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SEZ-ploitation of Balochistan by Pakistan-China nexus

Beijing brainchild a comprehensive strategy to avail unquestioned, limitless sub-terrain exploration and deep mining rights for Chinese companies across Baloch lands – under the cloak of SEZ policy soon to be implemented by debt-ridden Islamabad

New Delhi: With an intent to invigorate and legalize the surreptitious plundering and exploitation of the resource-rich province of Balochistan, the Pakistani government is set to bring in the new legislation. The legislation would not only identify areas in Balochistan as Special Economic Zones (SEZ), but also, provide a legal cover against any opposition to the industrial activities envisaged under the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework in the province.

The legislation – a brainchild of China will be soon tabled in the Parliament to avail companies from Beijing unquestioned, limitless sub-terrain exploration and deep mining rights across Baloch lands – under the cloak of SEZ projects.

In January, a month after the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the Wuhan city, China devised a comprehensive strategy especially in the context of the post-corona era for expanding its projects in Pakistan. It announced the commencement of the second phase of the CPEC – especially eyeing the Balochistan for its mineral wealth – by instructing Pakistan to identify selected regions in the province as SEZs.  

Adhering to Beijing’s leadership, Islamabad announced the development of SEZs in various parts of Pakistan, including Balochistan. On January 5, Pakistani Ambassador to China Naghmana Alamgir Hashmi in an interview with the Chinese state media said that her government will soon start the work on developing particular regions of Balochistan as SEZs. She said that these regions are being considered for development under SEZs, based on the understanding and the agreements signed between Pakistan and China.

She was quoted saying, ‘Balochistan has a lot of gems. The Chinese like Onyx. Baluchistan Province in northern Pakistan is the only one producing Onyx in the world. Good quantities of gold and copper are transported from Baloch mines to China. Therefore, minerals and gems found in the Baloch-region of Pakistan have great market potential. The gem field is an area where Pakistan was looking for a Chinese joint venture.’

Hashmi was further quoted stating, ‘In northern Pakistan, there are beautiful gems everywhere. However, they don’t have advanced technology to polish them. And the Chinese know how to sculpt to make beautiful jewelry products. Chinese technicians, stone importers, manufacturers can work with Pakistan Enterprises establish joint ventures through these SEZs.’

Pakistan’s southern regions, including Balochistan, are packed with high-quality minerals and precious metals. As Beijing has expressed its keen desire to undertake mineral exploration projects, in the region it has pressed Islamabad to expedite the development of the following sites in Balochistan – Turbat Industrial and Trading Estate (1000 acres), Industrial Estate Khuzdar (5000 acres), Dasht Industrial Zone – Quetta, Bostan Industrial Estate (1000 acres), Industrial Zone at the junction of Qilla Saifulla, Zhob, and Loraai.

No SEZ for Baloch lands

The sparsely populated Baloch lands pocketed on the border with Iran and Afghanistan have taken the center-stage in the China-Pakistan nexus of CPEC. The investment projects carried out under the CPEC are allowing brazen exploitation of the resource-rich province.

Despite its unique cultural identity, mineral wealth, and rich resources Balochistan and its people continue to reel from chronic neglect, underdevelopment, and grave human rights violations by Pakistan.

Speaking to TheNews21 on the SEZ plot strategized by the China-Pakistan nexus, Professor (Dr.) Naela Quadri Baloch, Chairperson of the Baloch People’s Congress said that her party is against any intervention of occupiers that acquires Baloch land, ports or resources and change our demography by non-Baloch settlements so do CPEC and SEZ.

“For us, development means concepts plans and their materialization by the Baloch or with the consensus of the Baloch, for the Baloch or at least Baloch must get an adequate share from it. We reject all such projects which purchases Baloch lands as our lands are a common resource of the Baloch nation, no individual can sell any piece of Baloch land. The land management by the British colonizer and afterward neo-colonizers are not acceptable for the Baloch people,” Dr.Baloch said while pressing that no investors and settlers should plan to come to the occupied Baloch until the Baloch people get control over their lands and resources.

“Instead of supporting occupiers exploiting projects resulting in the ongoing genocide in Balochistan, pro-development people of the world should put their efforts to rescue Baloch people from military operations and genocide,” she appealed.

Balochistan – fast becoming China’s military base

Highlighting the elements of geographic positioning, political instability and insurgency of Balochistan as key for the success of the CPEC, Professor (Dr.) J. Jeganaathan from the Central University of Jammu (CJU) said that the development of SEZs would lead to the militarization of the province.

“Part of the CPEC agreement to develop SEZs in Balochistan province for facilitation of trade via Gwadar. However, given the volume of domestic industries, which is largely owned by the Pakistani Army, it is evident, they may get benefited. The army would channel those funds for the modernization process and reduce their dependence on funds received from the general budget, leading to excessive militarization of the entire Balochistan,” he said.

Dr. Jeganaathan, who is the part of the CJU’s Department of National Security Studies underlined that while for Islamabad it facilitates and helps to justify the militarization of the province. Balochistan may become an integrated military base for China if all the phases of CPEC are realized.

On the prospects of China weaponizing the Taliban to protect the CPEC projects in Balochistan, he said that it would be too early to comment on it. “I don’t think Beijing will directly arm any rebel groups in this region like they have been doing it in African countries,” he opined.


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