ISLAMABAD – Since the establishment of their diplomatic relations on May 21, 1951, China and Pakistan have forged an all-weather friendship and conducted all-round cooperation.
As an important pilot project of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and one of the main platforms for deepening bilateral cooperation, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been bearing fruit.
For 32-year-old Zulqarnian Khan, working as a geological engineer in the Suki Kinari hydropower station, only about 10 km away from his home, is what makes him and his family elated.
“My parents are happy. They know I will have a bright future as I can learn lots of advanced techniques from my Chinese colleagues with a handsome income here,” he told Xinhua.
Located in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the 884-megawatt hydropower station is a major CPEC energy project, with construction in full swing.
“Our project currently has around 5,000 Pakistani employees, and over 60 percent of them are from nearby areas of the station,” said Deng Siwen, general manager of the project. “Since the start of construction four years ago, I have seen shops and hotels mushroom near our construction site, and many of our Pakistani colleagues began to afford a motorbike for commuting.”
Having been working for the project for three years, Khan is joining hands with his Chinese and Pakistani colleagues to smoothly reach each milestone in the construction, including the second-stage river closure achieved in late April.
When starting commercial operation, the project is expected to generate some 3.21 billion kilowatt-hours of clean electricity annually to provide sufficient power supply and further improve Pakistan’s energy structure while a number of CPEC power plants under operation have already made great contributions to solving the electricity shortage in the country.
“The CPEC energy projects have added thousands of megawatts of installed capacity to the grid of the country, and the electricity shortage which was there for the last 20-25 years is no more,” Mushahid Hussain Syed, chairman of the Pakistani Senate’s standing committee on foreign affairs, told Xinhua.
The sufficient energy supply has paved the way for the boom of Pakistan’s economic and social activities, enabling the country to embark on a path of clean and green development.
In Pakistan’s eastern historic city of Lahore, the launch of the South Asian country’s first-ever metro train service last October has provided a modern, comfortable and eco-friendly way of traveling for over 11 million residents in the city.
Adopting the Chinese standard, technology and equipment, the electricity-driven Orange Line metro train under CPEC has become a popular choice among local commuters and is expected to facilitate the traffic and reduce air pollution in the city.
“Earlier, it used to take me an hour via three different kinds of transport to reach my destination and I had to suffer dust since the rickshaw I used to take was open,” said Lahore resident Tariq Siddiqui. “Now I am just using this one which takes me only 20 minutes. It’s a very good facility for the public.”
Meanwhile, CPEC’s other transport infrastructure projects including the Karakoram Highway Phase Two and the Sukkur-Multan Motorway “have connected different provinces of Pakistan in a modern and better way, facilitating transportation, trade and people’s travel,” Syed said.
Facing the Arabian Sea, Gwadar port, one of the pillars of the CPEC, in Pakistan’s southwest Balochistan province, has made a series of achievements including the inauguration of liner services, Afghan transit trade and liquefied petroleum gas business, and is sailing towards the dream of becoming a “New Dubai” in Pakistan.
Launched in 2013, the CPEC is a corridor linking Gwadar port with Kashgar in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which highlights energy, transport and industrial cooperation.
According to the data recently released by the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, a total of 46 CPEC projects are under construction or have been completed, and the corridor has brought 25.4 billion U.S. dollars in foreign direct investment to Pakistan and created 75,000 jobs for the locals, serving as a focal point for China and Pakistan to drive practical cooperation.
In late April, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a meeting with the country’s high-level officials reviewing progress on CPEC that the corridor is a testimony to the time-tested and deep-rooted Pakistan-China friendship.
“After 70 years of development, this iron-clad friendship exists not only between the two governments, but has also become a broad consensus among the two peoples, which is what I feel after working in Pakistan for 13 years,” said Deng.
Last year when the COVID-19 epidemic was raging across Pakistan, batches of Chinese engineers and workers took chartered flights back to Pakistan to join their Pakistani counterparts in the CPEC construction, for the common goal of completing the construction on time.
With fruitful achievements, the CPEC has entered a new stage of high-quality development, focusing more on industrial, agricultural and socio-economic cooperation. The Pakistani government plans to develop nine special economic zones across the country under the CPEC to promote its industrialization.
As the first one of its kind being implemented, the Rashakai special economic zone in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is pushing forward its construction and inviting investors, along with the building of the first factory invested by a Chinese company in the zone.
“We are inviting investors from all over the world to come and put up industry in those special economic zones. This will help increase our exports, help our economy and give more jobs to our youth,” Chairman of Pakistan’s CPEC Authority Asim Saleem Bajwa said.
Pakistan also pins high hope on the CPEC and Gwadar port in particular to transform itself into a regional trade hub.
The improvement the CPEC has brought to Pakistan’s transport infrastructure and Gwadar port can facilitate trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian countries, which will in turn tap the full potential of the corridor, Badiea Shaukat, an economic consultant, told Xinhua.
Hailing the CPEC as a far-sighted project, Pakistani President Arif Alvi said that the Gwadar port can provide Central Asian countries with ideal access to the sea, which will further strengthen interconnectivity and cooperation for common development of the whole region. Enditem