Ethnic Balochis have expressed their anger about the Chinese ‘Colonizer’ projects in Balochistan permitted by the Government Pakistan. The ethnic Balochis believe that Pakistan and China are exploiting resources in the region in a bid to colonize the province.
Despite heavy investments by China, Balochistan toils in poverty and remains largely underdeveloped. The recent decision by Pakistan to allow a Chinese mining company to extend its lease for another 15 years has been met with anger. They accuse Beijing of expropriating their province’s mineral resources.
Saindak copper-gold mine, located near Saindak in Balochistan’s Chagai district, has been cleared for a lease running till 2035. The Chinese company – MCC Resources Development Company will invest $45 million to explore copper and gold in the East Ore Body area of the town where 278 million tons of deposits are estimated.
Anger amongst ethnic Balochis and separatists stems from the neglect of Balochistan. The province remains Pakistan’s poorest and least populous province despite several development projects announced by Pakistan and China.
In response, the Balochi separatists have waged a guerilla war against the ‘occupants’. They have accused the successive government of benefiting from Balochistan’s resources and making the rich Punjab province even richer. Insurgency continues till the day, with the most recent attack resulting in the death of numerous Pakistani soldiers.
Islamabad blames India for training and funding the Baloch Republic Army (BLA), a separatist group that has handed several setbacks to Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan even blamed the recent attack on Pakistani Stock Exchange in Karachi on India.
Brahamdagh Bugti, leader of the Baloch Republican Party living in exile in Switzerland, and grandson of slain nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, says that Chinese economic projects in Balochistan were aimed at “colonizing” the province, and must be resisted.
‘’None of the previous development projects in Balochistan have ever been beneficial to the province or its people,” Bugti said. “We have been complaining for decades that Islamabad has never sought the consent of the Baloch people before initiating these projects.’’
‘’It is quite obvious that they are not launched to boost the province’s economy or to help people out of poverty. They are started for the benefit of the rulers in Islamabad,” he added.
Speaking to Deutsche Welle (DW), Senator Akram Baloch said that the Islamabad is giving contracts to Beijing without taking the Baloch people into confidence, to appease China.
Despite Chinese investments, Balochistan remains extremely poor with no proper health facilities, education, and housing, or even clean drinking water,” Baloch said.”The alleged plundering of resources will further stoke anti-Chinese feelings in the province,” he added.
Balochistan’s former chief minister, Abdul Malik also told DW that the province is not getting its due share of royalties from these projects. Independent researchers in Balochistan have also backed these claims and say that locals are not benefiting from the Pakistan-China collaborative projects.
Why is Chinese Investment Important?
Beijing has been an all-weather ally in Islamabad and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a testament to their friendship.
As reported by EurAsian Times earlier, the $46 billion CPEC aims to expand Chinese influence in Pakistan and across Central and South Asia to counter US and Indian influence. The CPEC would link Pakistan’s southern Gwadar port in Balochistan on the Arabian Sea to China’s western Xinjiang region.
Supporters of CPEC in Balochistan claim that the project has brought in much needed foreign investment and generated employment in the region.
Ashfaq Hassan, a member of PM Imran Khan’s Economic Council, says that Anti-Pakistan elements are spreading false allegations against China. He feels that Chinese investment will help Pakistan’s economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
With a debt of over $100 billion (€87 billion), the South Asian country is on the verge of an economic collapse. Coronavirus has rendered more than 20 million people unemployed as over 1,000 private and public sector institutions have closed their operations since March.
Armaan Srivastava, New Delhi with invaluable inputs from Deutsche Welle.