Gilgit: Anger is rising in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) over both Pakistan and China exploiting their resources in a reckless manner for selfish economic gain.
The residents are strongly opposing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as it has failed to provide any tangible benefits to them.
China is investing over 40 billion dollars for its ambitious 3,000-km-long economic corridor that will link western China to southern Pakistan through a network of roads, railway lines and pipelines.
The project is being touted as bringing about a spectacular socio-economic change in the region, but alienated residents currently feel that both China and Pakistan are past masters in lies and deceit, as before firming up the project, all stakeholders were not consulted.
"People want that at least they should be informed about the project, be taken into confidence so that they get to know what all benefits they will get from this project. We fear that this should not happen as if we sit idle and only count the number of trucks coming from China side and not benefit even a bit," said Abdul Rehman Bukhari.
Pakistan, which suffers from a huge power crisis, draws its electricity mostly from Gilgit-Baltistan, but ironically none of the power projects have presence in the region - thus depriving Gilgit of potential royalties.
Activists and locals have raised concerns that CPEC project will create a huge ecological imbalance. Locals are dejected as presence of Chinese workers in the region has left them without jobs.
The CPEC is being seen as a sheer attempt to exploit the resource-rich region.
"They are constructing 60 economic zones as per the CPEC project, but none of these zones exist in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmiri. The CPEC will pass through these areas, but they are only constructing an army headquarter in Diamer for the security of the corridor. But out of $40 million to be spent on the project, there is no investment in Gilgit-Baltistan and PoK," said Mohd Naeem Khan, leader of the Kashmir National Party.
China has its economic interest in disputed Gilgit-Baltistan and PoK region. It is engaged in construction, ranging from dams and highways to ports.
There is a growing resentment among locals over China's presence in the region. To fulfill the requirements of the project, the government and the army are forcibly acquiring the ancestral land of the locals in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Senge H Sering, director, Gilgit-Baltistan National Congress, said, "When Pakistan Army was constructing Karakoram highway along with China, no compensation was given to affected people. No lose assessment was made. Now, the land acquirement for the CPEC project is being done forcibly. The ancestral land of the people cannot be acquired without paying them compensation and earning their consent. But, the Gilgit-Baltistan government and Pakistan Army are forcibly acquiring the ancestral land of the people."
In an effort to provide legal cover to the multi-billion dollar Chinese investments, Pakistan is even considering elevating the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan. However, the local population is completely against it.
Gilgit-Baltistan region was illegally acquired by Pakistan in 1947. Since then the beleaguered region has suffered badly as the administration has failed miserably to provide basic facilities to the local population.