3rd September 2016, 11:08 AM
At the conclusion of the two-day seminar on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Gilgit, there was no doubt left as to the purpose of the occasion. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif took to the podium and delivered his sternest warning yet to any external actors looking to destabilise the project and the country. At the same time, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, accompanied by the Chinese ambassador, on a visit to Balochistan, repeated the same message. The COAS named the Indian PM Modi and the Indian intelligence agency RAW, as he reasserted Pakistan’s commitment to keeping its borders safe and ensuring the security of the CPEC. He was clearly responding to Modi raising the Balochistan issue recently as well as the Indian media’s attempts to paint protests in GB as part of a separatist agenda. The PM’s message in Balochistan that terrorists had been eliminated seemed to be directed more at the Baloch separatist insurgency than Islamist terrorists. The PM travelled to open the Kohlu-Sibi road whose construction had to be halted in 2006 due to the ongoing insurgency. With the Chinese ambassador in audience the message was clear. Pakistan can and will deliver on its commitments on the CPEC.
It is most certainly a powerful message to send, which will be received well in the power corridors in China where questions have been raised over whether Pakistan could deliver on its commitments. As a message to external actors who may want to destabilise Pakistan, there is no doubt that this is the right message to send. No one should be allowed to interference in the internal affairs of the country. The COAS presented the Chinese city of Urumqi as a vision for the future of Gilgit-Baltistan and spoke very highly of the hard working people of the region. But that the state is inclusive towards the people of GB and Balochistan should be a sense that must grow much stronger than it is at the moment. The road between Sibbi and Kohlu promises much by reducing the distance between the two from 600km to 174km, but the benefits must go to not only the investors but to the ‘locals’ as well. It is good that the PM talked of the ‘usurped’ rights of the people of Balochistan, but it would be better if the government could come up with ways of bringing those who are sceptical on board with carrots, not sticks.
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