Describing the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a major mega project having great potential benefit for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Dr. Shabir Choudhry, a prominent leader of Kashmir, has cautioned that these benefits must reach the common man and not be exploited or limited to the influential classes of Pakistan.
Addressing a conference arranged by Jammu Kashmir International People's Alliance in Turin, Italy, earlier this week, Dr. Choudhry said "CPEC Like all mega projects, a system has to be in place to ensure that everything goes in accordance with the plan, and that benefits of the project reach ordinary people."
"Furthermore, people should feel it is their project. They should feel they are part of this project. At different levels people should be part of decision making; and the project should empower them," he added.
The veteran Kashmiri leader said that a close analysis of the project shows that currently there are some serious problems that need urgent addressing by the concerned authorities in Pakistan.
"I know Pakistanis are accusing India, America and Israel for the problems related to the CPEC. They will never acknowledge that somewhere along the line they are also making mistakes. Some people think all problems of Pakistan are because of India, America and Israel. Do these countries tell Pakistanis to mix water in milk, sell fake medicines, sell dog meat and donkey meat, kidnap children and sexually abuse them; take Pakistani money out of country and deposit in foreign countries etc. These people should acknowledge that inhabitants of Pakistan are not angels. Pakistanis are also human beings, and all human beings make mistakes. Pakistanis have to acknowledge that there is too much corruption in their country. There is extremism, terrorism, hatred and intolerance in the society; and instead of blaming others for these evils try to find culprits inside the Pakistani society," Dr, Choudhry said.
He said that the CPEC is an international project that requires a high level of professionalism.
"It is sad that work on CPEC is being done in a typical Pakistani style; and Chinese are not happy about it," he said.
"While Pakistan is upbeat about the benefits of the CPEC, they overlook the inherent dangers of the CPEC to Pakistan and areas of Jammu and Kashmir under their control. CPEC will bring a massive fiscal burden on Pakistan because of the Chinese loan of 35 billion which has very high interest rate; and Pakistan, at times; struggle to pay back low interest on IMF loan installments," he added.
He also said that the CPEC had the potential to change the nature of the Kashmir issue, wherein China might ultimately control these areas to the detriment of peace and stability of the region.
He also warned of the possibility of the CPEC creating a serious imbalance in the civil-military relationship in Pakistan.
The Chinese want completion of the CPEC because of their economic and strategic interests. However, they want assurance about the safety of their workforce and investment; and Pakistan army has projected itself as the only reliable institution to provide that assurance, he warned.
"Whether the CPEC project will fulfil all expectations of Pakistan that remains to be seen, however, in my considered opinion it will result in loss of more power by the civilian leadership, especially if there was a major attack on Chinese workers along the route of the CPEC corridor," he said.