Beijing – CRSS Report
Five Baloch leaders representing different parties recently undertook a rare tour of China that took them to Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.
The China Friendship Association (CAF) and its Pakistani partner – the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) – jointly invited the Baloch delegation as part of their collaborative partnership to promote CPEC and reach out to people of Balochistan.
The delegation comprised Senator, Dr. Jehanzeb Jamaldini, secretary-general of the Balochistan National Party (BNP), Agha Hassan Baloch, MNA (BNP), Mir Naseebullah Khan Marri, provincial health minister, Dr. Ishaq Baloch (National Party), and Syed Ehsan Shah, former minister of finance Pakistan National Party (PNP).
On August 27, the Baloch delegates 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.
Inaugurating the dialogue, Chen Shaoxin, Secretary-General of the host China Association Friendship (CAF), welcomed the Baloch leaders, mostly from Baloch nationalist parties, and said their presence underlined China’s desire to pursue peace and development in an inclusive and collaborative way for the benefit of everybody. We want the Baloch people to benefit from CPEC as much as the rest of Pakistan, which remains a real all-weather trusted friend, said Mr Chen of CAF, which is one of the most influential arms of the Chinese government for international outreach.
One of the subjects under discussion was the criticism of China or opposition to CPEC by some radical groups does not represent the general socio-political sentiment of Baloch people. The Baloch delegates pointed out that all common Baloch desires are inclusive development in consultation with Baloch stake-holders. If the developmental process takes everybody on board, nothing will stop its progress. This is the best way to blunt negative propaganda against the Sino-Pak cooperation, they said and assured the hosts that no well-meaning Baloch will ever be opposed to projects that can potentially benefit not only Balochistan but also the rest of Pakistan.
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, Syed 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.
Mistrusts and complaints come from a long history of negligence and exclusion as main strategies for Balochistan have traditionally been made in Islamabad.
In their candid conversation with the Chinese hosts, Baloch leaders attempted to dispel some of the disinformation surrounding CPEC and explained that greater transparency and inclusion of the community in all Balochistan-based CPEC projects will not only create greater ownership of the development efforts but also kill rumour-mongering. They also demanded dedicated education scholarships and skill development opportunities in China as well as in Balochistan. Job quota for Baloch youth can also be an important instrument to help neutralise misperceptions about CPEC.
Dr.Jehanzaib Jamaldini, general secretary of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal), tried to address some misgivings about some Baloch groups and said that Baloch people, in general, are liberal and peaceful people. But if the youth don’t get jobs it will be easy for religious radicals elements and the enemies of Pakistan to recruit them for terrorist activities, he added.
Exclusion of Baloch stakeholders from issues related to Balochistan, including CPEC projects also resonated in the seminar. An inclusive approach could easily take care of the security issues and automatically create a protection shield by the community itself, underlined Dr Ishaq Baloch.
Balochistan’s minister for health Mir Naseebullah Khan Marri drew the hosts attention to the backward social infrastructure and suggested that China prioritise health and education infrastructure in all the key districts to address the acute social sector backwardness. This will not only fill the gap but also generate huge goodwill for our Chinese friends.
Another issue that resonated during the dialogue was “exclusion of Baloch from decision-making, key positions, pockets of economic backwardness and the dismal state of infrastructure in most parts of Balochistan.” Baloch visitors also underscored the need for taking Baloch leadership as well as tribal cultural sensitivities of the tribes into consideration too.
On August 28 and 29, Baloch leaders visited Shenzhen, the hub of electronics in the Guangdong province. Within a space of four decades, Shenzhen has risen from rags to phenomenal riches; from a desolate fishermen’s town to a super-rich magnet as well as a manufacturing centre for all kinds of electronics. The Chinese telecom giant Huawei is also headquartered in Shenzhen. They also toured Guangzhou. The objective of Baloch leader’s exposure to Shenzhen and Guangzhou, the capital of the Guangdong province, is to explain to them the secret behind the breath-taking development of the last four decades.
Baloch MPs reassured the Chinese hosts to create greater awareness among Baloch people about the win-win situation that Chinese friends are creating through the CPEC. It will help remove misperceptions as well as negative rumours around the role of China in Balochistan.
Under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2016, both CAF and CRSS have agreed to promote the CPEC objectives and work for greater understanding between the people of the two countries.