As Pakistan navigates the changing power equation in the world and Kashmir, CPEC stands out as a silver lining. The massive investment in CPEC by China invites global awe; at the same time, anxiety does creep in. The importance of CPEC for Pakistan, as well as for China, cannot be denied. The scale of investment is so massive that it invites skepticism at home and internationally. Therefore, challenges to CPEC are legion. One of the hurdles was to bring national consensus among Pakistan’s politicians. This problem was decoded by establishing a mechanism that brings all political parties of Pakistan and China together for consultations regarding CPEC. The mechanism brought consensus but underlined broad national issues of Pakistan.
China-Pakistan economic corridor is of great importance to Pakistan and China. It also can improve the lives of three billion people across the region. It will elevate Pakistan’s position strategically. From providing jobs to infrastructure development in Pakistan, it is considered as game-changer for Pakistan. As for China, CPEC is a flagship project of its larger Belt and Road project. Its most significant international investment in China at current times. It will also provide the shortest route to China to supply its energy-starved industry with fuel. All these are some of the factors that show how much importance both the countries attach to CPEC.
Although CPEC is of supreme value, it is not free of criticism. It has received its fair share of critique at home and internationally. At home, in Pakistan, it was questioned by political parties. The provincial governments and other parties – keeping in mind political parties are quite a province-centric in Pakistan – wanted more opacity, transparency, repayment terms and capacities or maybe a larger share in the pie. They feared a more populous province getting a larger share. Due to this reason, there was confusion and criticism on CPEC in provincial corridors. As CPEC is the BRI’s flagship project and one of the largest international investment in the present times, it is crucial to building consensus among the parties.
Along the same lines, the general public opinion about CPEC was of economic imperialism. Pakistan’s public feared of being a Chinese colony. These suspicions were further fanned by international propaganda against CPEC.
Additionally, CPEC was internationally maligned for being part of the debt trap diplomacy of China. A massive propaganda campaign was launched against it.
In reply to all these acquisitions and suspicions, China and Pakistan came up with a mechanism to address these issues. CPEC is not a parochial one party or one province centric project. It is a cross Pakistan project with all four provinces involved and steers through Pakistan’s multi-party system. The politics and internal lack of trust had become a roadblock to CPEC. China cured this problem by directly engaging with all Pakistan’s political parties to nurture a better understanding of CPEC’s vision and mission. This process is called Political parties Joint Consultation Mechanism (JCM) on CPEC. This process engages the communist party of China and a broad range of Pakistan’s political parties. This mechanism brings all the stakeholders on board. Therefore, all the ambiguities related to the project are removed in the meeting rather than being publicized. This mechanism also saves the project from a media trial at home and internationally. Furthermore, as JCM brings clarity to political parties, it will help to appease general public opinion.
Although JCM comes to rescue CPEC from being ambiguous, it underlines a lot about Pakistan’s politics and national unity. First of all, why is there a need for political parties JCM between two states – one having a one-party system other having a multi-party system. The multi-party government is unable to bring all of its political parties to converge at one point. It is Pakistan in the said case. It means JCM highlights the failure of Pakistan’s federal government to build consensus among various wings of government. This may be due to a lack of trust or the absence of transparency.
Secondly, the national statement or vision of a state is decided in parliament. Moreover, any concerns of the political parties are raised, heard, addressed, and solved in the country’s parliament. Parliament is the discussion forum for such mega projects- the government is to resolve other parties’ ambiguities in question hour. JCM is a mechanism that bypasses the parliament because the issues of parties are not addressed by the federal government but by the Chinese government.
Thirdly, JCM blatantly exposes the sheer mistrust and absence of national unity among politicians of Pakistan. Politicians are ready to trust the Communist Party of China but not their federal government.
Conclusively, it can be inferred that the success of CPEC lies in unity and clarity about the project. It is for this reason that the JCM is established. JCM brings clarity and transparency to CPEC but highlights loopholes in internal politics and Pakistan’s national unity. It is high time that Pakistan puts in the effort to get its house in order.