CPEC and Balochistan should grow together, Baloch leaders emphasize in Beijing

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BEIJING, AUG 27 (DNA) – Baloch leaders representing the Balochistan National Party (BNP), Pakistan National Party (PNP), and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) on Tuesday had a rare heart-to-heart exchange of views with Chinese academia and experts on the Balochistan situation as well the status of CPEC related projects in the province.The delegation comprised of Senator Dr. Jehanzeb Jamaldini (Secretary General, BNP), Agha Hassan Baloch (MNA, BNP), Mir Naseebullah Khan Marri (Balochistan Health Minister), Dr. Ishaq Baloch (NP), and Syed Ehsan Shah (former Minister of Finance, PNP).

Chen Shaoxin, Secretary General of the host China Association for Friendship (CAF), welcomed the Baloch leaders, and said their presence underlined China’s desire to pursue peace and development in an inclusive and collaborative way.

The delegation highlighted issues such as exclusion of Baloch input from decision-making and key positions, pockets of economic backwardness, and a dismal state of infrastructure. They also underscored the need for taking Baloch leadership as well as tribal cultural sensitivities into consideration.

They emphasized greater transparency and inclusion of community in all Balochistan-based CPEC projects.

An inclusive approach, they said, will also mitigate security issues through community buy-in. They added that dedicated education scholarships, skill development opportunities, and job quota for Baloch youth are some of the instruments that can help neutralize misperceptions surrounding CPEC.

Finally, the Baloch leaders informed the Chinese hosts that criticism of China or opposition to CPEC by some radical groups does not represent the general socio-political sentiment of Baloch people.

Baloch are liberal and peaceful people. But if the youth do not get jobs it will be easy for religious radicals elements and the enemies of Pakistan to recruit them for anti-state activities, said Jamaldini.

Mistrusts and complaints come from a long history of negligence and exclusion as main strategies for Balochistan have traditionally been made in Islamabad, said Dr. Baloch.

China should priorities health and education infrastructure in the province, said Marri.

The Baloch delegation, moderated by CAF’s Pakistan partner, the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), impressed upon the Chinese hosts to create greater awareness among Baloch people about the win-win situation created via CPEC.

Terrorism against Chinese interests, violence against civilian and military forces and negative propaganda is part of a new cold war between the two major economic powers of the world, Ehsan Shah pointed out in response to questions as to why Chinese interests were being attacked in Pakistan. We have to face and fight it together, he concluded.=DNA

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