‘Headless’ CPEC takes Pakistan on the edge of the abyss

CHINA-PAKISTAN-CPEC.jpg

‘Headless’ CPEC takes Pakistan on the edge of the abyss

Labeled as a 'game changer' by the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is rapidly tumbling even as the ruling government continues to bat on the front foot claiming that all the projects under CPEC are successfully advancing towards completion. Pakistan's leading daily <em>Dawn</em> reported Wednesday that the government has told a parliamentary panel that there was "no CPEC chairman at present" as members of the National Assembly had challenged the legal status of the defunct agency and the functioning of its top management. As discussion started on the 'The China Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2020' during a meeting of the standing committee, Member of National Assembly (MNA) Syed Agha Rafiullah inquired as to who was chairman of the CPEC Authority. "No one," responded Planning and Development Secretary Mathar Niaz Rana," the newspaper reported. The revelation has kicked up a political storm as the opposition believes that in spite of the denial, retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, who is facing massive corruption charges and had earlier stepped down as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, continues to call the shots in the authority and draw all perks and privileges. In what turned out to be a huge embarrassment for the Pakistan, Khan was discussing CPEC and 'all-weather strategic cooperative partnership' with Nong Rong, the newly appointed Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, at the same time yesterday. <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Mr. Nong Rong, the new Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan called on Prime Minister <a href="https://twitter.com/ImranKhanPTI?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ImranKhanPTI</a>.<br><br>The Prime Minister congratulated the Ambassador on his appointment and extended best wishes for a fruitful term. <a href="https://t.co/yZKlhMuxxJ">pic.twitter.com/yZKlhMuxxJ</a></p>&mdash; Prime Minister&#39;s Office, Pakistan (@PakPMO) <a href="https://twitter.com/PakPMO/status/1326515899294228481?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 11, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> It is though not the first occasion that CPEC, always in the news for wrong reasons, has courted controversy. An essential component of Chinese President Xi Jinping's expansionist strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - often also referred to as China's New Silk Road - CPEC has not only wreaked havoc into people's lives from Gilgit in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to Gwadar in Balochistan but also made Pakistan the largest debtor of China currently. "Countries in this part of the world which have signed on to the Belt and Road projects have found Beijing's deals come not with strings attached, but with shackles," United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said famously during a visit to New Delhi, last year. [caption id="attachment_22123" align="alignnone" width="1024"]<img class="wp-image-22123 size-large" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/CPEC-Gwadar-1024x768.jpg" alt="China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)" width="1024" height="768" /> A view of Gwadar Port in southwest Pakistan (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)[/caption] A few months ago, Alice G. Wells, the outgoing US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs, had also made some scathing observations on CPEC. "I've enumerated my concerns and the United States Government's concerns over CPEC — over the lack of transparency involved in the projects, over the unfair rates of profit that are guaranteed to Chinese parastatal organizations, to the distortions that it's caused in the Pakistan economy, including by the massive imbalance in trade that Pakistan now has with China," she told journalists during her farewell video conference. Already reeling under severe crisis and the 'step-motherly' treatment meted out by the Pakistani authorities for decades, lakhs of Pakistanis, especially from the minority communities, have been dealt a knockout punch by the CPEC. Chanting slogans like "<em>Neelum-Jhelum behne do, humein zinda rehne do</em>" (let Neelum Jhelum rivers flow, let us stay alive), residents of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) are holding massive rallies almost every day to protest against the huge Chinese presence in their area, massive construction of dams, and river diversions which threatens their very existence. Down south, people of mineral-rich Balochistan province are also questioning the legitimacy and promised benefits of CPEC - that is, if they survive the execution by 'death squads' outsourced by the Pakistan Army and intelligence agencies to kill, abduct, and terrorize the locals. It hasn't affected the corrupt politicians of Pakistan a bit though. Backed by them, China continues to push its agenda aggressively in the country through CPEC and also in 137 other BRI partner nations via similar agreements and projects. "China firmly supports the building of CPEC. We will continue working with Pakistan to implement our leaders' consensus, further focusing on cooperation in areas like social welfare, industries and agriculture while advancing existing projects, and forging the CPEC into a demonstration program for quality BRI cooperation that brings more benefits to people in China, Pakistan and the whole region," said Wang Wenbin, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, last week. Maybe the people who are saying their country has turned into a 'Chinese Colony' after the Imran Khan government has 'sold' their land are just too blind to see the "concrete contribution" that CPEC has made to the national development of Pakistan as Beijing continues to claim!.