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CPEC: Game Changer or a Distant Dream?

If you ask someone in Pakistan if they know how to speak Chinese, likely, they will either laugh at you or tell you ‘Pak-China friendship Wang Woo,’ mean Pak-China friendship lives Long.

The song, which has been playing on Pakistani television for the past four decades, was composed in 1979 to celebrate the Karakoram Highway’s completion, the eighth wonder of the world, and was the only sign of a long-term commitment to China for the vast majority of our country.

Even after 37 years, the most prominent symbol of Pakistanis’ friendship with China is the road project, but now it is not the Karakoram Highway but the $ 56 billion Pak-China Economic Corridor, or CPEC.

Three years ago, when the PML-N won the May 2013 elections, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang was the first foreign leader to visit Pakistan.

In July 2013, his Pakistani counterpart, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, paid a reciprocal visit to China, reaching a landmark agreement that laid the groundwork for the CPEC project.

The two prime ministers signed eight memoranda of understanding and various agreements, including a 2,000-km road project from Kashgar to Gwadar.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan in April 2015 revealed details of CPEC-linked projects costing $ 46 billion. About $ 34 billion was earmarked for energy projects, while about ً 10 billion was earmarked for roads and transportation.

The Chinese President also addressed the National Assembly on occasion and termed CPEC as the bilateral relations hub.

With the approval of another $ 8 billion by October this year, CPEC has become a 55 billion project and is seen as a ‘game changer.’

Proponents of the government and the project claim that CPEC will not only change the country’s destiny but that the project will end poverty and terrorism in Pakistan, and it looks like milk and honey will flow.

But even three years after the launch of the project, CPEC is not receiving the unconditional public acceptance it received on the Karakoram Highway.

According to critics, the main reason for this is the government’s change in CPEC routes and non-transparent policies that ignore smaller provinces’ concerns and increase their sense of deprivation.

Senator Taj Haider, a leader of the Pakistan People’s Party and chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on CPEC, told a website that such government measures would weaken the federation.

“If there is balanced development in the whole country, then this project can unite the whole of Pakistan.” But it is now happening that the very plan that could unite the federation is weakening the federation.

One of the most talked-about issues in the CPEC controversy is the three-pronged approach.

The western route will reach Gwadar through the backward areas in the west of Pakistan, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

Main route: which will pass through the middle of the country to Gwadar

Eastern route: which will lead to Gwadar via Punjab and Sindh.

Roads comprising these three routes will pass through different parts of Pakistan and reach the port of Gwadar, but which of these roads will be built first? There is no consensus on this.

Ex Federal Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal has been saying for the last year that some people are criticizing the Pak-China Economic Corridor project as just a road.

In an interview with a website in April last year, he said: “There has not been an inch of change in the route of this project since day one. The impression is entirely wrong that there has been any change in CPEC’s routes or construction priorities.

On the other hand, Qaiser Bengali, a former adviser to the Balochistan government on economics and economics, told a website that he had not received a satisfactory answer from the planning ministry despite repeated questions about the route of the project.

Earlier, he had said that there was no change in the route. Then he said that the three will be together. He then said that the three would be made separately. The last answer was, why build a new route when there is an (eastern) route? ‘

The Senate Standing Committee on CPEC also criticized the government in a report, saying that the government had fulfilled the promises made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the all-party conference on CPEC in May 2015.

According to the report, the government’s position on the construction of the western route is that as the traffic flow there will increase, it will be constructed in a phased manner similar to the eastern route’s six-lane motorway.

However, the committee expressed concern that once the eastern route is completed, the chances of traffic passing through the western route will be nil as most of the country’s population, factories, and means of transportation are on the eastern road and therefore necessary. That the western highway would be built first as promised.

After Wang Wei, the Urdu and Chinese song “Ni Hao” will probably be linked to Pakistanis’ CPEC project.

The song was performed at a ceremony on November 12 in which Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the arrival of the first convoy of the CPEC project at the port of Gwadar.

Pak-China friendship songs were sung at the ceremony, and the term game-changer was used from time to time, but so far, the government has failed to satisfy the critics on the issue of transparency of such a big project.

Former Senator Sana Baloch raises why the provincial governments do not yet have any documents related to the project if it is in the national interest, including its short- and long-term benefits and the dealings with the Chinese government and Chinese companies.

Andrew Small, an analyst and author with a keen eye on Pakistan-China relations said that the government was only creating problems for itself by keeping the details of the CPEC secret.

“The lack of transparency regarding the CPEC project benefits those whose only job is to spread speculation against the CPEC project for their own purposes.

Besides, the way the government works is such that the provinces that are very sensitive to the CPEC issue have not been fully informed about the project’s route.

Senator Taj Haider also complained that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not agree to meet him despite the Standing Committee’s request on CPEC, and so far, the members of the Standing Committee have not been invited to the ceremonies held regarding CPEC.

“CPEC events aren’t called just because one of us might stand up and say, ‘Sir, this route was something else, and you’re saying something else.’

The question arises as to whether the project for which the government machinery is being fully utilized and the full attention of both the army and the government is focused on the project and when anyone questions the usefulness of CPEC Patriotism is in doubt, is this plan really a game-changer for the country’s integrity and a stable future?

According to Qaiser Bengali, the country’s destiny cannot change unless there is transparency in the project.

“The fact is that no one has any information about this project. This is not a province issue, but a “top secret” project. How can this be a game changer? That doesn’t mean anything is a game changer. “

Economist Khurram Hussain, who attended the arrival of CPEC’s first convoy, said CPEC is a long-term project, and its usefulness cannot be denied, but the way it works is being exaggerated in Pakistan is tantamount to a distant dream.

According to Khurram Hussain, if Pakistan is to change its destiny, it needs policy reforms without which no project can succeed ultimately.

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