Six years after Gwadar became the focal point of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the benefits have yet to reach the city’s people. Protests over checkpoint humiliations, government inaction and failure to provide basic amenities threaten to shut down one of the project’s key hubs.
If the Afghan Taliban makes good on its pledge to not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for attacks against other countries, peace could emerge in Pakistan. If it backtracks and supports Islamist militancy, though, it could represent an existential threat to Islamabad.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to keep up the anti-Pakistan rhetoric but heed international pressure not to escalate the conflict. Meanwhile, cash-strapped Pakistan would not want a protracted conflict either.
The violent protests over Asia Bibi’s acquittal reveal the government’s powerlessness against radical Islam, and highlight the need for it to end its policy of appeasement. Such unrest will only complicate Pakistan’s bid to escape an economic crisis.
Pakistan’s new government is less enamoured of Chinese infrastructure projects because of concerns over unfair terms. It is running up huge debts, and yet not a dollar of the Chinese loans has entered Pakistani banking channels.
The US’ decision to block an IMF loan to Pakistan will only push the country more deeply into China’s sphere of influence.
China is spending more than US$55 billion on projects in Pakistan, much of it of through loans. While Islamabad has been able to reject a few Chinese demands for now, ballooning debt may well weaken its resolve.