Saad Ahmed Dogar, a 26-year-old Pakistani lawyer based in Lahore, shared his thoughts on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in a nationwide newspaper recently in a bid to paint a real picture of CPEC for locals to have a better understanding of the massive project.
In his recent essay titled: "Four reasons why CPEC will not be another East India Company" published in the Tribune, an English-language daily in Pakistan, the young lawyer tried to dispel rumors and allay anxiety from the local community about CPEC.
"The concerns regarding CPEC are understandable given our (Pakistani) history ... However, to suggest that CPEC is similar to or would eventually turn into another EIC is farfetched and seems unlikely," Dogar wrote in the article, targeting a news report earlier that CPEC could turn into another infamous East India Company (EIC) -- a fear which has been stoked by a few upper house lawmakers.
Dogar, who majored in law at the University of London, by way of a distance education program, maintained that a fundamentally important difference between the EIC and CPEC is the racism factor.
"When British people came here they did not regard us as equal, so that is the fundamental difference between the two," he told Xinhua on Sunday in an interview, adding that the EIC brought their own army to the subcontinent, interfered in political matters and finally ran the then government.
He said that when the EIC came in the 1600s, the subcontinent's income was more than 20 percent of the global total, but when they left, it was around 3 or 4 percent. However, a senior economist at Standard Chartered Bank (Pakistan) Ltd. calculated that the CPEC is expected to drive Pakistan's GDP from around 4.7 percent in 2015 to around 6 percent by 2019.
"I think the CPEC is strictly an economic project with non-interference in our internal matters," the lawyer said. "Obviously, Chinese companies are investing in Pakistan because they want to make profits, but it is up to the Pakistani people to make the best of it."
He further said that under the CPEC, Chinese people are not going to dictate Pakistani policies and other matters, instead, Chinese companies are following and accepting the rules as per the Pakistani courts.
The young lawyer suggested that people should double check the true facts behind critical and skeptical stories on CPEC by themselves through independent research and also urged the two countries' media outlets to establish more communication and exchanges on the facts regarding CPEC.
"If senior Chinese journalists could write for Pakistani famous papers, I think it would assure Pakistanis of the true intentions the Chinese people have."
"Visits to CPEC projects for the Pakistani media people should be arranged, which would help change their perceptions," he suggested, adding that "whenever I visit for my own pleasure, I see many CPEC projects are under progress, and when I talk to local people, they have said it is CPEC projects that make them very happy and have changed their lives."
Dagor said that CPEC will help Pakistan address its power shortage, eliminate poverty and facilitate development in remote areas in Balochistan by building more road networks and power plants.
"The Orange Line Train, for example, is a CPEC project being built right next to my house. Every day I can see how rapidly and proficiently the project is progressing," he said, adding that when he visited the northern part of the country, he was impressed by all the roads being built there due to CPEC projects.
"Basically from what I have seen, CPEC is developing a lot of infrastructure throughout Pakistan. I know that they are building a power plant at the Port Qasim, as another example, a coal power plant in Thar and when I travelled to my hometown Burewala in Punjab Province, I saw a coal power plant in the Sahiwal district," stated Dagor.
CPEC, proposed by China in 2013, is a 3,000-km network of roads, railways and pipelines linking Kashgar in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and southwest Pakistan's Gwadar port.
The economic belt is also a major part of China's Belt and Road Initiative.
However, Dogar did not deny that there were concerns over CPEC such as the impact of imported Chinese products on Pakistani goods, or whether there will be enough jobs created for local people.
Importing Chinese products will mean Pakistani goods will compete in the domestic marketplace, but in many ways increased competition will invigorate the market and manufacturers here can learn from Chinese expertises in manufacturing and other sectors, which can only be to their benefit, he said.
He also highlighted the fact that CPEC only started three years ago and its completion time is 2030 so it is too premature for critics to be concerned about whether it will create enough jobs and benefit more rural areas in the country.
The fact is, he said, that CPEC has already provided tens of thousands of new jobs for the local people, so the future looks bright.
For the skeptics, "hopefully, they will see the myriad benefits of CPEC as the project progresses," Dogar said.