CPEC and Balochistan

Published December 12, 2018

THE cabinet of the provincial government of Balochistan is right to feel outraged at the findings of the Planning and Development Department’s CPEC-related cell, which show that the province has received a miniscule share of the total investment committed under the corridor’s bouquet of projects. And even those projects that were committed have seen no measurable progress over the past five years.

Not only that, two of the largest projects supposedly under the CPEC umbrella (Quetta Mass Transit and PAT feeder to Quetta water supply) are going to be financed by the provincial government’s own resources.

Take a look: The road out of Gwadar

It is worth recalling that Lahore’s Orange Line train was a high priority CPEC project. In fact, the findings of the CPEC cell, which spent weeks in the field and in poring through the paperwork to generate a snapshot of where the province stands in the overall execution of CPEC, are nothing short of scandalous.

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For example, none of the roads that are part of the so-called ‘western alignment’ have seen any work, whereas another set of roads — the N85 highway running from Gwadar to Panjgur to Quetta — has been shown on the CPEC website as part of the western alignment, even though it was never a part of the CPEC road system.

The findings also show that the power deficit of the province remains at 700MW, despite the additional power generation capacity that has come online around the country since the early harvest projects of CPEC were commissioned.

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All this and more should rightly be a source of extreme consternation for the provincial authorities, who now have an obligation to double down and make a special case for their province and its fair right to the resources that are bundled under CPEC.

Islamabad is abuzz with activity these days as the government prepares for the forthcoming 8th Joint Cooperation Committee meeting that will begin on Dec 20 in Beijing. This is the time for the provincial authorities from Quetta to demand actual, measurable resources for the province.

Some argue that the province has low population density and therefore has lower entitlement to the country’s resources. This argument may be correct up to a point, but the dismally low allocations for Balochistan cannot be justified in this way.

The provincial authorities now need to take their grievances to Islamabad, and ensure that they are programmed properly into whatever agenda the government will be carrying to Beijing next week.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018

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