- The government must undo the initial damage
The tweet by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority Chairman Lt Gen (retd) Asim Bajwa, saying that the multibillion dollar project had completed its first phase, of energy and infrastructure projects, and would now engage in its second, which would lead to the creation of thousands of jobs, and to an overall increase in prosperity, is to be welcomed. CPEC had been touted as a gamechanger for the Pakistani economy for years, but it had not really played such a role so far. Indeed, at the time of its takeover, the PTI government had criticised it, until it became convinced that was not a gravy train for the previous government to loot, but had far-reaching ramifications for the nation’s economy. However, the present government should not assume that its duty was fulfilled by its setting up the CPEC Authority, of which General Bajwa is head.
There is more work that has to be done, most of it by the government. First of all, there have still not been satisfactory set up of the Special Economic Zones that are not just key to CPEC, but are vital to creating jobs, something on which the present government is banking very heavily. Second, there are still a number of law and order problems in Balochistan, which is ruled by the BNP, which is a PTI ally. While the PTI government should deal with the question of the Special Economic Zones at least in the two provinces it rules, and the one where an ally is in power, it should also persuade that ally to resolve the law and order issues that are holding up the execution of CPEC projects there.
That the government is taking a proper interest in CPEC was shown by the meeting the Prime Minister chaired last week, to review the progress of projects under CPEC. More crucial would be the execution of ancillary projects, without which the major project would be useless, and which require Pakistan to carry out the ancillary work. One benefit, obvious to all, of CPEC has been an end to loadshedding. Enjoying further benefits requires the government to show vigilance, and other parties not to make it a political football.