May 19, 2015
Harris Bin Munawar
Amid bitter differences between Pakistan’s provinces and regions over the route of a network of roads that China had offered to build in Pakistan, insiders say Beijing has decided to build a 1000-mile flyover connecting the Karakoram Highway in the north to the Gwadar port in Balochistan.
The move follows a series of statements by regional and ethnic political parties criticizing the route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and will help Pakistan’s friendly neighbor bypass the complex nature of regional politics in the country, and also address concerns about the route’s security in a country fighting a myriad of terrorist groups and networks.
But a group of Baloch insurgents denied they were targeting the communications and energy infrastructure in Pakistan. “We’re not stupid,” a spokesman told reporters on telephone from an undisclosed location. “Why would we waste our time, energy and resources to destroy the gas, electricity and road infrastructure in Pakistan when it is already on its way to destruction?” he asked. “The government is doing it for us.”
Bitterness in Balochistan:
The turbulent Balochistan province has been dealing with an insurgency for a long time, worsened by a sense of deprivation among the locals who have been moved by a socialist leaning narrative of resistance. “You can definitely see a Marxist element in the movement,” one analyst says. “Following the example of leftist icons like Che Guevara and Joseph Stalin, their anger is often directed at poor laborers who they kill without remorse.”
Not all analysts agree with him. “The best way to fight for freedom and fundamental rights and strive towards an inclusive democracy is to draw one’s identity from centuries old princely states,” one commentator argues.
“We have been taught the wrong history,” he argues. “We are glad that young students all over Pakistan, especially in the Punjab, either do not go to school at all, or their teachers do not show up in classes, or they do not pay even the slightest attention during their Pakistan Studies classes,” the commentator says. “A very large percentage of people fail Pakistan Studies, and that gives us hope that we can still make them see the truth.”
One student activist in Quetta, speaking to this scribe on the condition of anonymity, said there was a sense of alienation among the youth. “The biggest example of discrimination against the Baloch is that the most humiliating job in the entire province has been given to the Baloch – Dr Abdul Malik Baloch was made the Chief Minister of the province after the so-called elections in Pakistan,” he lamented.
Amid questions and concerns about the feasibility of the new power projects being planned in Islamabad, energy experts believe such feelings of anger and disappointment can be used as a renewable source of energy. “We must build on what we have,” one expert explained. “Such frustration is cheap and widespread. All we need is to find a way to harness it to obtain an inexhaustible source of power.”
“The problem is that the there is a gap between the units of electricity we produce and the units of electricity we consume,” another expert explains. “One useful renewable and extremely cheap source of power is to steal electricity directly from the transmission line passing above your roof. That way, the number of units that we consume will decrease dramatically, thereby also reducing the gap between the demand and supply of power, thus solving our problem.”
As Pakistan prepares for what it sees as a new era of development and construction, there are fears that this progress will come with a cost. “Before China starts to build these roads, we need to ask ourselves if we really need them,” a sustainability expert believes. “The use of concrete is not a concrete solution.”
Pakistan must encourage to its citizens to walk or bicycle their way from Karakoram to Gwadar, he insists. “That way, we will promote a healthier lifestyle, avoid cutting trees on such a large scale, and make the job of law-enforcement agencies easier.”