The conference commenced with a documentary film that showed how the CPEC was negatively impacting the lives of locals all along its route due to the loss of jobs, environmental degradation, forced displacement and increase in Army deployment and control.
In his opening remarks, Paulo Casaca said that though the CPEC was touted as a game-changer by both Pakistan and China, the reality was far removed from that. He also highlighted the fact that the projects under the CPEC were being built largely against the will of the locals of Baluchistan, Sindh and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Baluch representative Mehran Baloch opined that the construction of the CPEC in Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan was illegal, as Baluchistan was territory occupied by Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan was disputed territory, even as per Pakistan’s Constitution. He further stated that the CPEC was being used to suppress the Baloch identity and culture, and the Pakistani government was subtly pursuing a policy of changing the demography of the province. He added that on the pretext of the CPEC, there was a deliberate move by the government to bring in and re-settle Punjabis and Chinese nationals in the region, thereby attempting to dilute and eventually wipe-out the Baloch identity. Similar concerns were expressed by Rubina Greenwood, who feared that the CPEC would merely result in the transfer of Sindh’s natural resources to China, without any corresponding benefit to the province. Wajahat Hassan, while highlighting cases of human rights violations in Gilgit Baltistan, accused Islamabad of allowing foreign countries, particularly China, to exploit the resources of the region. He also stated that the Pakistani government had initiated a process of altering the demography of Gilgit Baltistan, with the objective to increase its influence there.
In his address, Fulvio Martusciello MEP highlighted the human rights violations being carried out by Pakistan’s security forces, in a bid to suppress protests against the CPEC. He referred to incidents of enforced disappearances, land-grabbing and forced eviction of locals from their homes, all in the name of the CPEC. He cautioned European Union member-states not to respond to Pakistan’sovertures to invest in the CPEC, as the project was being built by trampling upon the rights of the locals and major portions of the corridor traversed through disputed territory.
Alberto Cirio, MEP, described the CPEC as a project in which, under the pretext of ‘development’, the State was indulging in corrupt practices for short-term gains, even at the cost of human rights violations against the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Baluchistan. He also expressed concern about the charter of the Special Security Division (SSD), apparently set up to protect Chinese workers in Pakistan. He stated that the number of personnel in the SSD was higher than the number of Chinese workers in Pakistan, indicating that it would probably be used for other purposes, including suppressing of the locals.
All the panellists agreed that the Pakistan government was violating human rights of the locals by imposing a foreign-led project on the various regions, without consultation. There was also agreement that the project would only lead to the enrichment of China and the Pakistani province of Punjab, at the cost of the other regions in Pakistan.
SOURCE Baluchistan House