A final Year university student came to me to know the benefits of the CPEC to the province of Gilgit Baltistan (GB). He was very excited about the CPEC becoming operational. He placed his queries before me. I stared at the questions and took a long breadth and answered.

Gilgit Baltistan is the gateway to the CPEC route and more than 300 kilometers of land is under the influence of CPEC stretching from Khanjarab to the district Diamer, the furthermost region of GB. Many projects are planned and announced in all parts of Pakistan, some are already being constructed, expect in the region of GB. It is very strange to say that there is no official announcement or planning of any project, especially in the energy sector, in the territories of GB under the CPEC scheme.

The region, which is enriched with all kinds of natural resources and indispensible for the CPEC dream, is completely oblivious and far removed from the benefits from the CPEC. The inhabitants of GB, having no representatives in National Assembly, are quite unhappy, as the government has divested them of their rights to demand or contribute anything. The bureaucrats, press and courts are tangled in the maze of political issues which are escalating the case of rights and created an impasse. Many talk shows, debates, seminars are arranging in all around the country, discussing their grants and benefits from the CPEC project but no one is interested in discussing the unfair treatment of the people of GB. The impotent GB government, who tells fabricated stories for the assurance of people, is helpless as they are working under the compliance of the federal government. This step-motherly treatment of our government is really testing the patience of people which may turn to protest in the future, which not ot the benefit of the CPEC’s dream.

The other paramount aspect is the infrastructure of GB, which will play the vital role in the success of CPEC project. The narrow Silk Route, the only land route link to GB from other part of the country, is very dangerous for long vehicles and does not favour continuous running of long containers. Rock sliding, road accident, snow falling in winters and many other inevitable hazards are very common on the Karakoram Highway (KKH), which blocks the roads for many days every year. Already thousands of death casualties and lingering vehicle stories are associated with this road, and the addition of Chinese container will exponentially raise the number.

The lack of facilities on KKH is another issue that shouldn’t be overlooked. In these situations, without the enlargement of KKH and special facilities, the dream of the CPEC project will be a fiasco in a short time. Unfortunately, the Government has launched the operations of CPEC without any projects or arrangements in GB. Projects on KKH and in GB are very necessary, not only for the CPEC dream but also for the prosperity and inclusion of the people of GB into the CPEC. At present, the inhabitants of GB are already deprived of many other rights, undergoing a sense of deprivation which may lead to backlash. The only thing GB has received yet from the project is just environmental pollution, exhaust gases and road accidents. Government shouldn’t be frivolous in this serious issue and must adopt some punctilious policies regarding the proper apportion of the CPEC benefits and projects, which is the only possible way to extenuate the fume of the people. In other case, uprisings may result in a serious upheaval and Indian involvement in this territory will catalyse the situation, which ultimately affects the CPEC route. Any kind of blunder on this route will lose the confidence of investors, which is, again, not in the favour of the CPEC dream.

My friend, listening for quite long time, asked, then why don’t the people raise the voice for their rights? Unfortunately our people are not united on this serious issue; they are busy in religious and community biased activities. Missing leadership, sectorial segregations, personal greed and ignorance are the main reasons behind the unfair situation created in GB.

I experienced some bizarre protests in the past here. These people deprived of their constitutional rights for 69 years, were protesting for 19 days just ober the increase of Rs.2 in the price of wheat. Another example, just a few days earlier, there was a nine-day sit in for banning religious programs in Karakorum University. Many other community-based protest are associated with this region but unfortunately there example in which they asked for the provincial status of GB, or anything concrete and long lasting to protect our future. Our people are ignorant and acting irresponsibly in this crucial time when others are enjoying the benefits of the CPEC.