Gwadar port open, but question remains: is CPEC too good to be true?

Catch Team | First published: 15 November 2016, 21:48 IST
First Chinese ship leaves Gwadar port in Pakistan
AFP photo/Aamir Qureshi

The ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) saw the first Chinese ship leave the important Gwadar port in Balochistan on 13 November.

This comes at a time when Balochistan is still reeling under incidents of terrorism, especially targeting the minorities.

There has been a lot of disquiet over $50 billion project in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan, the North-West Frontier Province and Khyber-Pakhtunwa provinces.

The provincial council in Khyber-Pakhtunwa had recently threatened to move court over the implementation of the project, including protests on land acquisiton.

India, too, is opposed to the corridor since it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Nawaz Sharif's reassurance

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief Raheel Sharif were both present at the ceremony in Gwadar, just one day after a deadly blast at the Sheikh Noorani shrine in the Balochistan province, which killed over 50 people.

"We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring the CPEC and all the projects under its umbrella are materialised within the given time," PM Sharif said at the ceremony.

"This idea was conceived only two years ago, and this day marks the breaking of the dawn of a new era," Sharif said, highlighting the importance of the project for Pakistan, when India, Iran and Afghanistan are co-operating on the development of the Chabahar port project in the neighboruing Sistan and Baluchestan province of Iran.

"CPEC is for entire Pakistan, and no region or province will be left out of it," Sharif sought to clarify at the ceremony.

His statement assumes significance since CPEC has been facing a lot of flak over its implementation, and ignoring what is called the western alignment, while favouring Punjab.

The East-West divide

The Chinese convoy, comprising of 150 containers, was reportedly shifted to Pakistani trucks at the Sust border crossing, travelled on the Karakoram highway, turning East towards Jund around 100 lilometres from Attock in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where it was joined by two other convoys within Pakistan, Sialkot and Lahore, before moving to Kohat in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Dera Ismail Khan, Zhob, Quetta in Balochistan then moving to Kalat, linking to the Makran coastal highway. This route essentially constitutes the Western Alignment.

"It is meant to send a message to provinces like NWFP and Balochistan, that they are not being ignored," said a security expert.