Challenges to CPEC

CHINA-Pakistan Economic Corridor is solidifying relations between the two nations but the project faces multiple security and political challenges in Pakistan. China and Pakistan have cooperated closely at strategic and political levels. The two nations are making efforts to expand their bilateral collaboration economically as well. Construction of CPEC is a milestone that signifies this shift.
CPEC at its core is to build energy, highway and port infrastructure to deepen economic connections between China and Pakistan. This initiative has been well received in both countries, although it is not without its problems. China and Pakistan regard CPEC as a new source of potential synergy between their respective national development strategies, which may help the two countries translate their close political cooperation into multi-dimensional economic cooperation, attain mutual benefits and achieve wonderful outcomes. For the economic corridor to reach its potential, security and political challenges in Pakistan must be addressed.
CPEC has to be understood in the context of China’s strategic interests in East Asia and the way America has challenged it. Faced with such difficulties, China hopes it will expand its strategic space by heading west. Pakistan is bridge amongst China, Central Asia, South Asia, and Middle East. Stability and security in Pakistan will make it possible for China to exercise greater influence in these regions and to ensure security at home. China was willing to invest in CPEC based on the logic of improving security through economic development.
Pakistan has realized that no other country places such high strategic importance in its economic relationship with it as China does. Pakistan also greatly values economic corridor and views it as mutually beneficial in terms of politics and economic development. Pakistan aims to advance from being a lower-middle-income nation to an upper-middle-income nation by 2025. For the attainment of this objective , Pakistan hopes to attract increasing amounts of foreign investment. The country is working to improve its overall economy by constructing energy projects and other forms of infrastructure, to create employment and improvement in its governance. Basic logic behind this strategy is that improving Pakistan’s economy will help alleviate the challenges posed by political extremists, radicals and mullahs. China and Pakistan believe that economic development will help stabilize Pakistan and improve its internal security situation.
China also acknowledges that security, political, cultural risks and uncertainties facing the economic corridor cannot be over looked. Terrorism has long affected Pakistan’s internal security and stability. Pakistan has worked hard to strike at so-called religious extremism and terrorist activities .Conditions of terrorism have substantially improved in recent years. CPEC projects’ construction sites and engineering personnel may become targets for religious and nationalist extremists.
Security threat posed by terrorism remains ongoing despite the economic benefits that CPEC offers Pakistan. CPEC aims to enhance well-being of people throughout the country to bring long-term prosperity and stability. Pakistan has pledged that it will do everything possible to ensure security of the Chinese nationals. It will remain a challenge for Pakistan for the security of CPEC’s growing transportation networks. Pakistan will have to tighten security throughout. In future Pakistan will have to maintain strong enough military presence to ensure security of all these transportation routes.
Pakistan’s domestic politics is also important to CPEC’s success. Political system of Pakistan has never been stable. Political power oscillates between military and civilian leaders. Dictator Musharraf’s resignation as President in 2008 ended the latest period of military rule. After dictatorship of Musharraf Pakistan People’s Party came into power. In the 2013 general election, Pakistan Peoples Party lost power. This time Pakistan Muslim League-N defeated it. Successful completion of 2013 election and smooth transition of power ensued, was the first time in Pakistan’s history that a civilian government was able to complete democratic term. This was a sign of improvement for democracy in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s political culture, almost feudal in nature, continues to play an important role. Powerful families based in different provinces have political power. Behind the party politics are local interests groups associated with these families. Many parties have disagreed a lot about how CPEC transportation routes should be mapped out. The competing parties are primarily interested in how the cake should be divided, so to speak. To strengthen its respective standing among the electorate, all the political parties hope the CPEC will pass through the region they represent allowing local community to enjoy the corridor’s benefits which doesn’t seem possible.
Yet CPEC will not only serve as a roadway that simply connects China to Pakistan. Initiative is designed to do more. This corridor also aims to facilitate multi-sectoral economic cooperation in finance, trade, energy and industry. Nawaz Sharif came back into power in 2013 with the intent of reinvigorating the economy and he undertook a series of measures to improve Pakistan’s economic prospects. Addressing energy shortages, Pakistan has been making efforts to restructure its energy industry and increase its electricity production. PML-N government has worked hard to strengthen investment in infrastructure.
After great Chairman Mao, President Xi Jin Ping has rightly made China a country and nation of first rank. During completion of CPEC China remained politically stable. While political turmoil in Pakistan could not get controlled throughout. During the last five years political instability in Pakistan many a times created problems for CPEC. We neither followed China nor could we learn any thing from it. China and Pakistan have taken positive measures to help set up CPEC for success. Pakistan’s internal situation is still decisive. Until the country’s political and security conditions turn a corner, it will be difficult to judge the corridor’s future prospects.

By: Naveed Aman Khan, This article was originally published in Daily Pakistan Observer. (AD-AN)