Scholars, former diplomats, human rights activists and journalists from various parts of the world gathered in Paris to discuss the implications of the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
While discussing the CPEC's legal, geo-strategic, economic and environmental impacts, the participants during a seminar argued that acquiring control of trade inevitably translates into governmental influence.
"CPEC is just another way to exploit Baloch people. First of all it is an economic method. It is a method of land compensation and is a method of depriving local people of jobs and natural resources. An area which is already being deprived, all the economic benefits of CPEC is going into Punjabis and Chinese pockets. The local people have no benefits," Francesca Marinoa, a journalist from Italy noted.
Activists have long blamed China and Pakistan, who together aim to change the demography of Balochistan while highlighting the atrocities which are being committed against innocent Baloch people.
Along with this, activists have also claimed that the CPEC is illegal and that the indigenous people of Balochistan and illegally occupied Gilgit Baltistan, from where the corridor passes, have been stripped away of their natural resources.
"We Baloch people see CPEC as an attempt to occupy our land and our resources. It is a try to grab the lands and 'debalochise' Balochistan. They have started from Gwadar and we don't know till where they want to go. But people of Gwadar don't have water to drink, don't have food and can't go fishing. So life in Gwadar is miserable. Baloch people are protesting for days and nights but nobody is listening to them," Naela Quadri Baloch, the President of the World Baloch Women's Forum noted at the conference.
Mahdin Baloch, a senior leader from the Balochistan National Movement (BNM), added, "CPEC has exaggerated Baloch sun sight. Unfortunately, we have between 1 to 2 million people who would be displaced as a consequence. There have been aerial bombardments of CPEC routes and also make way for the routes. It really means the end of Baloch as people. Balochistan has become an Islamist safe haven, unfortunately, and the rail route of high connectivity will only benefit the Islamist's route operating in Balochistan which is already sponsored fully by the Pakistani Army. It also means that they will be sent into Afghanistan and to the LoC to cause even more deaths of innocents in Kashmir and Western Capital cities."
They also allege that the CPEC project has only brought death and destruction for the local people instead of economic opportunities.
"People have been resisting that our land has been occupied. If the land is under occupation, the state which has occupied it does not have any right to design mega projects or strategic on that land. So this question should have been solved before going beyond that the how this design will benefit people," Munir Mengal, the President of the Baloch Voice Association also stated at the conference while outlining the plight of the Baloch civilians.
A journalist from Israel, Anna Reitman also said, "I do think that any development projects do show enormous opportunities but I also think that Baloch people have been made a lot of promises that have come to very little. Some of those issues were presented today. How this will unfold in a time when there is enormous multi-political uncertainty across quite a few regions and as well as I don't think it's going out on a lame to say that our nuclear proliferation, the risks of that are increasing. Within that context, I do think that this presents some of the risk factors that are coming together present enormous danger for the people living in that region."
Participants in the conference also highlighted that those who have opposed CPEC have been subjected to violent crackdowns and torture under the pretext of anti-terrorism laws.
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