Baloch nationalists are taking their protests against the CPEC to the global stage. And the first stop is at Berlin on Aug 11. The balochis are gripped by two concerns- danger to the demographic profile of Balochistan and the possibility of Balochis becoming a minority on their own home turf
As the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is gaining speed, more discordant voices are coming up in public domain across Pakistan, to the dismay of the political and military leadership of the country.
After independent economists and analysts, now it is the turn of Baloch nationalists to voice their concern that instead of bringing in prosperity to Pakistan, CPEC will only benefit the Dragon while ruining the fragile Baloch economy.
Baloch’s main fear is population influx under CPEC.
As CPEC gets implemented, there is a fear of a massive inflow into Balochistan of migrants from different areas of Pakistan. It will change the demography of Balochistan and reduce the Baloch people to a permanent minority on their own home turf, says a media report quoting exiled Baloch leaders, who are gathering in Berlin on Aug 11 to take their anti-CPEC protest to the global level.
Bulk of the CPEC activity will be centred around Gwadar, the sea port that China has built and is managing as its first outpost on the Arabian coast of Pakistan. The port activity is pump primed by military infrastructure, which is being readied on a priority basis.
The Berlin show billed as “China’s One Belt One Road Initiative – Its adverse impact on Balochistan & the region”, is a venture of the European branch of Balochistan National Movement (BNM), a Baloch nationalist political group.
Hammal Haider, its foreign secretary said “The purpose of the Berlin conference is to engage scholars from around the world to have a candid debate on China’s OBOR initiative. We (BNM) believe OBOR and its related projects not only affect Balochistan but also other nations in the world.
“In this situation, I think, it’s high time we work with other nations and countries who also oppose OBOR / CPEC”, Haider told an Indian news agency, and added that the BNM has invited experts, analysts, journalists, economists, civil society actors and policy makers to discuss the impact of economic corridor.
His colleague, Ghaffar Baloch, who is also BNM Germany President has this to say: “CPEC is no way an economic project. Its purpose is to strengthen Pakistan- China military supremacy in the region which we believe will undermine the stability of the region.
Both Haider and Ghaffar as also many other Baloch leaders are concerned that under the garb of providing security to Chinese engineers and workers, Pakistan is raising special security groups and intensifying army operations in Balochistan.
Editorially commenting on CPEC, Hindustan Times (HT), has brought into sharp focus the flipside the corridor for Pakistan. And cautioned that with benefits seem to be accruing solely on Beijing’s side of the ledger, as the CPEC expands and develops, Pakistan’s fairy tale may slowly metamorphose into a horror movie.”
Excerpts from the HT edit (Aug 4, 2017):
“There is a fairy tale story that says Islamabad, following the yellow bricks of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), will find prosperity in the embrace of Beijing. The plot line says Chinese funds will flow into Pakistan and help modernise the latter’s infrastructure; this in turn will usher in a boom period for Pakistan’s domestic economy, part of which will derive from an ability to export more.
While Pakistan’s external debt and even current account deficit may rise sharply initially as it sucks in Chinese capital and machinery, this will all be capacity-building investment and will provide future returns that will more than compensate for the original pay-out.
Trade figures for the first half of 2016 show that Chinese imports into Pakistan have surged by nearly 30%. This reflects a huge surge in power-generating material, construction and mining equipment and agricultural machinery – more or less what would be expected going by the above script.
However, there has also been an 8% drop in Pakistan’s exports to China – a surprise given the improving transport links between the two countries.
Islamabad has publicly blamed barriers to Pakistani exports that Beijing has put in place and a free trade agreement that is tilted against Pakistan, throwing into question Beijing’s motives in building the corridor.
The Chinese imports have contributed to a surge in Pakistan’s trade deficit: This rose 77.34% in March, year on year. Worse, Pakistan’s current account deficit widened a staggering 121% between July last year and February.
Pakistan is heading for a current account deficit, as a percentage of GDP, about double that of India’s.
The deficit is also remarkable given the supposed billions of dollars of Chinese investment that was supposed to come into the country with the corridor. In fact, FDI into Pakistan during that same eight-month period was less than $1.3 billion, underlining how much of the corridor is being financed by debt or by intra-Chinese transfers.
Some Pakistani economists are already fretting about what this could mean.
Estimates show Pakistan will have to pay $90 billion back to China over the next 30 years because of the corridor. This is not impossible, so long as Pakistan attracts capital and exports more during that time. The present export and FDI figures, however, show no evidence of this happening.
So far, the benefits seem to be accruing solely on Beijing’s side of the ledger. If this trend continues as the CPEC expands and develops, Pakistan’s fairy tale may slowly metamorphose into a horror movie.”
– POREG Team