CPEC as an internal threat to Pak
A senior Pak lawyer has approached their supreme court to stop sale of land on propriety rights to Chinese nationals on grounds of the CPEC. He has claimed in his petition that Chinese citizens have been granted relaxations and have been acquiring land on the pretext of CPEC and its co-related projects. This action violates the sovereignty of Pak as foreign nationals acquire Pak property. He also stated the duplicity followed by the Chinese who were being granted visa without any preconditions to visit Pak, while Pak businessmen faced hurdles when they desired to visit China.
As per the lawyer, locals of Pak had begun comparing the CPEC to the British East India Company, which led to British occupation of India. He even questioned the agreement stating it had many flaws and was one-sided. This petition comes on the heels of the Pak government requesting the Supreme Court not to issue stay orders in respect of CPEC projects, based on a Chinese request.
Pak has presently been sucked too deep into the CPEC to withdraw without being stuck with payments beyond their means. This has been common for all nations which have fallen into the Chinese debt trap. Sri Lanka has even ordered an internal inquiry into why the nation has invested in projects which have been a failure, leaving the nation deep in debt. Pak, which has always supported the CPEC, claiming it to be a miracle for the nation, may in the years ahead, post falling into the debt trap, follow suit and those presently in power, blamed for leading the nation down the hill.
For Pak, the CPEC was doomed to fail. The agreements ensured all construction was to be done by Chinese companies employing Chinese labour. Gwadar is a sole Chinese financed and operated entity. Its power projects are Chinese owned and run. Pak is to pay back by collecting dues which the Chinese fix. In South Asia, large quantum of electricity is stolen and unaccounted for. Pak is no better. Thus, it would be the state which would pay the burden.
Pak would have gained some revenue from Chinese vehicles operating along the CPEC, but that move has been blocked by China. Gwadar earnings would be 90% to China and 10% to Pak. Thus, for Pak to muster annual payments appears to be a dream. Pak has now begun to realize that it is now moving deeper into Chinese control.
The recent decision by Pak to stall signing the second phase of the free trade agreement and the cancelling of the Daimer-Basha dam project is a case in point. The free trade agreement was delayed based on protests by the business community which realized that the industry would be severely impacted, and the dam cancelled due to hyper strict conditions being imposed by China.
With no other nation in the region joining the BRI, there would not be any additional revenue generation for Pak, assisting in its repayment. Thus, Pak would need to generate funds from within to pay back China, which in its present economic state appears difficult. Pak would soon face a new East India company, albeit with a different name.
The Pak public has begun to realize that its leaders, both political and military have led Pak into becoming a Chinese colony, in every sense. This court case is the first, others would follow, and the reality would soon begin to dawn. However, neither the courts nor the public would be able to change the situation in any way. Stopping further sale of land or preventing further investments would only add to Pak’s burden. The nation has low foreign exchange reserves, leading to a bailout being offered by the UAE.
China on the other hand refused to advance any further loans to Pak, pushing it deeper into crises. It is exploiting the current turmoil in Pak. By supporting the army with military hardware and technology to counter their obsession with India, as also backing it in international forums by preventing the UN from designating their strategic assets like Masood Azar being termed international terrorists, it has ensured minimum criticism from within. Since it has army backing, very few can afford to challenge its plans.
The Pak supreme court and army have been working hand in glove, as the permanent ouster of Nawaz Sharif has shown. Hence, if the army backs the CPEC, the court, despite knowing that the nation is being taken for a ride, would have no alternative but to follow the army diktat.
China awaits Pak’s failure to repay, before it begins seeking strategic assets and untapped mineral wealth in Baluchistan in lieu. The day it does so, Baluchistan would explode in flames, as the PTM movement indicates. It has played its cards well, now it would await the fruits of its plans from a nation which it has devoured like the East India Company did to India.