Balochistan government seeks 9 new projects under CPEC: Report

Balochistan government seeks 9 new projects under CPEC: Report

ISLAMABAD - Chief Minister Jam Kamal’s government in Balochistan might not have brought in any major changes yet, but it has changed the approach of the province towards the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The new government has repeatedly made the claim that Balochistan is not getting the fruits of CPEC, and that the most impoverished province of Pakistan will miss out on the development the initiative promises to the entire country.

The former government in Balochistan, which was jointly ruled by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the National Party and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, did not raise any objections or issues about Balochistan not getting enough development projects under CPEC. However, all that changed when Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) took power under the leadership of Jam Kamal.

Jam’s new government claimed that in last five years, Balochistan got only two projects under CPEC – the Gwadar port and the HUBCO power plant. BAP founder Saeed Hashmi went on to claim that the western route of CPEC, which passes through Balochistan, has been excluded from the project’s funding agenda.

Balochistan’s government developing some sort of hostility towards CPEC decision making in Pakistan comes ahead of the 8th Joint Coordination Committee meeting

Balochistan’s government developing some sort of hostility towards CPEC decision making in Pakistan comes ahead of the 8th Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting of CPEC. The JCC is the apex decision making body of CPEC, which meets once a year to decide the course of the project for the next year. The 8th JCC took place on December 20 and representatives of the Balochistan government were to attend the meeting with renewed demands.

But to express his displeasure over, Jam Kamal is not attending 8th JCC. Well-placed sources in the government confirmed to this scribe that the chief minister sent a low-level delegation to attend the meeting as a pressure tactic, to ensure that demands of Balochistan were met vis-à-vis CPEC.

The renewed approach of Balochistan’s government regarding CPEC is focused on socio-economic development. The government wants to add additional projects in the CPEC which can contribute to socio-economic development in the province. Previously, the few projects which Balochistan got under CPEC were only related to infrastructure in and around Gwadar.

Zahoor Buledi, provincial minister for information, confirmed to this scribe the Balochistan government was pressing for socio-economic development projects. “In the past, Balochistan did not get its rightful share from the federal government,” he said. He added that the new provincial government had proposed several new projects which would be presented to the Chinese during 8th JCC meeting.

The Balochistan government is asking for nine additional projects for Balochistan at the 8th JCC meeting. Balochistan will pitch for expanding highways of the province and making them four-lane dual carriageways. Western route highways, from Dera Ismail Khan to Zhob to Quetta to Surab, should be made a dual-carriage highway, according to the demands of the Balochistan government. Previously, these roads were not a part of the CPEC funding agenda but now the government wants to change that.

Moreover, Balochistan government is also making a case for the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in Hub and Bostan. These SEZs will kick-start industrial development in the province if this plan goes ahead after 8th JCC meeting. In addition, the government will also demand establishment of a date processing plant in Turbat and construction of Burj Aziz Dam to supply water to Quetta, which is facing severe water shortage.

Lastly, Balochistan’s wish list includes an employment generation program called Balochistan Rural Livelihood Program which imparts technical training to 5,000 youth from the province. These proposed projects will pave the way for human resource development in the province.

These proposed projects look very attractive but can they be really effective in revitalizing the economy of the province?

Mahfooz Ali Khan, former finance secretary of Balochistan, believes that the province needs an energy generation and industrial centre. “If we [Balochistan government] succeed in attracting investment in income-generating projects, [then] the objective will be achieved,” he told *The Friday Times*. He added that in all CPEC projects, local collaborations should be made mandatory for greater benefits.

This new approach by the Balochistan government has puzzled political pundits and commentators. People are wondering how and why has Jam Kamal taken a stand against the PTI government, which is an ally of BAP in both the centre and the province?

BY: Adnan Amir