Brussels: The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a project of, by, and for Pakistan's elites which completely lacks local ownership, says a researcher based in Brussels.
"Local communities got completely sidelined by the national decision-makers", said Dr Siegfried O. Wolf, Director of Research at South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF). There is widespread condemnation by the locals in Pakistan and Gilgit Baltistan of the multi-billion dollar development project.
"As such it does not come as a surprise, that the locals have to share most of the social, economic as well as environmental costs but at the same time get deprived of their fair share of the expected/envisaged revenues," Wolf said.
"Since the decisions regarding projects are exclusively done by the central government in coordination with China's leadership, the CPEC projects do not address local demands and needs," he added. CPEC is a dream project of Chinese President Xi Jinping as it will provide China easy access to EU market.
"China spends tremendous efforts and money in public diplomacy to influence the opinions in media, academia, business circles and among political decision-makers in BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) as well as in non-BRI countries."
"However, one can also state that there are an increasing number of critical voices and reports on the CPEC and other BRI projects, indicating that these Chinese influence measures are only partly successful and losing their efficiency," Wolf further said.
In Pakistan, the locals are unhappy as it has not only displaced thousands of them but has also exploited their land and resources.
"The CPEC will lead to tremendous economic distortions in Pakistan, disadvantaging domestic entrepreneurs vis-a-vis Chinese companies and Pakistani military businesses. Large segments of local communities will suffer from negative impacts on their traditional livelihoods due to increasing environmental problems and displacements," he added.
"We will most likely witness a deterioration of the security situation due to an increase in growing militant resistance against the CPEC, as well as anti-Chinese activities conducted by domestic and international Jihadi groups in order to harm Beijing's interests and assets abroad," the researcher also said.
"The subsequent growing militarisation of areas dedicated to CPEC projects will lead to an increase of human rights violations and further truncation of political rights, freedom of the press and free expression of opinion. In consequence, the CPEC is turning into another threat for democracy in Pakistan," Wolf warned.