Pakistan’s current economic meltdown is largely because of the impact of prolonged war against terrorism that started in 2001. Pakistan still is combating terrorism whereas the threat has not averted completely. According to National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) Pakistan suffered $106.98 billion of economic loss and more than 50,000 civilians lost their lives. Country had a moribund economy as investors fled to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Malaysia because of looming energy crises in Pakistan. After the commencement of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) despite all odds some optimistic political analysts termed it as ‘game changer’ whereas others declared it as ‘fate changer’ for Pakistan. There was another dissenting opinion that did not support CPEC fearing that some provinces will benefit more from others.
When anti-CPEC groups launched negative propaganda then Pakistan army became a stakeholder in the mega project to ensure timely completion and also provide safety and security to it. Pakistan’s former Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif clarified upon opponents that CPEC will be built at every cost. He emphasized while visiting Gwadar port in July, 2015 “We are acutely aware of our rivals’ campaign versus the corridor.” In fact the greatest challenge that Pakistan faced to CPEC was from India. It was quite expected Indian reaction as Pakistan’s economy was going to get $46 billion upthrust in the form of infrastructure & energy project couple with development and operationalization of Gwadar port. Kulbhushan Yadav, Indian spy who was captured in Pakistan also confessed that he was involved in sabotaging peace in Baluchistan. But because of the government commitment, CPEC projects continued and completed several energy and infrastructure projects.
After Imran Khan’s ascendency to power as a Prime Minster in wake of July, 2018 general election there were rumors among people that CPEC may not continue. As the incumbent government in Islamabad initially was concerned over heavy loans under the CPEC, but later P.M Imran Khan reiterated to support CPEC as it serves Pakistan economic and social development. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang’s statement was relieving for some quarters in Pakistan that “There will be more projects under $60 billion CPEC project. The CPEC liabilities were low.” The planning commission also put forth the similar stance and clarified that CPEC’s benefits will outweigh debt related outflows. Pakistan’s current economic crunch is pushing economy into mire where it will not be possible to achieve annual growth rate of GDP 6% without seeking assistance from International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It is in the larger interest of Pakistan to encourage Saudi Arabia’s investment in Pakistan under the umbrella of CPEC. Saudi Arabia is under the cloud as the U.S President Donald Trump through a Tweet accused organization of the petroleum exporting countries exercising monopoly concerning price hike of the oil in international market. Another diplomatic jolt to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is the alleged killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Istanbul consulate. These factors will push KSA to partner in CPEC projects as it will serve Pakistan’s economic interest on one side also boost CPEC project. Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing while talking to Quetta journalists also stated that “We will welcome Saudi Arabia and other countries’ investment in CPEC projects. China wants to expand CPEC up to central Asian states via Afghanistan.” It is believed that after Saudi entrance, more countries from Persian Gulf are expected to follow suit. Pakistan’s Baluchistan province is richest in natural resources and poorest in terms of socio-economic development. Completion of CPEC will transform this resource-rich province into an economic hub as the Gwadar will attract multi-million investments from overseas.
Pakistan and India have become the members of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which has been a success story and that is that reason both have been struggling to get the membership of SCO. In short Pakistan is likely to reap plenty of economic benefits from CPEC but notables are as:
According to IMF study,$13billions will be added to Pakistan’s GDP by 2025
Pakistan’s GDP growth rate has already increased from 4.7% to 5.4% in 2016 but it is likely to further increase with the completion of projects (World Bank)
Pakistan’s incumbent government chanted slogans of eliminating unemployment, under the CPEC early harvest projects, 30,000 jobs have been created as Ministry of Planning and Development estimated that it will be creating 800,000 jobs in the next 15 years.
Energy shortfall has been the gigantic challenge, a total of 12,230 megawatt of energy have been added in the national grid.
The CPEC will have far reaching impact than is expected. Pakistan-China culture confluence because of Chinese settlers in Pakistan will generate a mixed culture further promoting China-Pakistan ties to new heights. China-Pakistan friendship will trickle down to their respective citizens, creating a bond of unique friendship. Economic prosperity, employment, quality education, health facilities and revival of sports in Pakistan will help countering violent extremism in Pakistan and improve Pakistan’s international stature. The CPEC is lynchpin of Pakistan’s economy which will ensure Pakistan’s economic stability in the years to come.