CPEC: Prospects for Balochistan

Historically, a small fishing village, Gwadar has gone a major transformation and now sits at the heart of Balochistan. The multi-billion dollar One Belt, One Road initiative by China has caused the rapid development of Gwadar which stands at the mouth of a deep sea port. The pace of CPEC development is the fastest in Gwadar owing to the geo-strategic importance the place holds.

Out of the initial $46 billion funded by the Chinese government, only $7 billion is being invested in about twelve different projects around Balochistan. These include:

  • The establishment of New Gwadar International Airport and CPEC Support Unit for projects and activities in Gwadar Port.
  • Construction of rail link from Gwadar to Karachi.
  • Construction of Gwadar-Turbat-Hoshab section of Gwadar-Rathodero Road (892 km) and enhancing the capacity of N-85 Hoshab-Nag-Basima, Surab Road (459 km).
  • Infrastructure development for Export Processing Zones Authority and Gwadar Industrial Estate Development Authority.
  • Water treatment, supply and distribution and a feasibility study for construction of breakwaters that would act against floods.
  • Construction of 300MW coal-fired power plant.
  • Pak-China Technical and Vocational Institute at Gwadar.
  • Up-gradation of existing 50-bed hospital to 300 beds in Gwadar.

On 19 January, 2015 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said, “Development of Balochistan is close to my heart,” and has thus set the tone for the overall development of the province. From the above list it can be seen that the various development projects under CPEC are more concentrated in Gwadar. Even though it may seem that there isn’t much being done in keeping up with the PM’s statement, there seems to elaborate plans for the whole of Balochistan by the government.

Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan with the lowest population; it is home to only 5% of the entire country’s population. This scant population is scattered in far flung areas, that aren’t easily accessible. Therefore, the government has decided to first create Gwadar as the central hub for all economic growth and then to spread this all throughout Balochistan. The government believes that the establishment of Gwadar will set in ripple effects that would then eventually spread all towards Balochistan. Hence, the government is concerned with first creating urban centers from which then ripple effects will set in towards the other less developed regions of Pakistan.

Gwadar Professional at Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform, Mr. Arif Nazeer said, “Gwadar is the main economic hub for CPEC, therefore, all socio-economic development for Balochistan is concentrated in this region. All the development that’s taking place in Gwadar is inclusive of the development in Balochistan, as Gwadar is a part of the province.” He outlined various projects that are in the feasibility stage of being implemented under Social and Economic Welfare such as the establishment of Health units and Educational institute, railway lines, international airport, steel mill etc. These projects, he added, depend upon the projects under CPEC as these would ensure transportation of raw materials and labor etc. He added, “Previously it used to take an entire day to travel by road from Quetta to Gwadar, now with the completion of Quetta Mass Transit Road it takes barely 6-7 hours.  Such projects are providing us with linkages that were previously unavailable to us and so we need to focus on these first, to be able to maneuver the situation in the entire Balochistan.”

Furthermore, he said the twelve projects under CPEC (about seven of which are funded by Chinese grants) are being carried out in collaboration with the Balochistan government. Furthermore, the different projects under consideration at the provincial government all depend heavily on these eleven projects that are being funded by the Chinese investors. Therefore, the government has decided that it is economically viable to focus on Gwadar first and then from here find inroads to the entire province.

Presently, local and foreign investors are showing tremendous interest in the realty sector of Gwadar. People from all over Pakistan are investing in Gwadar’s real estate; buying commercial and residential plots. This is primarily because of the high level security that is being ensured by both Pakistani military and Chinese security personnel.

Data at Zameen.com has shown that projects like Canadian City Gwadar, S & S Gwadar and Burj Al Gwadar are drawing huge crowds of investors. This heightened activity has attracted away investors from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Zameen.com CEO Zeeshan Ali Khan said, “We have seen spikes of 235.7% for plots, 291.42% for commercial property in the last year.”

Realtor Waqas Naseer of Universal Property Network (UPN) thinks that the future of Gwadar is bright. “In Gwadar, there is an active involvement by both Pakistani and Chinese government. Government is developing co-operative societies like New Town, Jinnah Avenue etc along with different investors. The success of Gwadar is because of the extensive security measures taken by Pakistan Army,” he said.

When questioned about the overall development of Balochistan he said, “It will take Gwadar a minimum of 4-5 years to be up and running and only after this will investors move to other areas of Balochistan. Gwadar will be at the heart of CPEC and all development in Balochistan will stem out from here. Presently, all activity is concentrated in Gwadar as it is no longer the Gwadar of 1988 when news regarding it first started to surface. In no time it will surpass Dubai with its pace of development.”

Real estate sector development in Gwadar is the most profound under CPEC and the rapid pace of development will further strengthen the entire province’s development in the near future.  It is, of immense importance that the government keeps up with its plans in Gwadar as this is the only road to the overall development of Balochistan.

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