The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects passing through the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh in Pakistan have been designed to bring profit to China and not for Pakistan, said experts on Balochistan while participating in a seminar in London earlier this week.
Gathering under the banner of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the World Baloch Organization (WBO), the Baloch leaders and activists took part in the seminar that focused on the theme "Hanging by a Thread: CPEC, Progressive Nationalism and the Growth of Religious Extremism in Balochistan".
Athar Hussain, director of the London School of Economics (LSE) Asia Research Centre, said, "CPEC will not necessarily bring benefits to the regions through which it passes, and is likely to bring more development to regions that are already developed, instead of poor areas such as Balochistan."
Hussain further added that, "The CPEC is designed to bring profit to China more than to other parts involved."
He also said that structural issues in Pakistan such as corruption and tax evasion are also to be taken into consideration when analyzing the prospects of local development.
Hussain reminded the audience that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which will give the landlocked western part of China a direct link to the Arabian and Indian Sea, is part of a wider network of Chinese projects, the "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR), composed of six different corridors.
He said the project is likely to bring economic benefit to Pakistan in terms of enhancing its energy requirements.
Burzine Waghmar, a Senior Teaching Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) described "Pakistan as a failed state that refuses to fail".
Waghmar said that the CPEC-linked infrastructure would not benefit the indigenous Baloch population, as there is no coal, solar or wind projects planned for the area.
He focused on the challenges posed by the CPEC in the context of decades of human rights violations inflicted upon the indigenous Baloch population, such as enforced disappearances - and suggested that the USD 46-billion-dollar mega project would only accelerate these violations.
Naseer Dashti, an exiled Baloch anthropologist and the author of several books on South Central Asia and Balochistan, opined that the CPEC would most definitely alter the demography of regions such as Balochistan.
He said already oppressed groups are bound to become minorities as Han-Chinese workers and Punjabi businessmen are likely to settle in these parts once the corridor is implemented. He pointed Gwadar Port as an example of his premise.
Mahvish Ahmad, a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, spoke about her experience reporting on Balochistan, where she witnessed the state and military violence and oppression against the Baloch people.
Ms. Ahmad described the situation as becoming more difficult because of increasing censorship by the military and the fragmentation of not only tribes, but also within Baloch groups.
She stressed that the silencing of solidarities among oppressed groups hinders their potential to succeed.
Furthermore, Ms. Ahmad shed light on the Pakistan Army's unlawful activities and cases of state violence not being reported in the country.
First ever Baloch Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford Rafiullah Kakar underlined how Pakistan was born with tensions regarding the multi-ethnic and multinational character of its territory, and soon started to see this as a potential threat to the state unity.
He outlined several changes that needed to occur in Pakistan to solve the Baloch question, such as less power to the Pakistani army, creation of a plural national government and direct elections of senators.
He emphatically concluded that "The state's coercive capacity and ability to manipulate consent, even creating fragmentation and hindering solidarity between tribes, is far too strong in Balochistan."
Panel moderator Mr Peter Tatchell, director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, highlighted the importance of raising awareness and concern about the situation in Balochistan, neglected by the international community and even by most human rights organisations.
The contributions were then followed by an interactive question and answer session, where the audience got the chance to discuss Baloch progressive nationalism, repercussions of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on different non-Punjab Pakistani ethnic communities and what concrete measures would be most effective for the direct future of Balochistan - to effectively end the atrocities inflicted upon its people.
Eminent human rights advocates and academic experts, offering a platform for constructive debates on the struggle of indigenous peoples and minorities and state violence in Pakistan, and the future of Balochistan also took part in the July 18 event held at the London headquarters of Amnesty International.