Pakistan Completes Construction of Over Half of CPEC Western Route
Frontier Works Organization
Of the three land routes being constructed as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project to connect Pakistan's deep sea Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea with western China, the western route is the most challenging. In addition to the difficult mountainous terrain in KP and Baluchistan provinces, the western route runs through Panjgur and Turbat where there is an active Baloch insurgency believed to be aided by India via Afghanistan. It's being built by Pakistan Army's Frontier Works Organization.
|Deep Sea Port at Gwadar|
Frontier Works Organization:
Frontier Works Organization (FWO) is an administrative branch of the Pakistan Army that includes active duty officers and civilian scientists and engineers which has been involved with the construction of bridges, roads, tunnels, airfields and dams in Pakistan, on the orders of the civilian government of Pakistan, according a Reuters report.
|Three CPEC Routes: Western, Central and Eastern|
The completion of construction of 502 km of the 870 km length of the western alignment represents a significant milestone for Pakistan Army and the Frontier Works Organization. It is expected to become operational by the end of 2016.
|CPEC Projects Map|
India has made no secret of its strong opposition to the the CPEC project, and it is believed to be making covert efforts to sabotage it. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “very strongly” raised the issue regarding China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) during his visit to Beijing, and called the project “unacceptable”. Swaraj said Modi was “concerned” about the $46 billion project, adding that the Indian government had summoned a Chinese envoy to raise the issue over the corridor that is to run through Pakistani Kashmir. Needless to say that the Chinese dismissed India’s objections to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
In spite of Indian RAW's most determined effort to support the Baloch militants' campaign of murder and terror, the Baloch insurgency has been significantly weakened by the Pakistan Army campaign in the province. In 2013 earthquake that struck Awaran, a stronghold of Baloch insurgents, Pakistan Army moved in with relief supplies to earthquake victims, and managed to gain access to parts of the very volatile district that were considered inaccessible. More recently, the insurgency has been decimated by in-fighting among various Baloch insurgent factions. The 2014 death of veteran Baloch leader Khair Bux Marri has opened up a rift between his sons Mehran and Hyrbyair — who heads the BLA from self-exile in London — and led to the creation of the UBA with other groups also aligning themselves with one side or the other.
Pak Army Chief's Warning:
Pakistan Army Chief Raheel Sharif has shown a strong personal commitment to making it happen by visiting insurgency-hit areas to support the workers and the troops on difficult construction sites. He was emphatic during a ceremony to celebrate the Chinese Army’s 88th anniversary held at the country’s Islamabad embassy where he said, “I reiterate our resolve that any attempt to obstruct or impede this (CPEC) project will be thwarted at all costs".
Construction work on CPEC is already stimulating economic activity in Pakistan as indicated by rising domestic cement demand in the country. It was up 8% year over year in 2014-15. Cement sales are considered a barometer of development activity. A recent assessment by Ruchir Sharma, head of Morgan Stanley's emerging markets, has said Pakistan's economy is growing more than twice as fast as emerging markets other than India and China. In a piece titled "Bucking stagnation elsewhere, the quiet rise of South Asia", Sharma particularly mentions the Chinese CPEC investment of $46 billion as a positive for Pakistan. "Pakistan’s manufacturing sector is now growing, due to both increasing electric output and the fact that – like Bangladesh – its young population and labour force is expected to continue expanding for at least the next five years", says Sharma.
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