that the Pakistani media is not publishing what goes on in Balochistan. It is a criminal negligence. They are siding with the oppressors, and will only publish what promotes agenda of the establishment.
Baloch leaders claim that the CPEC is anti-people and anti Balochistan; and its aim is benefit local people and Pakistan. Pakistani army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, while talking to Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Wednesday, 19 September 2018, said:
‘Those who oppose Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) shall never succeed as these are initiatives of peace and development not only for China, but for region and beyond… Pakistan understands the importance of peace and has given a lot of sacrifices for achieving it’. 2
The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, also appreciated role of the Pakistani army, and said:
Pakistan is our time-tested, iron friend and Pakistan Army has a pivotal role towards this lasting relationship. He appreciated professionalism of Pakistani armed forces and acknowledged their role towards regional peace and stability. 3
The Pakistani army Chief says, the CPEC and BRI are for peace and development, but people of Balochistan who are at the receiving end of all this do not accept this claim, as in their view army is oppressing, uprooting and killing local people; and looting and plundering Baloch resources.
Mama Qadeer Baloch has become a symbol of the Baloch resistance. His struggle is peaceful, and is getting momentum. Despite all the negative propaganda against him and obstacles created by the establishment, he marched from Quetta to Islamabad on foot to protest against oppression and the CPEC. It is more than 1000 kilometres, not an easy task for a man of his age, and for women and children who accompanied him. In a reply to my question, in Urdu, he said:
They have different meaning to peace than what we have. We want peace where we can live without any fear, without any harassment, without any torture, without gun fights, and without jet fighters dropping bombs on us. We want peace where we are not hunted and killed. We want peace where our women and children are safe, and where we can use our resources for well-being of our families.
They want peace that prevails in the grave yards. They want to impose peace by silencing our voices. They want to establish peace by killing the Baloch people, and by butchering our children. We will not allow them to do this. We are occupied by Pakistan. Our resources are plundered by Islamabad and China. 4
This CPEC is not an economic project. Its aim is not to promote peace or economic stability. It is to loot and plunder our resources, and drive us out of here. Already local people have been driven out of their homes in Gwadar because the authorities want to settle Punjabis and Chinese there, said Ms Karima Baloch, former Chairperson of Baloch Students Organisation. I also met her in Geneva during the UN Human Rights Council’s 39th Session.
She said our people have been pushed out of their homes and denied right to fish, where they and their forefathers lived for centuries. Those who are still living there have no access to clean drinking water, because of severe shortage of clean water, because water is given to Punjabis and Chinese settlers. She said, local people are becoming homeless in their own area; and Gwadar has become most impoverished colony rather than an economic hub.
Young Karima Baloch said, ‘We will resist Sino – Pakistani colonisation of Balochistan.”
I asked her, “How can you fight united might of Pakistan and China? They are far too powerful.”
She said, “I know they are very strong, but our will to resist is also strong. We have no choice but fight back.”
I asked, “What strategies will you adopt to resist the CPEC and China and Pakistan?”
She said, “I am human rights activist, and live in Canada. Our struggle will be peaceful. We will tell the world what dangers the CPEC can bring to the region; however, how people of Balochistan will oppose them on the ground it is for them to decide. But I assure you we will resist, and will not surrender.” 5
The CPEC is sold as a ‘Game changer’. Maybe it is a game changer, but a million-dollar question is in whose favour the game will change. People of Balochistan or the rebels assert that it will certainly not in favour of the suffering people of Balochistan. I have discussed this issue in detail in my previous book, ‘Is CPEC economic corridor or a strategic game plan?
However, it will be sufficient to add views of those who are actively opposing it, and are suffering as a direct result of the issues related to the CPEC, and not rely on statements of those who are pursuing this agenda or are beneficiaries of these mega projects.
No matter what authorities in Islamabad and Beijing tell the world, views of the local people about the CPEC are important. I have met many important Baloch leaders, political and human rights activists, and not one of them said they support the CPEC.
The Pakistani narrative that those who oppose the CPEC are “enemies of Pakistan," or are agents of India, is not selling. People know that this allegation has been used far too many times against their own people; and it has lost its shine. It no longer sticks; and in some cases, the accused gets more credibility and eminence. People think he must be of some value and the authorities want to crush his legitimate activities.
In another seminar held in Geneva on 21 September 2018, Mama Qadeer Baloch said:
‘We are worst sufferers in Pakistan. We never acceded to Pakistan. They occupied us with an attack on 27 March 1948. If it was an accession with consent of the people, then why army was sent under command of General Akbar Khan? Independent Balochistan had support of Lower and Upper Houses of Balochistan. Our flag was hoisted on a Central Mosque, and even that was attacked, and flag was burnt. Loyal sons of the soil fought back, and went to the mountains to continue their armed struggle against forces of occupation. When they realised they cannot win, and a defeat was imminent, they used a religious card. In presence of our elders, they took oath on Quran that they accept our demands, and will honour the agreement. When our leaders and fighters came down from the mountains, the Pakistani army unilaterally rescinded the agreement, and betrayed us. Our leaders and freedom fighters were arrested and sent to jails, tortured and killed.’
Mama Qadeer Baloch continued with his speech:
‘We have forgotten nothing. Since that date we have been attacked many times, and each time we have given them a befitting reply. They know they cannot crush our struggle, or eliminate our desire for independence. That is why they have colluded with China, that together they can eliminate us and loot our resources. But let me tell both China and Pakistan – they will not win. We will resist with all power at our disposal. We will not let them rest or enjoy fruits of our resources. They cannot win our minds and hearts by killing our children, by torturing them, and by kidnaping and dishonouring our daughters. This land is ours, and we will defend it ad will not allow any outsiders to settle here. We request China to go back. This is not your land. These are not your resources. Stop wasting more money here’.
Mama Qadeer said, in the past we used to get mutilated bodies of our sons, brothers and relatives. In some cases, organs of their bodies were missing too. Now we don’t even get dead bodies. List of missing people is getting bigger. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry did some good work for the missing people, but the present Chief Justice, Saqib Nisar is in hands of army, MI and ISI. He is interested in other matters and will not do anything for the missing people. They have killed thousands of our people; and still thousands are missing, presumed dead.
He concluded by saying that:
‘Already both countries have serious differences over many things related to the CPEC. These differences will grow with time because both want a bigger share of the booty. Our people are forcibly evicted from their homes to assure China there is no threat to the CPEC routes. Some of our people have become beggars in Karachi. Any project which is not pro people and in which we are not consulted will be opposed and ferociously resisted. We will make life difficult for the occupiers, it is better that they pack their bags and go home, and let us live in peace and dignity’. 6
Problems the CPEC can face
A source who has access to the establishment told me that, nearly all CPEC projects are on hold due to differences between the new government of Imran Khan and China. Pakistan is not happy with some of the projects and also with terms and conditions. Above all, there is massive issue of corruption in which officials of both sides were allegedly involved. China doesn’t want to tarnish further its already bad reputation with infrastructure development deals around the world. Therefore, Beijing has expressed its willingness to review the hitherto progress, and also look at terms and conditions.
This was tacitly confirmed by the statement of Minister of State for Communications, Murad Saeed, who said, 40 projects have been closely scrutinised and audited. Six projects will be audited by a third party, indicating serious problems. Islamabad want to show that a neutral party has come out with the figures. He said: “Reforms are being introduced in the communication sector besides eradicating corruption.” 7
It must be noted that Brahamdagh Bugti, a prominent Baloch leader also thinks, 'China-Pakistan deal usurps Baluchistan’s resources'.
Siegfried O. Wolf, a South Asia expert at the University of Heidelberg, who is currently researching the CPEC and has written several scholarly papers on the issue, while talking about the CPEC said:
'There is a big question mark on Pakistan's ability to secure CPEC projects'.
He further says:
Security problems have mired CPEC with numerous militant attacks in Baluchistan and other parts of the country, but Beijing says it is confident the Pakistani military is in control. Can Islamabad ensure security for the project? 8
The Baloch rebels, as pointed out above, fiercely oppose the CPEC, alleging that most of the benefits will go to strong Punjab, which has undue representation in all walks of life in Pakistan. Islamabad is determined to continue with the project at all costs, and the rebels want to resist this ‘loot and plunder, and oppose conspiracy to change demography of the region.’
Siegfried O. Wolf thinks the success of CPEC depends on ‘regional stability, security, and rule of law’; and in absence of these assurances, the Chinese companies may be reluctant to make additional investments beyond the current agreements.
Despite strong army contingent to protect the CPEC route, and new stringent laws to empower security forces and intelligence agencies, it is questionable if Pakistan will be able to provide fool - proof security to the route and the personnel working on various projects.
The massive Chinese investments could help Pakistan's economy, but there is a serious question about Pakistan’s ability to pay back. Moreover, there is a danger that the CPEC will make Pakistan more dependent on Beijing. Pakistan will have to pay a big price for this, and may have to compromise on various matters related to its foreign policies. Siegfried O Wolf thinks:
‘The CPEC projects come with a price. Besides infrastructural and economic linkages, Beijing is also aiming for security and political connectivity. Islamabad will be expected to align its political decision making with Beijing's approach towards South Asia and beyond. Subsequently, the argument that CPEC will turn Pakistan into China's client state will be strengthened.’ 9
It must also be noted that organisations like Alqaeeda and ISIS are not happy with policies of Pakistan and China. In their view, Pakistan and China oppress and kill Muslims – Pakistan in various parts of Pakistan and in Afghanistan; and China in East Turkistan, where Muslims are subject to very harsh Chinese treatment, and they cannot practise Islam as they wish.
Activities of both IS and Alqaeeda have increased in Afghanistan and to some extent in Pakistan. With decline of ‘jihad’ in Iraq and in Syria, it is possible that many more warriors divert their attention to this region. Siegfried O. Wolf thinks both of these organisations have potential to create serious security challenges to the CPEC, as to them these projects are legitimate targets in their concept of jihad.
India is generally seen, and projected as a country that is hostile to the CPEC. I have spoken to some experts on this. In their view, India is not against regional development and economic cooperation. Their objections on the CPEC are related to strong legal, security and strategic implications.
The CPEC is going through an area, Gilgit Baltistan, which is disputed, and does not legally belong to Pakistan. Pakistan has already gifted around 2000 kilometres of territory from this region to China that Beijing can connect it with Aqsai Chin occupied by China in Sino Indian war of 1962.
Indian claim is that Gilgit Baltistan and so called Azad Kashmir belong to them. Furthermore, they think the CPEC has strong defence and strategic objectives. With the CPEC, China is trying to achieve strategic, security and political clout in Pakistan. It will provide naval and military bases to China, which will endanger Indian interests. Already China and Pakistan are economically and militarily very close to each other, and Chinese presence in Pakistan, or in areas under their control can make India more vulnerable.
In view of many impartial experts the CPEC has clear defence and strategic agenda, and in view of Siegfried O. Wolf, it ‘goes far beyond trade and economic collaboration’. The Indian policy makers are legitimately alarmed, especially, if issue of the disputed territory of Gilgit-Baltistan is also taken in to consideration. If the alarm bells are not ringing in New Delhi, then there is something wrong in their defence system.
Can the CPEC become a victim of US China cold war?
The old cold war between Soviet Russia and the United States ended, but it didn’t mean end of tension, and end of problems in international relations. China is emerging as a new challenger to the dominance of America, and that has resulted in a ‘new cold war’ between the two countries.
It is quite possible that this cold war, like the old cold war, could implicate other countries, and may spill over to Pakistan. It is also possible, that Pakistan may become a new battleground for the competing interests of America and China.
Over the past few weeks and months relations between Islamabad and Washington have not been very cordial. Some even predicted some kind of break up in the relations. In my opinion that will not happen.
Although both countries are frustrated and angry with each other because of unfulfilled expectations, but they both need each other. They cannot and will not walk away, as interest of both are dependent on each other. America has expressed its anger and frustration; and also, indicated what difficulties Washington can create for Islamabad, but they will not push it to the breaking point because they don’t want Pakistan to be pushed in to the emerging China and Russian bloc.
They both need to assess their positions and interests, and re – negotiate new terms and rules of engagement. Both governments have options of new friends, but both need each other for a variety of reasons.
It is important to see how this new cold war between China and America will influence India and Pakistan. Will that deteriorate relationship between the two hostile neighbours; or they will learn to evolve new relationship and new rules of engagement.
What Washington provided to Pakistan over the past decades, Beijing cannot do that because the China has its own problems. The Chinese technology is not as good as the American; and China is not as generous as America when it comes to providing financial aid. Apart from technology and other assistance America used to provide cash that Pakistani ruling elite used as they wished. China on the other hand is reluctant to provide cash to Pakistanis.
After 9/11, America started paying Pakistan billions of dollars under cover of the Coalition Support Funds. since 2002. This money was paid in cash to compensate ‘Pakistan for specific costs incurred in deploying tens of thousands of additional troops to the Afghan border, and for the use of Pakistani airfields, ports, and roads to resupply American forces in Afghanistan’. 10
Bluntly one can call this a ‘rent money’. Pakistan provided services to America, and they paid for these services. Washington knew that Pakistani position in this war was unpopular among the people, and they wanted to keep the Pakistani ruling elite on the right side by paying them money. The ruling elite got the money, but the Pakistani people suffered enormously, and tens of thousands of people were injured and killed, and property worth billions worth was destroyed in bomb blasts.
By 2015, Pakistan had received more than $13 billion in CSF. The army used that money as it suited their agenda, and there were certain issues over which Washington was not satisfied. Pakistan was not producing the desired results or pursuing the agreed agenda, hence frequent open disagreements and clashes.
Eventually America decreased the military aid by 73%, and withheld the CSF, which was frozen in January 2018. Not only has it become harder to get those carrots, but the carrots have become much, much smaller. allocation was cut by $700 million.
Pakistan has expressed its anger, but has not retaliated by stopping the US supply lines to Afghanistan. Perhaps they know it will be counterproductive; and Pakistan will end up losing more. Maybe they hope that by showing some leniency to Washington, and by becoming closer to China, and a bit of crackdown on Haqqanis may help Washington to change its mind.
America appreciates Pakistan’s strategic position, and what role they can play in the region, especially in the endgame of Afghanistan. Therefore, America would not like to push Pakistan under the influence of Beijing and Moscow. So, it is imperative that America have some leverage to persuade Pakistan to continue to be a ‘good boy’.
In other words, it is likely that both America and Pakistan will resolve these issues by working out new Memorandum Of Undwerstand; and new terms of engagement, which will serve needs of both governments.
It should also be noted that America has expressed more resentment about the CPEC and China, than Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan. This indicates that Washington is more worried about emerging Chinese influence, the CPEC and the Pakistani role in that. Troubles of Afghanistan are worrying, but maybe still under control to some extent.
In some American quarters, China is seen as a serious economic and ‘strategic competitor’, which is also engaged in ‘economic aggression’, by trapping small and vulnerable economies located in strategically important positions. They fear Pakistan may also become victim of the Beijing’s plan to trap vulnerable economies, and consequently empower China to advance their agenda.
Apart from other reasons, America is also annoyed that Pakistan is deliberately not facilitating a meeting with the Taliban. Alice Wells, America’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs disclosed frustration of the Trump administration in this matter. President Trump believes if Pakistan makes a sincere effort, then they can bring Taliban to the negotiations table. She told a private TV channel:
“The US president had directed that we work together with Pakistan to bring Taliban to the negotiating table, however he was disappointed after no headway was made. We have still not found a way to work more closely with Pakistan to ensure Taliban come to the negotiation table. I can assure you through my own efforts that we are always looking for opportunities to strengthen our relationships. These set of issues will continue to be important.” 11
Is there anything for the local people?
Will the CPEC bring about any tangible changes in lives of the local people. One can bluntly say no. It may bring new infrastructure and highways by uprooting the local people, but in reality, it will not help majority of the local people.
In Gwadar, livelihood of around 80% of the local people is related to fishing, or dealing with fish products. The CPEC will generate some economic activity, and will provide jobs to skilled labour. The local people due to lack of skills and education do not qualify for these jobs like technical posts, port handling, management, trade, forward agencies and other jobs that require skills in business, public relations, sales, warehousing, storage etc.
These jobs will be provided to either the Chinese or other Pakistanis who will settle in this area, and which will result in more problem for the local people.
Many local people have been forced to migrate from their homes. Those who refuse to leave as this is the only home they have; and they don’t want to leave homes of their ancestors, their lives are made difficult. They are barred to fish in various places under the pretext of security. They are also regularly harassed and intimidated by various secret agencies.
Also, there are rumours that the entire population which lives on fishing related jobs, will be shifted elsewhere, as their presence is not conducive to future development plan of Gwadar. They are unskilled and cannot fit – in, in the future economic, social, cultural and employment demands of the new city of Gwadar.
Moreover, these people could be a security risk. It is believed that People who are poor, uneducated, unskilled and detached from the emerging new ground realities of the city, could become easy targets of the enemies of this project.
The infrastructure, including port related development is fast depleting areas where local people can fish with traditional fishing boats, which are only useful to fish in areas close to the coast, and not useful to fish in deep sea. Furthermore, because of the development and its impact on environment, certain types of fish has already become extinct in this area.
Ahmed Kulmeer, in his article, ‘CPEC: A game Changer or a disaster’ writes:
‘On top of it, protection walls have been erected on both sides of the city (Deemi zir and Padi Zir) in order to protect the city from tidal erosion, a direct repercussion of an inappropriate design of the port itself, during summer. The beautiful beaches, now destroyed by the protection walls, were not only used to be a safe docking space for the small boats but they were the center of all cultural activities of fisher folks’. 12
The learned writer further says:
‘No alternative docking area has been allocated for the local fishermen leading to the loss and destruction of these boats during high tide season and in case of any storm surge. On the other hand, the deep-sea trawling, which is being illegally carried out, and has depleted the local fish catch is now being legalised as the Pakistani government is planning to issue deep sea fishing licence to Chinese deep sea trawlers. These trawlers not only destroy the sea bed but also disrupt the ecosystem of sea leading to extinction of many fish and shrimp species which are the life blood for these local fishermen’. 13
No one with common sense can say that based on these policies, the local people will benefit. Irony is that those who are enacting or imposing these policies demand with iron fist that no one should complain or speak against these policies. If they disobey, they will face wrath of the state, culminating in to sedition charges, imprisonment and in some cases, a bullet in the chest.
If the authorities sincerely wanted to help the local people, then they could have established technical institutes in places like Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan where people could have been trained to join the labour market of the CPEC.
In absence of such technical institutes and appropriate training, it is clear that Islamabad is only fooling people, as the real agenda is to strengthen their hegemony by plundering the resources of Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan.
In order to pacify and control the local people, they have hired some local people, just like the British did when they started their imperialist campaign in India. These puppets and foot soldiers are rewarded handsomely because of their services.
The CPEC will not empower women or even men. In any genuine development plan, the local people are made part of the decision making. They are involved at all levels of the project, that they regard this development plan as their plan, and take its ownership, and work hard for its completion and protection.
In case of the CPEC, local people of Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan are systematically kept aloof from the projects. The local people see the CPEC as an alien project, which is imposed on them by force. These projects are programmed to enrich some Pakistanis and some Chinese. There is no agenda to empower the underprivileged people, especially those belonging to Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan.
Of course, the hidden agenda is to empower China by providing strategic and military edge. China, in return, will help Pakistan in many other ways, including protecting Pakistan’s strategic assets – militants groomed by Pakistan to advance Pakistan’s agenda in neighbouring countries.
Just for the information of readers, China uses its Veto power frequently in support of Pakistan in the UN Security Council. This Chinese Veto is available even to protect those who are perceived as terrorists by the UN and many other countries. On 29 September 2018, China has once again used its Veto to protect Molana Masood Azhar.
Molana Masood Azhar a wanted man. His Jaish e Mohammed, a militant group is included in the UN’s list of a ‘banned terrorist organisation’. Jaish e Mohammed is accused of committing many ‘terrorist attacks’ in India, among them is attack on the ‘Uri military base in Kashmir in 2016, where 17 security personnel were killed. China has time and again blocked India’s move, which was backed by the US, Britan and France, to designate Masood a terrorist under the Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council’. 14
One can see China and Pakistan have a lot in common. What concerns me, and many others is that what suits Beijing and Islamabad do not suit people of Gilgit Baltistan and people of Balochistan.
Economic growth is related to obtaining a sustained growth of income per capita, which can enable a country to provide good education, good health, security and prosperity to its people. The growth which the CPEC may provide is not designed to do that. This economic growth will only empower the rich people, and will surely increase the exiting disparity in the society. Most of the wealth in Pakistan is in hands of a tiny minority, and the ordinary people suffer and will continue to suffer with the existing policies.
It is believed that many people from Punjab and the establishment will usurp maximum benefits from the CPEC. It is also possible that some new real estate tycoons may emerge. However, a question one should ask: will that benefit the ordinary people of Pakistan?
With the CPEC, suffering of the people of Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan will increase; and some leaders even claim with evidence that they are facing more human rights abuses now than what was there before the CPEC started. There are widespread human rights violations taking place in these both regions. Even right of expression and political activities are not permitted; and those who speak out, they are treated as anti-Pakistan and traitors.
Sentiments of the people of Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan are totally ignored. All mega projects are started against the wishes of the people, and without consulting them or seeking their consent.
Before the CPEC, the Pakistani secret agencies, army and political elite controlled Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan. Now, thanks to the CPEC, people of these regions have to put up with the designs and secret agencies of China as well. The Chinese want to ensure that their investment and personnel are safe. Under pretext of saving their interests, Beijing knows how to crush people and their genuine aspirations.
The Reko Dekh Copper and Gold mine holds one of the largest mineral resources in the world. Its estimated reserves are $500 billion, which is around 10 times larger than all the CPEC projects. Have local people benefitted from these natural resources in any shape or form; or have they been taken in to confidence or even kept informed about developments.
Same is the case with the Saindak Copper Project. It is not appropriate, and space also does not permit me to explain in details what happened to these projects. However, it adequately helps us to reach this conclusion that if the local people do not benefit from the local resources, then it will be foolish to expect that the rulers of Pakistan will help people of Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan with the Chinese money borrowed on interest.
The following data will give some insight to what are grievances of the people of Balochistan.
According to growth rates for 2014-15, the Pakistani GDP was $271
Contribution of Punjab $162 Balochistan $8.6
Income per capita for Pakistan: 1,440
Income per Capita for Punjab: 1472 For Balochistan: 925
Annual growth rate for Pakistan 4.4%
Contribution of Punjab: 4.1% Balochistan: 2.5%
Multidimensional Poverty Index for Pakistan 19.7%
For Punjab: 15.1% Balochistan: 39.4%
Child Mortality under 5 per 1000 live births for Pakistan is 89%
For Punjab: 103 For Balochistan: 112
Maternal Mortality Rate Per 100,000 live birth in Pakistan 178.
For Punjab: 189 For Balochistan 785
Immunisation for Pakistan: 54%
For Punjab: 65% For Balochistan 16% 15
1. This seminar was held in Geneva during UN Human Rights Council’s 39th Session on 19th September 2018. After the seminar, I had an opportunity to interview Professor Naela Qadri Baloch.
4. Interview with Mama Qadeer Baloch in Geneva on 20 September 2018
5. Interview with Karima Baloch in Geneva on 20 September 2018.
6. Speech of Mama Qadeer Baloch on 21 September 2018 in Geneva.