Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad on April 20 2015, to sign fifty-one Memorandum of Understanding which form the core of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which together are valued at about $ 46 billion. While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif signed the initial agreement, Prime Minister Imran Khan plunged into a relationship inherited with enthusiasm. “CPEC is a great opportunity for Pakistan. CPEC connects us with China which is one of the biggest markets, ”he said stated. Asad Umar, his planning minister, spoke about the benefits Pakistan would get. “CPEC is being developed in such a way that it is not only a stimulus for our economic growth but also provides Pakistan’s base for regional integration,” Umar said. While the project has achieved extraordinary results costs for Pakistani sovereignty—China is paying more attention and treating Pakistan as a vassal state—Maybe the biggest losers in CPEC are those who live in it Gilgit – Baltistan.
Pakistan captured Gilgit-Baltistan in October 1947, after that the new government of Pakistan sent military irregularities to the region and took it along with parts of Kashmir. Initially, most of Gilgitis refused their inclusion in Pakistan, however Pakistani authorities be rude to their concerns. Under the 1949 Karachi Agreement, the Pakistani-controlled Kashmir government handed over complete control of Gilgit-Baltistan’s defense and foreign policy to Pakistan’s central government.
Twenty-five years later, Islamabad repealed the State Subjects Rule, which prevented outsiders from seeking permanent residency, for Gilgit-Baltistan. The result is gradual sectarian and ethnic cleansing. In 1948, when Pakistan invaded, Gilgit-Baltistan was at least 85 percent Shia; that number has dropped dramatically and now the odds are under 50 percent.
Meanwhile, CPEC has burdens Pakistan with debt, it’s not fulfilling yet ambition, leaving Pakistan to face the inevitability of mortgaging further sovereignty to China or international financial institutions. Gilgit-Baltistan, however, is what the Pakistani government calls “The gateway to the CPEC, “It is now a symbol of CPEC’s false promises for areas that have been neglected.
While Gilgit was geographically critical to CPEC’s success and Pakistani authorities promised construction along the highway, nothing materialized. The promised opportunities in terms of education, employment and welfare also did not materialize. In contrast, Pakistan’s main political parties have siphoned most of the money and related projects into their own political strongholds in Punjab, Sindh and other regions. At the last minute, for example, Islamabad scrapped plans for the Gilgit-Chitral road and supported a fifty-mile four-lane highway between Chakdara to Fatehpur in Swat. Imran Khan even agreed that China would send four hundred thousand construction workers to Gilgit-Baltistan at the expense of local labor.
For Gilgit-Baltistan, the problem is not only failure to reap the benefits of CPEC but also that Khan’s desire to please China means net loss. On orders from Chinese mining companies, for example, Pakistan did it cancel the license local miners. Chinese developers have also displaced thousands of residents without compensation.
Here, Khan’s cynicism towards Gilgit-Baltistan and poor management could ultimately hurt CPEC even more. By diverting funds from the Gilgit-Chitral road, Khan has forced the region to remain dependent on a single highway, a road that can be easily and repeatedly blocked by angry locals. At best, it could disrupt the CPEC schedule further, but at worst, it could render many other projects unworkable. The uptake of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan has always been illegal. Increasingly, neglected areas can get the last laugh.
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