By Farman Nawaz
The provincial assembly of KPK of Pakistan has adopted a resolution against the decision of the central government to change the multibillionaire route of proposed Kashghar – Gawadar trade road and advised the central government to stick to the same route as agreed upon between governments of Pakistan and China. The resolution states that it will be a sheer injustice with people of war-torn province.
The proposed change will divert the route from the province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and central Baluchistan to thickly populated and relatively developed areas of Punjab and Sindh. Few days back opposition senators of provinces KPK and Baluchistan staged a brief walkout from the Senate session in protest at the proposed change and warned “The initial route was proposed by China. If it is changed, the country will not remain united”. Though the central government tried to convince them by explaining an interim change in the trade route because of the possible threats but senator Haji Adeel of Awami National Party raised the question “Which part of the country does not have security issues?”
In March and December 2014 the national Dailies of Pakistan The Express Tribune and Dawn highlighted the protest of Baloch Senator Hamayoon Khan Mandokhail against the changes in the route of economic corridor from the provinces of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and Balochistan. The senator Mandokhail threatened to resign from Senate and said “we will not allow Baluchistan to be bypassed in everything”. In August 2013 a similar story was reported by The News about the Riko Diq project. Senator Sana Baloch has made this allegation: “deals in the name of brotherly relations have deprived the people of Balochistan of any benefits they can get from these resources.”
Though these voices are heard in Pakistani and Chinese media but bear no results. Here in Pakistan the opposing voices which only insist on the original trade route plan are labeled as propaganda of vested interests to make the strategic project controversial. But the fact is that proposed route change will affect the war torn provinces of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and Balochistan. Gawader port is located in Balochistan but the changed trade route will benefit the already developed areas of provinces of Punjab and Sindh. China may avoid the shortcut a route to Gawadar to protect its trade convoys but the fact is that there is no guarantee of safe passage even in Punjab and Sindh. Lengthy route through the parts of Pakistan where from November to January mostly fog grips the land will also affect the trade convoys.
On the pattern of Chinese program of ‘Great Western Development Strategy, or the open up the West Program’ China should also insist on a uniform developmental project for Pakistan. Although the Kashger – Gawader trade route project can become a lever for whole of subcontinent but a shortcut route to Gawader can also be easily linked with Chinese projects in Afghanistan.
It is a fact that Chinese government is concerned about the security of its trade route but the voices of criticism from smaller provinces of Pakistan might remain a burden on the Chinese conscience. China must listen to the voices of the people of areas in need and of course her own voice of conscience. The relations between Pakistan and China are higher than Himalayas and deeper than oceans but I fear that some voices couldn’t reach these heights or sink in the deepness of relations.
Once the official visit of Chinese president to Pakistan was delayed because of political instability in Pakistan and now when again Chinese president is expected to visit Pakistan soon, the voices of opposition must be heard in advance. Pakistani politicians respect Chinese efforts to develop Pakistan. Chinese initiative to settle the dispute of proposed route change will strengthen Pakistan federation.