Islamabad, When Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif travelled to China over the weekend to participate in the Belt and Road Forum, the top item on his agenda was finalising the long-term plan for the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Details of this plan, kept secret even from Pakistan’s provincial governments, were leaked by the influential Dawn newspaper on Monday, causing many quarters to question the wisdom of the initiative.
According to the details, thousands of acres of agricultural land will be leased to Chinese enterprises to set up “demonstration projects” in areas ranging from seed varieties to irrigation technology, and a system of monitoring and surveillance will be built in cities from Peshawar to Karachi, with 24-hour video recording of roads and busy marketplaces for law and order.
A national fibre-optic backbone will be built for Pakistan, not only for internet traffic but also for terrestrial distribution of broadcast TV, which will cooperate with Chinese media in the “dissemination of Chinese culture”.
The Dawn reported the plan envisages a deep and broad-based penetration of most sectors of Pakistan’s economy and society by Chinese enterprises and culture. Its scope has no precedent in Pakistan’s history, in terms of how far it opens up Pakistan’s economy to participation by foreign enterprises.
The Dawn reported it had acquired exclusive access to the document and that its details were being publicly disclosed for the first time. The plan lays out in detail what China’s intentions and priorities are in Pakistan for the next decade-and-a-half.
Two versions of the long-term plan are with the government and the full version, running to 231 pages, is the one drawn up by the China Development Bank and the National Development and Reform Commission. The shortened version, dated February 2017, contains only broad descriptions of the various areas of cooperation.
The shorter plan, which has 30 pages, was drawn up for circulation to Pakistan’s provincial governments to obtain their assent. The only province that received the full version was Punjab, where Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz Sharif is chief minister.