Saturday, 31 December 2016
Under the Guise of Public Safety, China Demolishes Thousands of Mosques
Map showing the location of Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
The Chinese government has destroyed thousands of mosques over the past three months in the restive Xinjiang region in Beijing’s latest attempt to “rectify” the largely Muslim population there, RFA’s Uyghur Service has learned.
Under the “Mosque Rectification” campaign launched by the Chinese Central Ethnic-Religious Affairs Department and overseen by the local police, the mosques were demolished as a way to sort out dilapidated buildings that allegedly posed a safety threat for worshippers in the Uyghur Autonomous Region, officials told RFA.
“Convincing the people that one of the purposes for demolishing the mosques was for the safety of the worshipers was a bit difficult,” said Eysajan Yaqup, a police officer in Toqquzaq township. “Some of them laughed at us when we explained the purpose, and some of them stared at us to show their disagreement.”
Eysajan Yaqup said he and other officials ignored the laughter and the stares and “most of the prayers were silenced.”
“We successfully completed our duty within three months,” he said.
China estimates that it is home to 23 million Muslims, although some independent sources claim as many as 50 million Muslims live in the country.
Beijing blames Uyghur extremists for a string of violent attacks and clashes in recent years. But critics say the government has exaggerated the threat from the Uyghurs, and that repressive domestic policies are responsible for violence that has left hundreds dead since 2009.
China has vowed to crack down on what it calls religious extremism in Xinjiang, and regularly conducts "strike hard” campaigns that include random, nighttime police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people, including clothing and personal appearance.
The government also employs an army of religious affairs officials whose job it is to impose strict limits on all forms of religious worship, and to crack down on faith-based activities that haven't submitted to government regulation.
‘We demolished nearly 70 percent of mosques in the city.’
Officials in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) confirmed that a rectification campaign had been carried out in the city, saying that most of mosques in Kashgar were demolished for the purpose of ensuring stability and protecting the safety of the Muslims.
While government officials refused to say how many mosques were demolished, an investigation by RFA’s Uyghur Service indicated that around 5,000 mosques were destroyed over the three months of the campaign.
RFA listener Abduraxman Abdurehim, a Uyghur refugee living in Turkey, said villagers from his home town told him that that 70 percent of the mosques in Lenger township were demolished in the campaign
His account was backed up by local officials and villagers in Kashgar, Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) and Asku (in Chinese, Akesu).
While other listeners told RFA the rectification campaign encompassed the entire region, RFA was only able to independently confirm the destruction of mosques in those three areas.
Wang Jingfu, head of Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee in Kashgar City, told RFA that the government was acting out of safety concerns because many of the mosques were antiquated.
“We launched the rectification campaign with the purpose of protecting the safety of the worshippers because all the mosques were too old,” he said. “We demolished nearly 70 percent of mosques in the city, because there were more than enough mosques and some were unnecessary.”
‘It’s all just a slogan’
Hajim Yusup, the deputy police chief in Toqquzaq county’s Mush township said 46 of the 65 mosques in his town were demolished.
“The demolition was carried out and organized by the Ethnic and Religious Committee of the county, we just watched in case there was any opposition,” he said. “Fortunately, almost nothing happened in our township during the campaign.”
The deputy committee chief, who said his name is Ghulamidin, told RFA that government officials explained to religious leaders and residents why the mosques needed to be destroyed.
“Before we launched the campaign, we went to villages in the city and conducted a conversation with religious figures and residents to patiently explain the importance of the rectification campaign,” he said. “The residents agreed to the order issued by central government, I believe we did nothing wrong in this campaign.”
The residents may have agreed, but they weren’t fooled by the reason behind the campaign.
“Rectifying or standardizing, it’s all just a slogan,” said the teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The truth is it is a demolishing.”
To the teacher the rectification campaign is all part of Beijing’s attempts to subjugate the Uyghur population.
“It is part of the campaign to eliminate so-called religious extremism,” the teacher said. “First the authorities jailed all the young men who could oppose such a policy with the strike-hard campaign that started May 2014, then the authorities implemented new rules to punish rumor spreaders and now this campaign to demolish mosques.”
Reported and translated by Shohret Hoshur for RFA's Uyghur Service. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.
Friday, 30 December 2016
By Shahbaz Rana December 30, 2016
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China on Thursday decided to make water security a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework amid threats by India to review its position on the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty.
The decision to exploit full hydel potential of Pakistan was taken during the sixth meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of the CPEC which was held in Beijing. The JCC is the highest policy making forum of the CPEC.
The JCC also decided, in principle, to make the mass transit projects of all four provinces part of the CPEC. These projects will be formally made part of the CPEC after their financial and technical vetting by Working Group on Transport in February next year.
For development of hydroelectric projects on the Indus River, particularly construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam, the JCC on Thursday constituted a group, said Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal after the meeting. The planning ministry released the video of his statement.
“Pakistan may face a very severe water crisis and for economic and food security of the country, the immediate construction of Diamer-Bhasha is crucial,” he said. If the Diamer-Bhasha dam becomes part of the CPEC, it will be a landmark achievement, he added.
For more than two decades, Pakistan has been trying to construct the Diamer-Bhasha dam that has an estimated cost of $14 billion. Due to opposition by India, both the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have refused to lend money under one pretext or another.
After the rise in tensions along the Line of Control (LoC) in recent months, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had threatened to cut Pakistan’s water supply. He has managed to influence the WB that recently paused the process of playing mediator, which it is bound to play under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, according to experts on the accord. Chinese help to secure Pakistan’s water rights will be seen as a major development, according to them.
The Indus River is a source of more than 17 gigawatts of hydropower capacity in India and Pakistan and feeds the Indus Basin Irrigation System, the largest contiguous irrigation network in the world. Pakistan is particularly dependent on the Indus, as more than 90% of its agricultural production comes from this basin.
Ahsan Iqbal said that the sixth JCC has taken the CPEC to the next level, which will ensure Pakistan’s industrialisation and inclusion of all the provinces.
The minister said that the JCC approved to make mass transit projects of four provinces part of the CPEC framework. He said that these projects are Orange Line metro project Lahore, Karachi Circular Railway, Peshawar Greater Circular Railway and Quetta Circular Railway.
Their inclusion in the CPEC will ensure huge tax exemptions and availability of finances for execution. The inclusion of these projects into CPEC is a gift for the people of provincial capitals, said the planning minister.
The planning minister said that the JCC approved to construct one industrial park in each province, Islamabad Capital Territory and in special areas of the country. He said that the Chinese experts would visit Pakistan in February to review their feasibility. The JCC also approved to make three more infrastructure projects part of the CPEC. These are Dera Ismail Kha-Zhob road project, Baseema-Khuzdar road project and a missing link of the Karakoram Highway project.
The minister said the JCC also decided to start construction work on Matiari-Lahore Transmission Line project. He said the new projects that the provinces had proposed for inclusion into the CPEC have been recommended to the respective working groups for their financial and technical evaluations.
He said it has also been agreed that the Gwadar City Master plan will be completed within one year. The minister said that China also agreed to transfer knowledge in five areas, including water resources management, urban development, small and medium sized industries and climate change.
The Peshawar circular rail project has been accepted as part of the CPEC and the working group will approve it in next meeting, said K-P Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak after the JCC meeting. Khattak went to Beijing to attend the meeting. He said that K-P’s projects would be approved in February next year. He added that the JCC approved to make one industrial park part of the CPEC while two more will be approved next year.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2016.
Wednesday, 28 December 2016
Balochistan war, Pakistan accused over 1,000 dumped bodies
Nearly 1,000 dead bodies of political activists and suspected armed separatists have been found in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province over the past six years.
Activists say the figures, obtained from the human rights ministry by BBC Urdu, point to large-scale extrajudicial killings.
Relatives say most victims had been picked up by security agencies.
The government blames the dumped bodies on infighting among insurgent groups.
Thousands of people have disappeared without trace in Balochistan since a separatist insurgency gained momentum in 2007.
A military-led operation was launched in early 2005 aimed at wiping out the uprising by ethnic Baloch groups, who are fighting for a greater share of the province's resources.
According to the Federal Ministry of Human Rights, at least 936 dead bodies have been found in Balochistan since 2011.
Most of them were dumped in the regions of Quetta, Qalat, Khuzdar and Makran - areas where the separatist insurgency has its roots.
One of the more prominent cases of "kill-and-dump" is that of Jalil Reki, a political activist who lived in the Saryab neighbourhood of Quetta.
He was arrested at his residence in 2009, and his body was found two years later in the Mand area near the Iranian border, some 1,100km (680 miles) south of Quetta.
"They came to our house in three vehicles. These were the vehicles of agencies. They took away Jalil," his mother told the BBC.
"The police did not take our report. Our male relatives later approached the then chief minister's office, but we could not get any response.
"Two years later some people found his body in Mand. He had one bullet in the head and three in the chest. His arms were fractured and there were cigarette burns on his back."
Relatives of the victims believe the number may be higher.
The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) says it has recorded 1,200 cases of dumped bodies and there are many more it has not been able to document.
Nasrullah Baloch, the head of VBMP, told the BBC most of the bodies "are of those activists who have been victims of 'enforced disappearances' - people who are picked up by authorities and then just go missing."
His allegations chime with an independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report in 2013 that noted "credible reports of continued serious human rights violations, including [enforced] disappearances of people, arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings".
'Feuds and crime'
Provincial government spokesman Anwarul Haq Kakar denied that state agencies were involved in such acts.
"There are several explanations. Sometimes insurgents are killed in a gunfight with law enforcement agencies but their bodies are found later," he said.
"Militant groups also fight among each other and don't bury their dead fighters. Then there are tribal feuds, organised crime and drug mafia."
There have been frequent protests by relatives of the victims and Baloch nationalist organisations over the years, while many have fled to foreign countries or safer locations within Pakistan.
Naveed Baloch, who was briefly held by the German police for the 19 December truck killings in Berlin, left Pakistan in February to "escape persecution" in his village in Mand region.
An activist of a nationalist party, he was arrested and tortured by Pakistani forces in Balochistan last year, and more recently his home in the village was raided again, his cousin, also called Naveed Baloch, told BBC Urdu.
Tuesday, 27 December 2016
Acknowledgment – I am not alone, my dear
Within a few minutes of making public my resignation from Kashmir National Party, I received a phone call from my eldest daughter. “What is this dad”? She asked rather angrily.
“Yes, I have resigned, dear”. I replied.
“But why”? She protested. “You have worked hard for more than 40 years for united and independent Jammu and Kashmir; and to have a democratic society there. You worked extremely hard to establish this party, and neglected your family and friends. Why have you resigned? Does it mean you are alone now”? I could see anger and anxiety in her voice.
She paused for a second and asserted: “Dad, I know your struggle is a just one. You are fighting for fundamental rights of all citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. You are fighting forces of extremism, violence and religious intolerance. If no one stands with you in this struggle, I will stand with you because I know you are extremely honest and sincere with your struggle.”
I was really moved by this candid expression of emotions and support. I said thank you very much for this support, but I am not alone, my dear. My Allah is with me. My family is with me. Even KNP is with me; and there are thousands of others who support my ideals are with me. I have resigned to save skin of my colleagues in Pakistani Administered Jammu and Kashmir. I didn’t want anyone to become a victim of the Pakistani establishment which abhor my struggle.
After resignation, I am a free man. I am not under any constraints; and I have no obligation to any party or any organisation. As a free man and a free thinker, I can say what I think is right without fearing any reprisals for my vulnerable KNP colleagues. I will do everything what should be done to protect and promote interests of all citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
I further said, party is only a vehicle to propagate a policy or to educate people; and when the vehicle in hand is not suitable for the future journey in mind then it is only appropriate to change the vehicle and that is what I have done. I will continue my struggle as a Chairman of South Asia Watch, London.
I have liberated myself from the bounds of a party discipline. Those who perhaps wanted me to leave the KNP thinking that they are politically alienating me didn’t know that inadvertently they have made me stronger. Previously due to party and political rivalries people were not forthcoming in support; now I as a free man can muster support from all the parties and individuals. I and South Asia Watch, London are not confined to one political party.
After listening to my long reply my daughter said, “Dad, as you know, I am too busy with work as my firm (law firm) is doing really well, but you will always have my full support in your struggle.”
Apart from her, my wife who have always stood with me through thick and thin, my two other daughters and my two sons of law have always supported me. However, they all expressed concern over my deteriorating health and urged me to slow down with the pace of my work and give health some attention.
I am grateful to Almighty for having such dedicated and sincere people around me. May Allah SWT bless them all?
Apart from that I want to thank all my colleagues in Kashmir National Party, and appreciate help and support they have extended to me during difficult time. I have learnt a great deal from people like Abbas Butt, Zubair Ansari, Asim Mirza, Nawaz Majeed, Sarwar Hussain and Afzal Suleria etc.
Other than that, I want to thank Shaukat Kashmiri and his party UKPNP for always respecting my struggle, or more appropriately our struggle, and encouraging me and supporting me at every level. In particular, I want to thank Nasir Aziz, Jamil Maqsood, Usman Kiani, Amjad Yousaf and many others.
Professor Ejaz Pracha, President of Friends of Jammu and Kashmir, Mahmood Kashmiri, Chairman of Jammu Kashmir National Independent Alliance and Najib Afsar, Chief Coordinator Jammu Kashmir Liberation Council; and many dozens of individuals and party officials, Muslims and non Muslims deserve appreciation, and I am indebted to all of them for their unreserved support.
I want to say thank you for what you have done for me in the past. My struggle has not ended. I will need more support in future, as the struggle has to continue against forces of occupation, oppression, extremism, violence and terrorism, not for my sake but for the sake of a better future of our next generation, for unification of our motherland; and for peace and stability of the region.
Dr Shabir Choudhry
Chairman, South Asia Watch, London.
27 December 2016.
Sunday, 25 December 2016
CPEC is a classical googly can turn either way, Dr Shabir Choudhry
25 December 2016
One Pakistani sums up the CPEC with the following comment: ‘CPEC appears to be a risky game changer - a classical googly and one need to wait to see which way it turns after bouncing.
The above comment makes a lot of sense for those who have studied the CPEC and have logically analysed it. My article is also for people with common sense; and not for those who observe things with prism of religion and who are emotionally charged.
Before you accuse me of opposing CPEC, I want to assert that no sensible citizen of Jammu and Kashmir is against Pakistan’s right to development because it is imperative for the progress and comfort of the society. However, we want Pakistan to treat others with compassion and care; and must abandon its policy of exploitation and plunder, especially in Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan Administered Kashmir.
Before moving forward, it is pertinent to quote what some Pakistanis say about the CPEC. Senator Tahir Mashhadi, Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development, while discussing issues related to the CPEC said:
“Another East India Company is in the offing; national interests are not being protected. We are proud of the friendship between Pakistan and China, but the interests of the state should come first.” 1
Some Pakistani leaders and political commentators think the CPEC is damaging the fragile federation of Pakistan because some provinces feel more benefits are being shifted to Punjab; and some provinces are being ignored. Some even fear that CPEC can become another East India Company which came as a trading company and eventually took over the entire undivided India. Senator Tahir Mashhadi feels this unfair treatment over benefits of CPEC can lead to serious threat to Pakistan. He said:
“We do not want the CPEC at the cost of the federation.” 2
Apart from that Jamat-I-Islami Emir Senator Sirajul Haq, while talking about the CPEC and deprivation of certain areas commented, ‘that like certain other parts of the country, Fata and AJK were also being neglected in the CPEC. “There is nothing for both areas in the CPEC,” he said and suggested that a 35km road (should be) built to link Muzaffarabad to the CPEC so that the people of AJK could also reap its benefits’. 3
Politics and relations among different nations revolve around common interests. This is why experts say there are no permanent friends or foes. Common interests bring people and countries closer to each other even when they live thousands of miles away.
China has initiated mega projects under One Belt One Road (OBOR), which will connect many countries between China and Europe by roads and rail networks. The OBOR project, once completed will connect more than sixty-five countries, which is approximately a third of the world’s total economy and more than half of the world population. The CPEC will complement other projects of OBOR. It will strengthen financial integration, trust, connectivity, cooperation and people to people contacts. It is interesting to note that out of sixty five plus countries, which will benefit from OBOR fifty seven are Muslim.
Costs of the CPEC
It needs to be understood that when the CPEC was initiated its cost was 45.6 billion US dollars; now it is projected to be 51.5 billion. Experts claim when CPEC is eventually completed the total cost could well be above 70 billion dollars. Both China and Pakistan have signed 51 MOUs. The CPEC won’t complete in 2018 as generally understood; however the Government of Pakistan is strenuously working to complete some projects before the next general elections to win the elections by showing its economic recovery and development plans.
When working out the costs of the CPEC people conveniently forget other costs like rupee depreciation against dollar, costs like security which has to be foolproof for the completion of the project and its smooth running, acute water shortage in Gwadar and environmental damage etc. This cost could also be in billions; but those who in charge of the CPEC do not care as loans will be paid back by Pakistani people.
People of Pakistan need to understand that China is not investing 51.6 billion US dollars because they love Pakistan and Islam. They clearly have their own agenda. Michael Kugelman, a senior associate at the Washington DC based Woodrow Wilson Centre said:
“China is not building the corridor as an act of charity for Pakistan. It will happily fund and build any structure that plays into this goal – whether we’re talking about roads or ports”.
For early completion of some projects to reap political benefits the government selfishly agreed to pay high interest rates for ‘early harvest’ projects. In return the Chinese agreed to provide 28 billion dollars under early harvest projects; out of which 19 billion is in the form of foreign direct investment with ‘debt service terms are 7pc to 8pc with many of them pegged to six-month Libor and include Sinosure, which is the fee for reinsurance of all loans that Chinese banks require all foreign borrowers to have’.4
It must be noted that interest on loan from World Bank and International Monetary Fund is generally around 0.5% and Pakistan, at times, have to borrow more money to pay instalments on the original loan. So question arises how Pakistan will manage to pay instalments of commercial loan with 7% interest; especially when the economic production is down, exports are down and money from Pakistani and Kashmiri Diaspora is also declining considerably?
It must be pointed out here that India is also building a mega project called Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor with help of Japan. The project includes building of infrastructure, smart cities and towns; and Japanese government is providing 43 billion dollars, which is 45% amount of the project. Unlike Pakistan, India doesn’t sing laurels for Japan that their friendship is higher than Himalayas and sweeter than honey; and still India got this loan from Japan at the interest rate of 0.25%. Pakistan with friendship sweeter than honey will be paying 7% interest to China with some hidden costs as well, as explained below.
With many of the projects under early harvest programme there is ‘a debt-to-equity ratio of around 80:20, or in some cases 75:25. And in most cases, return on equity (ROE) is guaranteed at either 17pc or 20pc’.
Khurram Hussain in his article in Dawn writes: ‘If $19bn is coming in as investment on commercial terms, and 80pc of that is debt with the remaining as equity, what is the size of the outflow as debt service and return on equity that we can discern? The debt service outflows will be about $1bn and the return on equity will be $646 million if it is kept at 17pc. Add to that $1.9bn as repayment of principal. That means an annual net outflow of $3.546bn per year once commercial operations begin’. 5
In order to properly understand how much is $3.546 billion dollars, one need to compare it with ‘last fiscal year’s figures, when interest payments on external debt were $2.1bn, and income (for foreigners) from investments in Pakistan was $3.2bn’. What that means is Pakistan’s total interest outflow on government borrowing alone was $1.1billion US dollars in fiscal year 2016. 6
As pointed above, apart from CPEC related loans, the government has other loan commitments which must also be honoured; and both loans will surely place heavy burden on foreign exchange reserves. If CPEC projects are not completed and run professionally then what Pakistan can have is herd of white elephants, which could prove to be disastrous to the economy and country’s standing. One must not forget how PIA and Steel Mill have been run in Pakistan.
Chinese money cannot bring success
Pakistanis need to do a bit of research before they sleep walk on to the CPEC bandwagon. Not all countries have benefitted from the Chinese supported projects; however China has benefited from all the projects. I won’t go in to details of what happened to African countries who borrowed heavily from China, I will just give an example from Pakistan’s friendly country Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka also had a dream to establish a port like Gwadar, Hambantota; and they made similar arrangements with China, just like Pakistan did over the CPEC. Borrowing money and establishing a project is perhaps the easy part; one million dollar question is, has the borrowing government capacity and skills to manage the project and pay off the high interest loan instalments.
Hambantota was a small port town without much economic activity. When Mahindra Rajapaksa was elected President of Sri Lanka, he envisaged a grand plan to boost his home town Hambantota. His plans included a deep sea port, an airport of international standard, a cricket stadium, an LNG plant, tourist resorts and an industrial zone. 7
It was not possible for the Sri Lankan government to provide funds required for the projects, so China was requested to fund 8 billion soft loans. The projects were successfully completed; and situation after the completion is that the Mattala airport in Hambantota is almost idle – hardly two flights a day, Cricket stadium and conference centres are just as new because they are rarely used.
The business activity at the port and the industrial state is less than satisfactory because they are hardly used. Although the infrastructure is in place, the users are not there that government can call it a success or earn revenue. Whether users come or not all the infrastructure requires maintenance which adds to the government expenditure.
Those projects which are designed with political considerations in mind rather than economic viability generally end up with the same fate as in Hambabtota. It was Rajapaksa’s home town and he thought with the Chinese money he would be able to boost his political position; but he lost the next elections. Irrespective of what happened to the man who got the loans, the people of Sri Lanka will have to pay back the loan.
If a member of another nationality is doing something and you caution him of its dangers, he will appreciate that and feel obliged. However, if a Pakistani is doing something, and you caution him of its dangers he will not appreciate that, and instead he will say who the hell are you to poke your nose in my matters; and can even start a fight with you.
So advising Pakistanis, especially government officials, is a risky business. However, despite that I always point out what wrong they are doing. While building my case on the CPEC, I will mainly rely on comments of Pakistanis, who can tell their fellow citizens what wrong they are doing; but I don’t have that liberty because I am not a Pakistani.
A Pakistani columnist Shahid Mehmood wrote in his article, Lesson from Sri Lanka: ‘Gwadar and the CPEC represent some interesting comparisons. Gwadar is an outpost in the middle of nowhere – a rural setting which lacks modern facilities. It is located in a province which is almost half the size of Pakistan but is sparsely populated. It is from this province that the main arteries of the CPEC will pass and it is in Gilgit-Baltistan where they will ultimately end. But both provinces lack the population density to initiate or sustain a business surge. Simply put, there are not enough customers or producers to make it a business metropolis which can attract business and freight transport from all around the world. 8
Another Pakistani critic of the CPEC, Basit Ali wrote:
‘A brother China is using the route to export its manufactured products, do you think it would encourage competition to that. Can anyone imagine China concluding a development project in China where all the manpower and supplies came from outside the country? 9
It must be pointed out that apart from cement; almost everything related to the CPEC is imported from China, which is good for the Chinese economy, especially when there were clear signs of slowing down. And the icing on the cake is that Pakistan will partly pay for the recovery of the Chinese economy, which is competing with America and other countries.
Those who are emotional with Pakistan - China relationship need to understand that the Chinese are shrewd business people; and they leave emotions at home when they go to business meetings. Their only motive is profit and a lot of it with strategic and defence of the country in mind. If China is a true friend of Pakistan, then they should provide a favourable market access to Pakistani industry rather than just build roads and railway tracks to transport its finished products to other markets of the world.
As things are, CPEC will increase Pakistan’s dependence on China; and in future Pakistan’s ability to negotiate deals will be substantially reduced. True friendship requires China to give loans at the same interest as Japan has given to India 0.25%; and not 7% which is exploitation of a vulnerable friend. Another Pakistani critic of the CPEC wrote:
‘Chinese friendship, sweeter than honey. Chinese interest on loan, higher than Himalayas. Pakistan economy, deeper than the deepest ocean in the world’. 10
Pakistanis must understand that CPEC is essentially a trade route with other projects which are necessary for the successful operation of the CPEC; and moreover, they are designed to consume Chinese products for the revival of the Chinese economy. Trade routes on their own do not empower the nations; if that was the case then Egypt would have been the richest and most powerful as it is controlling very vital trade route of Suez Canal with billions of dollars in revenue every year. Same could also be said about Panama Canal. Abdul Jabbar, a Pakistani critic of the CPEC says:
The world is run by those who use that route – not by those who collect the toll tax.
Another critic says: ‘Unfortunately, the Chinese are conducting daylight robbery of Pakistan. On paper, China is giving Pakistan billions but most of that money is going back to China in the form of payments to Chinese companies, Chinese exporters & Chinese labourers. China did the same thing in Sri Lanka where they built infrastructure, ports & airports which are barely used. The Sri Lankans have realized their mistake but now they owe billions to China. The CPEC is a trade route & if trade routes could make a country prosperous, Egypt would be an economic giant...I really don't understand how in the world will Pakistan pay off billions Chinese debt along with interest, a high ROE, dollar appreciation etc. by collecting tolls’. 11
Everyone in Pakistan is fed with false hope that the CPEC is a game changer and that it will bring prosperity to Pakistan and strengthen Pakistan’s economy. I wish if that was true. Prosperity doesn’t come by borrowing money with very high interest rate and by collecting toll money on a trade route which will be primarily used by China. Pakistani policy makers can only see dollars and they cannot see dangers and dark shadows moving towards their country and economy.
What little money they will make from the CPEC will be eaten away by security related facilities; and the Chinese goods will flood the Pakistani markets. So who will suffer? Those Pakistanis who complain that P in CPEC represents Punjab and not Pakistan have reasons for saying that because Punjab gets lion’s share in everything. Just look at the data below which gives details of the loans from Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited.
In simple English name of the loan provider is Agricultural Development Bank Limited; and it has provided the following loans:
· Loans for Punjabi farmers 81%;
· For Sindhi farmers 13.4%;
· For KPK farmers 4.2%;
· For Baloch farmers 0.3%;
· For farmers of Azad Jammu Kashmir 0.3%, and
· For farmers of Gilgit-Baltistan 0.4%. 12
If one complains or points out a wrong doing then that person is promoting regionalism and is anti Pakistan; and in some cases agent of India.
Good thing about the Chinese loans is that they don’t interfere in politics of the country, unless it becomes absolutely necessary and lives of their nationals are under threat, as was the case during Red Masjid crises in Islamabad. Loans from the US or European companies come attached with conditions to protect human or labour rights.
What this means is that with the Chinese loans Pakistan can continue to do what they are doing in Balochistan, FATA, Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and some other places of Pakistan; and China will not even raise an eye brow. In some cases, China will encourage Pakistan to be harsher with people in Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan that they don’t create any problems for the CPEC.
Chinese investment always has two objectives: short term and long term. The short term is trade and immediate profits, whether the project is economically viable or not, it is not their headache. The loan taking country has to repay the loans; and if they struggle to pay as is the case with the Sri Lanka, then the long term objective kicks in. The country concerned will gradually lose its sovereignty to China, as is the case with Sri Lanka which has lost sovereignty to massive tracts of land south of the port area. It is believed this area is under control of Chinese security and is a no go area even for Sri Lankan security forces. Sri Lanka cannot object how that territory is used because a new agreement was signed after Sri Lanka failed to repay the loans.
This is also the case in parts of Gilgit Baltistan which is illegally occupied by Pakistan, but Pakistan is generously giving it way to China. Pakistan gifted around 2000 sq miles of Shaksam Valley area to China. Apart from that there are large tracts of land in various parts of Gilgit Baltistan which are leased by the Chinese for exploration and they are under control of China for the duration of the lease; and are no go areas for Pakistanis and the local people who have lived there for centuries.
CPEC will link China with Europe through Central Asia and ensure a safe passage of China’s shipping through the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. CPEC is presented as an economic project, but it has great political strategic and military aspects as well; and that is a great cause of concern to those countries which have interests in Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
China has already started buying important assets of Pakistan, for example, they have just purchased 40% of the Pakistan Stock Exchange. Also they have expressed interest in buying a stake in a Pakistani cement company. Thinking people wonder what China will demand when Pakistan will be unable to pay off the high interest loan of billions?
Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Chairman South Asia Watch and Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:email@example.com
4. CPEC cost build up, Khurram Hussain, Dawn December 15th, 2016
9. Daily Dawn, 15/12/16 CPEC cost build up, Khurram Hussain, comments
12. Daily Times, Pakistan, 28 Nov 2016 - http://dailytimes.com.pk/islamabad/28-Nov-16/ztbl-loans-only-for-punjabi-farmers?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=socialnetwork