PoK projects suffer as China focuses on Gwadar
As China continues to focus heavily on CPEC in Gwadar, Balochistan, parts of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) has witnessed slow progress under the mega initiative.
A recent report brought by a Pak-based think tank Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms or CPDR, focuses on the status of CPEC projects in so-called ''Azad Kashmir'' part of PoK in what will be the first such publication on the status of initiative in the occupied territory.
“It, however, remains a fact, that with the exception of Karot Hydropower project, work on the other proposed projects has not been initiated yet, primarily because of the non-release of funds by the Federal government or controversies regarding the project design and the ensuing environmental issues. Besides political and social repercussions, it is also bound to hike the estimated cost of these projects with the passage of time. Worst, a strong likelihood is that they would be politicised by different vested groups and put on the backburner,” the report brought out by the Islamabad-based CPDR said.
The expressway estimated to cost Rs 264 billion (Pak Rupee) is the Manshera-Muzaffarabad-Mirpur-Mangla expressway or M4 is planned to connect Muzaffarabad in PoK with the Grand Trunk or GT Road. This expressway has been conceived to push agriculture, tourism and industry, according to CPDR. M4 can also connect Karakoran Highway to link it with other parts of CPEC.
The two power projects are Kohala hydropower project with installed capacity of 1124 MW and Karor Hydropower project bordering PoK and Punjab province of Pakistan. The SEZ is planned at Mirpur over an area of over 1.078 acres.
The report has recommended that a campaign should be launched to develop consensus on CPEC related projects in "Azad Kashmir" that would enable completion of projects in a time-bound manner. But China-funded CPEC appears to be currently focussed on Gwadar.
Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, said on Friday that his government was going to establish 19 factories in Gwadar to create job opportunities for the youth of Balochistan. He denied speculations regarding the Chinese government’s lack of interest in development projects in Balochistan. China will invest in expansion of the Zhob-D.I. Khan highway considered vital for CPEC, he added.
China has often been blamed for using Balochistan to harness natural resources and develop Gwadar port including a gated colony for Chinese nationals near the port.