”Had there a thousand mountains been, my longing would have crossed them all.”
“O mountain, when my love I meet; your tortures I'll relate;
But a great transformation has taken place in the region. The dream of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has now become a reality by the move of the first CPEC convoy. The landlocked Central Asian States, the remote Chinese West and the warm water ports of Arabian Sea are joining each other by crossing the formidable mountains, desolate deserts and parched plains. It will be a connection between one third of the world population living in South Asia, Western China, Central Asian Republics and the Middle East.
Though Pakistan and China are neighbours, they were separated by the formidable and impassable mountains of the Karakoram, Himalaya and Hindu Kush ranges. But the roots of our friendship were strong enough to surpass the physical difficulties. The connection between the two civilizations goes back thousands of years through the fabled Silk Route which bound the region in trade and friendship. The spread of Budhism from Taxila was also facilitated through this route.
The tracks and pathways between the two countries had existed for centuries but the advent of vehicular traffic brought in new requirements for carving out a dependable and all-weather road link between the two countries that could traverse the treacherous mountains, deep ravines and was able to withstand the vagaries of nature.
The Roots of CPEC
When Pakistan came into being on August 14, 1947 the remote towns of North were disconnected due to lack of road access. The few mule tracks that existed remained blocked half the year due to snow. Even in summers land slides, avalanches and floods were common which rendered the pathways impassable.
The success of this track encouraged Pakistani government to plan for an all-weather truck-able highway between the two countries for which the Frontier Works Organization (FWO) was raised from the organizational structure of Pakistan Army Engineers in 1966.
Construction of a road in one of the most difficult terrains of the world was arduous. The road had to pass through deep ravines, high mountains and an earthquake sensitive zone. Chinese road builders joined hands with FWO workforce and together they shed their grit and blood for the construction of Karakoram Highway which was to become the highest paved road of the world and the foundation of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The Culmination of CPEC
The Arabian Sea coastal belt of Pakistan provides a convenient access to the huge landlocked regions of Afghanistan, Central Asian States and Western China, however, it was disconnected from the mainland. The road journey from Gwadar to Karachi or Quetta took three tiring days and opportunities of socio-economic uplift were severely restricted.
It was at this juncture that FWO successfully undertook construction of 650 km long Makran Coastal Highway which proved to be a catalyst for the socio-economic development of Balochistan’s coastal areas.
Just a couple of years back FWO started its efforts to enhance connectivity of Gwadar Deep Sea Port with up country in which three major roads i.e. N-85 the Turbat-Panjgur-Hoshab road, the Gwadar-Turbat-Hoshab section of M-8 Motorway and the Kalat-Quetta-Chaman road have been completed, while active work is being carried out on the Khuzdar-Shahdadkot section of M-8.
Despite serious logistic constraints in wake of remoteness of the area, climatic constraints and resistance by the enemies of development, FWO has completed the onerous task of construction of road projects in Balochistan as part of the western route within the stipulated timeline. Completion of 870 kms of roads in about two years is a record by any international standard. Forty valiant workers of FWO laid down their lives for accomplishing projects of national significance.
Operationalization of the Western Route
A Warning to Detractors
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is now a reality.
Peace and Progress for the Whole Region
The valley of occupied Kashmir had historic links with China and Central Asian States through the routes passing through Pakistan. Unfortunately, hostility and belligerency has overpowered rationality and forces of unreason have denied progress to the local population of Indian occupied Kashmir.
Friends of CPEC
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif in his speech called the arrival of the first trade convoy at Gwadar Port 'a watershed event', for bringing the dawn of immense trade and commerce opportunities for the whole region. The prime minister also commended the personal support and interest of former Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif and Balochistan’s Chief Minister for executing the development projects, adding that the maritime security was being looked after by Pakistan Navy.
He lauded the services of FWO for the operationalization of Gwadar Port by laying three major road networks through the rough and difficult terrains of the province, over which the federal government has spent Rs. 49 billion. He paid tribute to the 40 brave FWO men who laid down their lives in the construction of the road projects.
Striving for a Bright Future
Gwadar was not the final destination of the brave and bold who gathered there as pioneers of the first CPEC trade convoy. It was just the culmination point of the land journey and the start of the voyage to Jebel Ali, Dubai. The subsequent convoys will go even farther.
All along Pakistan, the Chinese guests brightened up the boulevards and thoroughfares from where they passed and people of Pakistan received them with open arms. Likewise, the message of peace, harmony and friendship will be carried to far-off lands. CPEC is destined to become a harbinger of peace that would realize the dream of changing the fate of three billion people of the region through economic transformation and the great leap forward has set in.
Long live Pakistan-China friendship!