On April 21st, the Chinese president Xi Jinping paid a maiden two-day visit to Islamabad where he announced an investment of $46bn (£30.7bn) in Pakistan, most of which will be used for building a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – a network of roads, railways and pipelines.

The Economic Corridor will connect China’s western province of Xinjiang with Gwadar, a port town in Pakistan’s southwest province of Balochistan. Gwadar Port, constructed with the help of the Chinese in 2000s, is located some 180 miles off the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. However, the Gwadar Port where the economic corridor initiates, is the most volatile and insurgency-marred part of Balochistan where the security forces are fighting a low-level insurgency. Rights groups have accused them of human rights violations, mainly disappearances of political activists and the subsequent dumping of their bullet-riddled bodies on a regular basis.

On the other hand, Baloch insurgents have also been very instrumental in carrying out attacks on the security forces and on construction workers. Just a few days prior to Xi Jinping’s visit, an unprecedented attack was carried out by the banned Baloch Liberation Front in Turbat region of Balochistan, which is a two-hour drive away from the port city of Gwadar. Twenty construction workers were killed in the attack. Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch, a medical doctor-turned-insurgent, is currently pursuing an armed-struggle for an independent Balochistan, claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of his organization. He said that these employees had affiliations with the security forces, and therefore they had to face fatal consequences. He further explained that his group would target anyone who collaborates with the security forces regardless of their ethnicity.

In response to the attack on the construction workers, the security forces soon conducted a military operation in the area and killed at least 13 people. The security forces accused them of being involved in the target killing of the construction workers. However, Mama Qadeer Baloch subjected the security forces to scathing criticism. He said that these people had been missing for several months, and he had been working for their safe recovery.

The irony is that each time the Baloch insurgents carry out an attack on the paramilitary forces, the forces show a knee-jerk reaction that either results in whisking away of more people or dumping of the bullet-riddled bodies of those who are already in their custody. However, if we look at things on humanitarian grounds, the attack on the construction workers and the reaction of the security forces are both unprecedented, dreadful and horrible if Mama Qadeer is right in his criticism. Human rights violations on both sides do not help resolve the problem that the province faces.

Most of the people in Pakistan’s political diaspora can unsurprisingly agree with the fact that if the military version of the narrative could not resolve the erewhile issue of Bangladesh and resulted its dismemberment from Pakistan in 1971, how could such tactics work in Balochistan where the use of power has given birth to insurgency after insurgency.

A state is supposed to be responsible for creating peace and harmony among its people.  What one has to understand is that the Baloch insurgents are not going to restore peace in the province since they have a very powerful stance: gaining an independent Balochistan through armed struggle. However, all that the government can do to solve the issue is not showing mighty but by initiating peaceful dialogue with the separatist leaders both in Balochistan and abroad. After the May 2013 elections, the current government did a great job making Dr. Malik Baloch the first ever non-tribal Chief Minister of the Balochistan. It was perceived that he would help resolve the issues faced by the war-torn province, however this could not happen since the government did not give him enough backing.

Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch, in a recent statement said that he was even not taken into confidence about Pak-China Economic Corridor. However, he bolstered the move and assured security for foreign investors. He said that the developmental projects have a lot to do with peace and poverty in the province. In fact, the Chief Minster is right when he says that Balochistan needs development because development is the first ladder to confidence-building measures.

On the contrary, the separatist groups have a general feeling that Dr. Baloch is in cahoots with what they call colonizers. If the government fails to render support to Dr. Malik Baloch, it would further strengthen the separatists’ notion about him.

Ever since the Chinese started construction work on Gwadar Port, Baloch insurgents have been very instrumental in carrying out attacks on the construction workers. For instance, they carried out an attack on the van of Chinese engineers in 2004, which killed three engineers and left nine others injured. In 2006, three Chinese workers at a cement plant were killed by Baloch Liberation Army , another separatist group.

The attacks on construction workers do not bode well for prospects of foreign investment in the region. Similarly, foreigners, as well other ethnicities, will face problems working in the area.

When Musharraf’s dictatorial government handed over the Saindak project to China during his regime, the Chinese company did not spend a penny on human resource development, education, health and infrastructure in the concerned district, Chaghi.

Sanaullah Baloch – a Baloch nationalist and former senator –says that China’s investment and money are no guarantee for growth and political stability. If this project has anything to with Balochistan’s development, it is only about building better roads. These roads were built during the British occupation of Balochistan and did not help bring education, peace and progress to the province.

Regrettably, the Chinese have not offered any political solution to Balochistan’s conflict nor has it discussed the appalling issues of poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and many other social problems faced by the people of the conflict-ridden province. This indicates that China is only interested in Balochistan’s natural wealth, not its people. Such mega projects will remain unsuccessful just like the Pak-Iran gas pipeline if a political solution to the problem is not found.

The illicit use of power from the establishment has already cost us heavily. Conscious people must come forward and deal with the issue politically and democratically – unless they want the same results that this illicit use of power reaped thirty-three years ago.