Aug 06, 2019

Gilgit-Baltistan: Analysts Fear CPEC Will Aggravate Human Rights Situation in The Region

As the multi-billion-dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) gains momentum, many human rights experts have expressed serious concerns about its detrimental impact on the Gilgit-Baltistan region. The CPEC, which is a wider part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, will enter Pakistan through Gilgit-Baltistan and may have severe environmental and ecological repercussions for the region. However, the locals, who are already deprived of basic fundamental voting rights and representation in any national legislative body, have been excluded from having any say on the impact of the project on their territory.

The article was originally published by The Economic Times

The much-publicized China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will not only put Pakistan in China's colossal debt-trap, but it will also render more than 10,000 people of Gilgit Baltistan jobless due to the massive influx of Chinese working hand, said Yoana Barakova, a research analyst ay European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS).

The CPEC is a multi-billion-dollar development project, with a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with Pakistan's strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.

It enters Pakistan from Gilgit Baltistan, a disputed region which was part of an erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.

According to the local population and international observers, Gilgit Baltistan is deprived of all fundamental human and civil rights and it has no representation in the National Assembly of Pakistan or any other national legislative body.

"Since the people of Gilgit Baltistan, through whose territory this illegal and in contravention of international law, the corridor passes, have had no say in CPEC projects, it means that Pakistan has virtually sold out the territory to China under the rubric of infrastructural development", said Yoana.

"The region is not only completely excluded from the high financial profits that a project like the CPEC would bring, but it will further inflict a number of negative environmental and ecological repercussions," she further said.

The CPEC phenomenon once again illustrates how human rights and environmental protection fades away in the face of hard cash.

Even the modest number of civil society, human rights activists and journalists that attempt to raise their voices against the illegal proceedings of the Chinese Dragon are threatened with harassment and intimidation, proving that having a say in the decision-making of international superpowers remains a privilege, negating all claims for right to freedom of expression for common people.

"Although China advertises Pakistan as its brother and 'all-weather friend', the truth is that their 'friendship' has always had an embedded enduring imbalance; Pakistan is in China's debt and the debt will only deepen", said the research analyst.

"China has exclusively taken advantage of the fact that Pakistan has managed to isolate itself from the world due to wide allegations of sponsoring terrorism and Beijing might currently act as the Godfather assuring Islamabad that it will serve its interests, yet is fully aware that this patronising attitude will only turn Pakistan into a colony which will always require China for its day-to-day survival," she added,

"As long as Pakistan operates in the shadow of another East India Company and does not realize the importance of protecting its national interests, which in essence are the people of Pakistan, any attempts for national development will transform into national calamity", said Yoana.

Photo courtesy Pamir Times