ARTICLE DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 OPEN The politics of the China―Pakistan economic corridor Maham Hameed ABSTRACT China’s presence in the Global South has increased dramatically over the course of a decade. The discourse of mutual beneﬁt and non-intervention has attracted much attention in the developing world, which is now facing the consequences of Western inter- ventions. However, the extent to which Chinese engagement in the developing world stays true to these principles needs to be evaluated in terms of its effects on the political economic structures of the host nations. This study analyses how China and the China-Pakistan Eco- nomic Corridor (CPEC) is interacting with the political and economic realities of Pakistan. Firstly, the study traces the history of regionalism in Pakistan and shows that over the years, the developmental mission of the central state has created deep-seated regionalism in Pakistan. The study shows that CPEC is deepening such cleavages. The regionalist forces have opposed the project in two broad ways: through demanding a greater share in the project or through completely rejecting the interventions. Secondly, the study analyses the lop-sided civil-military relations in Pakistan and concludes that Chinese engagement in Pakistan is leading to the military’s tighter control of civilian and economic matters relating to CPEC. Graduate Institute of Development Studies, Lahore, Pakistan. Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to M.H. (email: email@example.com) PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | (2018) 4:64 | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 | www.nature.com/palcomms 1 1234567890():,; ARTICLE PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 Introduction hina’s global rise has been presented in sharp contrast to Pakistan was to soon prove central to Beijing’s concerns, dis- the Western global order. The discourse of mutual beneﬁt pensing all qualms China had about investing in Pakistan. A Cand non-interference has been maintained by not just bomb attack in Tiananmen Square, Beijing on 28th October 2013, China but also the countries that it engages with. A similar dis- for which the Turkistan Islamist Party claimed responsibility, course has been deployed in Pakistan. However, discrepancies to was a wake-up call for China. This attack was followed by knife these promises and hopes have not been hard to spot. In order to and bomb attack in Kunming and Urumqi railway stations fully understand the implications of the Chinese presence in the indicating the spread of terrorism from the country’s remote third world, particularly in Pakistan, I look at the effects of northwest to its urban centers (Small, 2015). If the 2009 riots Chinese engagement on the political economic structure of between Han Chinese and the Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang were Pakistan. An analysis of Pakistan’s political economic structure, not enough, this series of incidents shook up Beijing to pay closer Pakistan’s history of infrastructure development, China’s foreign attention to Pakistan and Afghanistan (Pant, 2012). Stability in policy and national interests, and the basis of Pakistan–China these countries was to be of great concern to China lest the friendship is utilized to understand how the China–Pakistan Islamist extremism spread in the Western region of China (Pant, Economic Corridor (CPEC) is interacting and is expected to 2012). Hence, Pakistan is crucial to China’s economic interests interact with the state structure of Pakistan. and its desire to expand its inﬂuence in the region. Although it did not change anything for the major economic projects in the pipeline (in fact, Li’s next visit and the near-ﬁnal plans of the CPEC and the strategic interests major projects were to show that they had become even more Before we begin to understand the possible implications of Chi- critical for Chinese interests), China began to put pressure on the nese engagement in Pakistan, personiﬁed by the CPEC, it is security establishment in Pakistan for a crackdown on the Uighur important to understand what the project means for both the militants in North Waziristan (Small, 2015). The political states. An understanding of the strategic importance of the pro- inﬁghting between the civilian government and military estab- ject and how the project interacts with the historical interests of lishment led to embarrassing delays in reaching an agreement. both nations will better equip us to analyze the CPEC in terms of However, despite their differences, one thing that the Pakistani its political and social impacts. leadership agreed on was the value of Pak–China friendship, Pakistan Muslim League (N) assumed ofﬁce in 2013 after its which now promised an inﬂux of $46 billion that would trans- sweeping victory in the general elections 2013 of the National form the Pakistani economy. As the pressure from the Chinese Assembly. The regime, led by two main protagonists—the Sharif government intensiﬁed, Raheel Sharif ﬁnally obliged and laun- brothers—was all about the economy: the Sharif’s had sold its ched an operation in North Waziristan. However, the decision to vote bank the dream of a prosperous economy backed by a strong deploy tens of thousands of troops in the region was triggered by infrastructure network (Small, 2015). All the ambitious plans of other factors pertaining to terrorism and security situation in the motorways, industrial zones, and ﬁxing energy crisis could not be country too (Small, 2015). ﬁnanced locally and the Sharif government knew where to look Although security concerns are an important factor explaining for the investments. During this time, China, rethinking its eco- China’s interest in Pakistan, China has other reasons to nomic policy that had sustained China's growth for over three strengthen its ties with Pakistan too. In the last two decades, decades, was ambitiously looking to build an integrated South China has increased its global presence. To this end, China is Asian infrastructure to connect interior China to the ports of taking a more proactive role in creating diplomatic ties with other Indian Ocean. The infrastructural investments had become pre- nations. Pakistan is among the few countries that China can call a requisite for maintaining high growth rates in the newly growing friend (Shambaugh, 2013). The friendship is a welcome change provinces of Yunnan and Xinjiang. China looked for collabora- for the Pakistani political elites and various institutions of the tion from India and Pakistan. Li Keqiang—the Chinese Prime state that are experiencing increasingly deteriorating relationship Minister —ﬁrst visited India with his ambitious proposals. with the US (Small, 2015). Public support for Pak–China relations However, India found its economic ally in Japan instead. Next in Pakistan is also striking (Chandra, 2016). According to the Pew was Pakistan’s turn. Research Centre survey of public opinion about China in Paki- However, convincing China to invest in Pakistan would not be stan, 84 per cent of the respondents held a positive view about an easy task for the Sharif government. Many of Chinese initia- China, compared to 16 per cent for the US. If the survey is a tives had languished in the past due to the incumbent regime’s realistic representation of reality, then Pakistan might be the most lack of political will (Small, 2015). However, the Pakistani gov- pro-China country in the world (Chandra, 2016). ernment’s commitment was to ease these qualms for China. Li The impetus that China–Pakistan friendship quickly gained arrived Pakistan on 22nd May, 2013 with an ambitious proposal post-2010 cannot be sufﬁciently explained by the Chinese inter- of regional connectivity and resolution of Pakistan’s energy crisis. ests in Pakistan alone. Pakistan had strong motivations behind Pakistani civil and military leadership welcomed Li with grand strengthening its ties with China too. Pakistani military and gestures. From here on, the Xinjiang-Gwadar connection idea civilian government had recently lost its long-standing friend— picked up pace. China was also willing to help Pakistan alleviate the US—and was experiencing the economic and military vacuum its energy crisis through building hydro-electric dams, coal-ﬁred left behind by the US withdrawal. power stations, and nuclear power plants. Ideas were being Since its foundation, Pakistan has been highly dependent on quickly materialized: plans were made, meetings were held, and foreign aid. One of its biggest donors throughout the history of Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) were signed. the nation has been the United States. The ﬂow of aid started as a However, not all was smooth sailing. China would soon have to part of the economic reconstruction effort. The aid played a reconsider its plans in Pakistan following terrorist attacks either crucial role in the high growth rates achieved in the 1960s—it targeting CPEC workers or the proposed regions for CPEC pro- gave impetus to industrialization and helped combat food inse- jects. Chinese suspicions were received with promises of com- curity (Zaidi, 2004, p. 104). The inﬂow of foreign aid during this mitment by the Sharif government to make the execution of the period also lent support to public investment in infrastructure corridor smooth and safe. China decided to tread carefully— (mostly in power and irrigation sectors), and social services starting with smaller projects. (Khan and Ahmed, 2007, p. 220). 2 PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | (2018) 4:64 | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 | www.nature.com/palcomms PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 ARTICLE Later, the ideological alignment and military ties with the US Infrastructure as state-space during the Cold War accelerated the ﬂow of aid and irreversibly Infrastructures are matters that enable the movement of other tied the Pakistani military into the foreign aid and development matter (Larkin, 2013 p. 328). Very broadly, infrastructure is a nexus (Zaidi 2004, p. 104). The aid accelerated during the Soviet physical and institutional structure that facilitates the ﬂow of occupation of Afghanistan when the US lent its ﬁnancial and people, commodities, ideas and information (Guldi, 2012; Larkin, military support to Pakistan to ﬁght the Afghan War (Cooley, 2013). Although infrastructure in various forms have existed for 2001). Since, the funds and training were not to be provided millennia, the intersection of economic requirements, technical directly through the Central Intelligence Agency, but through expertize and political incentives to create standardized structures Pakistan and its army, the security establishment accumulated for the purpose of consolidating state power and integrating immense power during this period (Cooley, 2001). Although aid nation is a modern phenomenon (Knox and Harvey, 2012,p. during this period assisted Pakistan in upgrading its defense 523). In other words, infrastructure is increasingly understood as forces and military technology, it did so at the cost of rising a means to gain legitimacy; to create an ‘integrated’ national space terrorism, sectarianism, refugee crisis, rising debt-servicing and ideology (Anwar, 2015; Goswami, 2004; Akhter, 2015; Knox expenses, and falling GDP (Hilali, 2002). and Harvey, 2012, 2015). US-Pakistan relations remained strained throughout the 1990s; Marx in reﬂecting on the link between provision of however, the friendship attained a new meaning following United infrastructure (what he termed as public works) and capital States’ War on Terror. Pakistan received aid packages to ﬁght accumulation, argued that only in the most advanced stage of terrorism within and outside its borders (Qazi, 2012). The poli- capitalism can capital itself provide the ‘‘the general condition of tical and social impact of war on terror within Pakistan has been production’’ (1857–61). Until then, the capital appoints the task disastrous. Furthermore, Pakistan’s security establishment that of providing infrastructure to the state. Alternately, the state still has consistently provided refuge to the Taliban due its strategic enjoys the authority and drive to make the society pay for the interests, refused to comply with the US demands (Qazi, 2012). infrastructure in form of revenues (Marx, 1857–). Civilian government too has been put off by the increasingly Henri Lefebvre reﬁned the Marxist understanding of the chaotic nature of the aid. Disappointed by Pakistan’s performance connection between capitalist state and infrastructure by theoriz- in ﬁghting terrorism, the US keeps announcing delays or can- ing relationship between state and space (Lefebvre, 2009, p. 223; cellation of the promised aid (Naviwala, 2017). In consequence, Akhter, 2015, p. 852). Apart from providing infrastructure to Pakistan has experienced a gradual withdrawal of the US resulting facilitate capital, he argued that state has a deeper relationship from the doubts that the US policy makers have cast upon the with space. For him, “homogenized, hierarchized, and fragmented Pakistan’s role in ﬁghting terrorism and effectiveness of aid as a spaces” are produced through capital but also crucially through counter-terrorism policy (Zaidi, 2011). the spatial strategies (including institutional and material Following the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, innovations and scientiﬁc knowledge) of the state (Lefebvre, Pakistan faced intense international condemnation regarding its 2009). The aim is to extend the political and social outreach and role in ﬁghting extremism within its boundaries. During such to fully penetrate the society. times the country that openly voiced support for Pakistan was This is an important point in relation to infrastructure and is China (Pant, 2012). China expressed its interest in becoming an worth delving into further. Manu Goswami in his study of “all-weather strategic partner” of Pakistan (Pant, 2012). It was in production of colonial space in India argues infrastructure this backdrop that the developmental vision of the Sharif gov- became a tool for the colonial government to lend legitimacy to ernment, the political and economic interests of the military the narrative that British rulers were there to help India progress establishment, and global, national and strategic interests of the and to integrate the state-space through new rules of subjectivity Chinese government coincided. (2004). Similarly, writing about a cross-border highway in All these interests converged and manifested in the form of Albania and Greece, Dimitris Dalakoglou, analyses how infra- CPEC. structures reﬂects the fetishistic desires of the planning authorities to participate in the conceptual and visual pattern of modernity as imagined by advanced nations (Dalakoglou, 2010). Morten Alex CPEC as state-space Pedersen makes a similar point about Russian investment into One of the most prominent features of CPEC is the highly visible infrastructure as a precondition to socialist modernity (Larkin, presence of state. Both Chinese and Pakistani states have precious 2013, p. 333). Infrastructure development was planned not only stakes in the project and are playing a crucial role in kick-starting as serving economic purposes but it was imagined as “investing in the investment regime constituting both public and private sec- a new being, a new humanity, a new cosmos” (Pedersen, 2011,p. tors. Pakistani state, speciﬁcally the Sharif government, is at pains 45 cited in Larkin 2013, p. 333). Knox and Harvey, 2012, in their to claim ownership of the project despite the fact that allegedly study of roads in northern Peru, make a similar argument but most of the projects will be private ventures. The signing of with a different approach—of how infrastructure is experienced MoUs, ﬁnancial agreements, inauguration ceremonies, and press by the local population. Roads, they argue, are closely tied to the releases are heavily advertised through media. On project sites, local population’s desire for connection and modernity. The idea along with a billboard of President Xi Jinping’s picture, Prime is that roads are physical support system of a regional economy Minister Nawaz Sharif’s picture is carefully placed. Quick results that initiates a process of economic advancement through closer of CPEC will bode well for PML-N in the next elections, but the integration with the state and global trade system (Knox and relationship between the state and infrastructure is much deeper Harvey, 2012). than interests of one regime. State and infrastructure are closely Nation-building exercises and infrastructure development are entwined together in the exercise of nation-making. In the fol- two closely tied projects of the state as manifested in the history lowing sections, I brieﬂy review the literature on the relationship of infrastructure development of Pakistan. In the 1950s emerged a between infrastructure and state. To better understand the rela- distinct discourse in the global economic development circles tionship between state and infrastructure in the case of Pakistan, I focusing on development as infrastructure (Anwar, 2015, p. 8). deconstruct the Pakistani state into the central state, regional This shift was crucial for the then Third World not only in elites and military and analyse the role of these power groups in concrete economic terms—in formulating ﬁnancing arrange- the development of infrastructure in Pakistan. ments and deﬁning the trajectory of international aid—but also in PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | (2018) 4:64 | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 | www.nature.com/palcomms 3 ARTICLE PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 how it affected state’s role as a central planning authority. (Jalal, 1990). Hence, Pakistan has relied on its civil service and Infrastructure was placed at the center for the economic military to handle state functions. Concentration of power in the reconstruction of post-colonial societies like Pakistan. Pakistan hands of such selected elite without a strong hegemonic project was to develop using foreign ﬁnancing and expertize from the has created regional ﬁssures (Jalal, 1990). The disproportionate World Bank and Ford Foundation. Foreign advisors and representation of Punjabis in the military and civil bureaucracy economists developed ideas that aided the development of the further deepened these grievances. Desperate attempts by the new discourse locally. “Their writings particularly signaled the state such as the One Unit could not do much to assuage the intensely metonymic relationship between infrastructure and the symptomatic conditions of these deep ﬁssures. In the following state” (Anwar, 2015, p. 6). To overcome its backwardness, it not sections, I present the case studies of Sindh and Balochistan to only had to have a disciplined, enterprising and productive illustrate the roots of these grievances in the context of infra- population but it also needed national electricity grid, industries, structural development. automobiles, roads, and airports. Furthermore, infrastructure was also imagined as a binding force between the geographically odd Sindh and hydraulic regionalism East and West Pakistan (Anwar, 2015,p.35–37). Although, most of the tension between the provinces emerged The close relationship between infrastructure and state from the Punjabi disproportionate presence in the bureaucratic continued to exist throughout Pakistan’s history. However, not and military structure of state, friction between Punjab and Sindh always was this relationship as harmonious as the central state is also rooted in the technological appropriation of Indus river had wanted it to be. The central Pakistani state’s attempts at waters (Akhter, 2013). The fact that Punjab is upstream and creating an integrated space through infrastructural projects were Sindh is downstream creates a political geographic dynamic. This met with alternative conceptions of nationhood of various dynamic led to the creation of friction between the two provinces regional elites. once the colonial state began its project of planned river control Majed Akhter, in his analysis of the politics of Indus river system (Akhter, 2013, p. 151). As more water began to be held by infrastructure development, also notes a similar pattern of Punjab through various infrastructure technologies, Sindh’s water incomplete hegemonic project of state. He argues that nation- rights got stiﬂed. These tensions continued into independence. building, economic reconstruction efforts and provision of large The Punjabi military-bureaucratic elite helped Punjab appro- dams and other river infrastructures have been closely tied priate a greater share of Indus waters than was its due (Akhter, together in the case of Pakistan (Akhter, 2015). Indus Water 2013). Treaty, signed on 19 September 1960, divided the control over Finally, the hydraulic projects of the central state also gave Indus River and its tributaries among India and Pakistan. The impetus to regionalist politics. Tarbela dam, one of the most Indus Basin Development Agreement signed on the same day important dams in the country, became a very contentious site as secured Pakistan $895 million as development grants from rich the provinces vied for rights over the water stored in the dam. capitalist states for the construction of dams and other waterways. While the provinces fought for greater water rights, Punjab Apart from redirecting the use of water the projects also argued that it needed a greater share in order to compensate for contributed to “the infrastructural production of state-space” the loss to India of the three Eastern Rivers. The Committee set- (Akhter, 2015, p. 861). Availability of large development funds up to discuss the issues surrounding rights to storages at Tarbela and creation of an integrated water network expanded the constituted disproportionately of Punjabis; out of the 15 mem- strength and spatial reach of the state. However, the central state’s bers, 11 were Punjabis. The ﬁnal report of the committee favored project of integrating national space was met with resistance from the opinion that Punjab was entitled to greater allocation rights. the regional intellectual elites (Akhter 2015, p. 860–861). The Resultantly, the four members issued their notes of dissent, albeit provincial politicians, who enjoyed important power positions in with little consequence. Tarbela Dam was constructed and Punjab the bureaucracy, by virtue of the colonial legacy of ‘‘over- was given disproportionate share of stored water. developed’’ state, remained unconvinced that the central state’s Although, all of the provinces got affected by the unfair nation-building process was an inclusive one. Such resistances character of the hydraulic technologies, Sindh and Punjab have intensiﬁed over time developing into regionalist ambitions. The been in direct confrontation by virtue of their upstream/down- case of secession of East Pakistan in 1971 revealed the strength of stream dynamic. Furthermore, Sindh is a largely agricultural these forces (Akhter, 2015). province relying mostly on water from Indus. Unlike Punjab, Sindh doesn’t have much useable groundwater and it receives much less rain than Punjab. Hence, the grievances were deep- The military-bureaucratic state of Pakistan rooted and are yet to be resolved (Akhter, 2013). To understand the roots of regionalism in Pakistan it is imperative to deconstruct the nature of Pakistani state. For this purpose, Hamza Alavi’s article, “The state in post-colonial Baluchistan: Nationalist politics of underdevelopment and societies: Pakistan and Bangladesh” is particularly insightful development (1972). He argues that the structure of Pakistani state cannot be Apart from Sindh, another province that has consistently fully understood without understanding the institutional legacy it opposed the central state’s hegemonic project is Baluchistan. The inherited from the colonial state. The colonial government or the history of nationalist sentiments among Baluchi elites can be metropolitan bourgeoisie needs an elaborate state apparatus in traced as far back as the late colonial period. Creation of Pakistan order to exercise dominion over all the indigenous social classes was a heavy blow to the regional elites (particularly Baluch and in the colony. Resultantly, power devolves to the military- Pashtun) hoping to create autonomous states based on their bureaucratic state apparatus created through this structure of ethnicities (Titus and Swidler, 2000). At the time of indepen- governance. He termed such a state as an ‘‘overdeveloped’’ state. dence, the tribal leaders and municipal authorities in British Pakistan inherited this structure of colonial governance (1972). Baluchistan were given the option to choose between declaring Predominance of the military-bureaucratic state structure con- Baluchistan an independent state or to join Pakistan. Although, tinued throughout the history of Pakistan. Pakistan did not have these elites opted to join Pakistan, there were committed groups any well-developed political party organizations, which hampered of activists that opposed the manner in which this decision was the process of developing a functional parliamentary democracy imposed. Actions against the project ranged from peaceful 4 PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | (2018) 4:64 | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 | www.nature.com/palcomms PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 ARTICLE political organizing to sabotage. The nascent state, dominated by developing a deep sea port and ancillary infrastructure and the Punjabi military-bureaucratic elite, responded with arrests industries at the coastal town of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea and its own sabotage campaigns (Titus and Swidler, 2000). A (Aslam, 2011). The Baluch nationalists assert that the agreement focal point of early Baluch nationalism was the Kalat region between the federal government and the Chinese company rela- (Atarodi, 2011). Soon after the creation of Pakistan, indepen- ted to the development project is another proof of the exploita- dence of Kalat was declared. However, the central state refused to tion of Baluch wealth. They claim that Pakistani state and the accept the declaration and through military action, Kalat was Chinese company are taking most of the proﬁt from these pro- forced to assimilate into Pakistan on 27 March 1948. From that jects, leaving little for the people of Baluchistan. To make matters day on, Baluch nationalism intensiﬁed overtime. The friction worse, all construction contracts are given to non-Baluch ﬁrms between the central state and Baluch activists continued (Aslam, 2011). throughout the history of Pakistan, gaining momentous during Furthermore, as Frédéric Grare points out, most of the people periods of insurgencies and military action in 1948, 1958, 1962, involved in the projects are from outside of Baluchistan (Grare, 1973, and 2004 (which marks the latest wave of insurgency). After 2006). There is a growing fear among the Baluch youth nation- the ﬁrst military crackdown in 1948, the province was put under alists that Gwadar is likely to continue to precipitate an inﬂux of Governor-General Control. Baluchistan did not get any electoral non-Balouch seeking employment (Akhtar, 2007). The fears are representation in the state until 1972, when National Awami grounded in reality: out of 600 people employed in the ﬁrst phase Party (the progressive political party that eventually led the of construction of Gwadar port, only 100 were Baluch (Grare, movement for independent East Pakistan) gained sweeping vic- 2006). tory in Baluchistan. The newly elected representatives began to The case of Sindh and Baluchistan show that instead of inte- demand for state rights, pointing to the relative under- grating national space and creating a hegemonic state-space, development of the state. However, with the discovery of natural politics of infrastructure have only created and deepened ﬁssures gas, the province had become very important to Pakistani state in the national space. Regionalist ambitions have been exacer- and hence Bhutto refused to grant NAP its demands of greater bated by the central state’s attempts to create an integrated space autonomy. Bhutto dissolved the Baluchistan assembly and through technologies of integration. In the following sections, I restored Governor’s rule. This led to the prolonged series of talk about how CPEC is interacting and is expected to interact military confrontations (Atarodi, 2011). By the time the ﬁghting with these features of the Pakistani political economy. subsided in 1977, grievances had deepened and intense separatist feelings had penetrated widely (Harrison, 1981). Although one of the major historical reasons contributing to CPEC and politics of regionalism Baluch insurgency has been the relative underdevelopment of the Political and militant presence of nationalist forces, Islamic province, the recent wave of insurgency is mobilized around the extremists (now including Islamic State), makes Baluchistan a very opposite issue (Aslam, 2011; Grare, 2006). It has been fueled very contentious and dangerous space for CPEC. Although by the massive development projects that the central government Baluchistan has proved to be most difﬁcult for the Pakistani and is undertaking in the province (Grare, 2006). Government of Chinese actors involved in CPEC, the regional problem of CPEC Pakistan, from the very beginning, has exploited the province by extends the boundaries of Baluchistan. Planning of CPEC has extracting the provincial resources without giving the Baluch their been highly centralist and provincial governments have not due share. Not only have the royalties for these resources been responded well to these tendencies. Chinese engagement (through low, but the province has also beneﬁted the least from them. CPEC projects) has so far only deepened these regional cleavages. Hence, the Baluch nationalists and militants, extremely skeptical The regionalist forces have opposed the project in two broad of these interventions of central state, have mainly targeted ways: through demanding greater share in the project or through Pakistani and foreign involvement in ‘‘development’’ projects in completely rejecting the interventions. Baluchistan. The military operation carried out in 2005 appeared The center-province friction has manifested itself through the to be a result of Baluchistan Liberation Army’s (BLA) rocket CPEC route controversy. Provincial governments have objected attack carried out a few hours before General Musharraf’s visit to the change in route of the roads and railways projects. The there (Atarodi, 2011). government of Pakistan announced that the original route, or The huge land mass of the province, its reasonable endowment Western alignment, will start after the completion of eastern of natural deposits like gas, minerals, and its highly strategic coast alignment. According to the original plan, the corridor—con- means that it is feasible target central state’s extractive ambitions stituting highways and railways—was to connect Gwadar to (Akhtar, 2007). Given the long history of exploitation of the Kashgar, passing through various southern and eastern districts province, the nationalist elements have responded to state-led of Baluchistan, some parts of South Punjab, Islamabad (beyond infrastructure projects with suspicions and outright rejection. which there is no difference between the Eastern and Western Exploitation of gas reserves and acquisition of Gwadar port are route) (Abid and Ashfaq, 2015). However, fears (backed by sta- the classic manifestation of state-led infrastructure projects being tistical data) among the regional elites have started emerging that a site of resistance in Baluchistan (Akhtar, 2007). central political elite is giving priority to the eastern route Despite being a major producer of gas, Baluchistan not only (Mengal, 2016). The Eastern Route completely cuts through receives much less share of gas than other provinces do, it also Baluchistan, connects Gwadar to Karachi through bypassing receives only 12.4% royalties of the gas produced in the province major districts in Baluchistan, and mostly passes through the (Grare, 2006). This trend of exploitation has been fairly consistent relatively well-developed provinces of Punjab and Sindh (Mengal, over the years, building up grievances among the Baluch popu- 2016). Different claims have been made by the government since lation. The result being that the Baluch nationalists are now this controversy emerged (Bengali, 2015). Although the maps violently opposing the exploitation of the gas reserves by central have not been disclosed and statements have been kept vague and government (Grare, 2006). According to South Asia Terrorism confusing, what does emerge from the press releases is that the Portal, there have been 165 incidents of attacks on gas pipelines route has been changed to pass mostly through Central Punjab from 2005 to 2011 (Mohanty, 2011). instead (Bengali, 2015). Development of Gwadar Port is another locus of tension. In Even though a parliamentary committee has been established, collaboration with China, the government of Pakistan started not enough consultation has been made with the provinces in PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | (2018) 4:64 | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 | www.nature.com/palcomms 5 ARTICLE PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 Pakistan (Qureshi, 2015). Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakh- Overtime, due to certain geopolitical events and circumstances, tunkhwa (KPK) rejected prioritization of Eastern route and pas- China has become less passive and more proactive globally—it sed resolution opposing any route change, since the original route has stepped-up participation in regional organizations, estab- holds the promise of beneﬁtting the underdeveloped areas of KPK lished many bilateral relations, and has become more engaged in (Mengal, 2016; Ahmad and Hong, 2017). Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, multilateral organizations (although still reluctant to exercise leader of the Qaumi Watan Party—the party that emerged as the coercion to make a regime submit to international norms and fourth largest party in KPK in the 2013 General Elections— rules on issues such as climate change, military transparency, expressed his concerns about the national outreach of CPEC in a human rights, and to a certain extent, counter terrorism). parliamentary committee meeting held in October 2016 (Raza, China’s interest in security, political stability, and reluctance to 2016). Claiming to represent all members of the opposition party, engage in contentious politics abroad are partly attributable to he claimed that government claims of injection of 10,000 mega- China’s long history of internal and external insecurity and watts of electricity into the national grid holds little promise for paranoia (Shambaugh, 2013). The persistent internal threats of the provinces other than Punjab. Since all the other provinces secessionist movements have pushed China to enter into coali- have a weak power distribution system, the increase in the pro- tions of anti-secessionist movements, the consequences of which duction of energy will not beneﬁt these marginalized provinces transcend the national boundaries (Karatasli and Kumral, 2017). (Raza, 2016). These anti-secessionist sentiments and external security threats Gilgit-Baltistan has also been demanding greater share in combined with the economic interests of China, “seem to push CPEC through protests and strikes (Ali, 2016). The central gov- China to preserve the global status quo in a very consistent ernment responded by threats. Ministry of Planning, Develop- manner” (Karatasli and Kumral, 2017, p. 22). Among several ment and Reforms announced that those protesting against CPEC others, Karatasli and Kumral cite the example of issues sur- will be charged under anti-terrorism laws (Business-Standard, rounding South Sudan and Chinese role amidst the direct actions 2016). The government has also responded to the objections of international powers and multilateral organizations. As seces- raised by the provinces by repeatedly assuring that CPEC will sionist movement in South Sudan gained power, China’s tensions beneﬁt the provinces equally and through announcing projects in grew. South Sudan was becoming an important site for serving these provinces. Whether the central government will go through Chinese economic interests. By 2001, South Sudan attracted with these promises is uncertain and the lack of transparency is international prominence—secession and human rights problems only going to stimulate these fears and opposition even further. found strong Western coalition support. Till the very end, China The trend in Baluchistan, due to history of exploitation in the tried to keep Sudan united playing the role of a mediator. When province, has been the opposite. They have opposed CPEC on the in 2011, South Sudan gained independence; China put efforts into grounds that it will further strengthen the circle of exploitation building trade relationships with South Sudan as well (Karatasli emerging from the center—this time in collaboration with a and Kumral, 2017,p.22–23). foreign state (Ahmad and Hong, 2017; Mengal, 2016). The Baluch However, exempliﬁed by the case of Namibia, there have been separatists and militants have shown their opposition to CPEC by exceptions to China’s policy of non-intervention and lack of carrying out various acts of sabotage such as, target killing and support for independence movements. Beijing extended its sup- abduction of Chinese workers and blasts targeting CPEC project port to the Black Nationalist liberation movement against sites or infrastructure. apartheid and white domination of South Africa (Larmer, 2017). Consequently, despite the promises of connectivity, integra- China became one of its ﬁrst allies when in early 1990 Namibia tion, and development of entire nation, CPEC has mobilized a claimed independence. This move on Beijing’s part needs to be new wave of regional politics. The route controversy reveals the contextualized in China’s need to look for allies after its diplo- centralizing—not inclusive—mission of state. Provinces have not matic isolation following the crackdown of Chinese government only been kept in dark regarding the planning process, but state on the Tiananmen Square protestors in 1989 (Larmer, 2017, p. 4). has also responded inadequately to the fears of provinces and in The above discussion illustrates how China is bent upon pre- some cases has even threatened repression. Assuaging nationalist serving political stability and is completely intolerant to region- sentiments in Baluchistan through CPEC has remained an elusive alist ambitions given the problem of regionalism within its project of Pakistani state. Hence, not much can be expected from borders. Hence, it is safe to expect here that China will also not CPEC in terms of nation-building unless it is backed by a strong react well to the regional elites making diverging claims to the material and ideological project of uniting the provinces. Central central planning of CPEC. China will not tolerate giving con- state, which is bent to pursue its own interests, has not shown cessions or autonomy to the regionalist elements lest it gives much commitment to this end. conﬁdence to the regionalists in its own boundaries. However, the political boundaries of CPEC extend beyond the national territory—Chinese state and international organizations will play a crucial in the CPEC process. How can we logically CPEC and security expect the Chinese state to respond? The answer to this question Over the years, Pakistani military’s penetration into politics, needs to be grounded in China’s foreign policy and Chinese society and economy has accrued the military establishment an interests in Pakistan. important position in the state apparatus. Real and imagined security threats besetting Pakistani state, role of foreign powers and the ever-growing ﬁnancial autonomy of the defense estab- Chinese capital and ‘‘non-interference’’ lishment have led to the creation of a crisis-ridden, ‘‘garrison’’ Perhaps the most salient feature of Chinese capital that has been state of Pakistan. To make matters worse, an increasingly pow- readily advertised as the revolutionary principle that marks the erful role has been assumed by Pakistani military during the new global order is that of non-interference and peaceful coex- lifespan of CPEC. The army has pushed for a formal role in the istence. Furthermore, the core purpose of the National Security execution of the projects. Pressure from Pakistani army and Commission of China is to engage in dialog and negotiations on Beijing’s disappointed over the performance of federal govern- an equal footing to overcome disputes and make peace possible. ment in securing a stable environment for CPEC development China envisions a “fair and reasonable new international order” has meant that army has made important headways in acquiring to guarantee peace and security (Shambaugh, 2013, p. 79). an important role in CPEC. The rhetoric of security has also been 6 PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | (2018) 4:64 | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 | www.nature.com/palcomms PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 ARTICLE used to justify lack of transparency, censorship, and arbitrary web of dependence by seeking support of Saudi Arabia. The actions of the state, making the process of planning and execution Pakistan–US alliance refurbished with the Soviet occupation of of CPEC highly undemocratic. Afghanistan and Iranian Revolution. China has also similar On the eve of independence, Pakistan inherited an elaborate concerns against the Soviet occupation. Saudi Arabia felt threa- military structure. The colonial rule in India was mediated tened by the rising power of Iranian strand of Islam. All these through a garrison state. British powers were fully aware of the powers could realize their objectives through Pakistan. The effective role that force and coercion played in ruling India Pakistani military exploited this unique strategic position of (Ahmed, 2013). Writing about the militaristic nature of Punjab, Pakistan to serve its interests (Ahmed, 2013). Tan Tai Yong remarks that the colonial legacy of militarization of Given the vested interests of foreign and local powers in Punjab can be crucial in explaining the post-colonial state of militarizing the state, it is no surprise that over the 67 years of Pakistan (Ahmed, 2013, p. 13). He argues that the rise of military- independence, the military establishment acquired enough power bureaucratic oligarchy heavily dominated by Punjabis, which was to rule the country four times. Even during times of civilian rule, powerful enough to dominate and control the state apparatus of army has maintained considerable power by negotiating authority Pakistan is to be partially explained by the developments in (Siddiqa, 2007). Five armed conﬂicts with India, several opera- colonial Punjab in the early twentieth century (Ahmed, 2013). tions in Baluchistan to suppress the organized demands for The colonizers through their recruitment policy created the greater autonomy, and the most recent ‘‘war against terrorism’’ myth of ‘‘martial race’’ of Punjabis (Siddiqa, 2007). After the not only indicates the level of militarization of state but is also mutiny of Bengal Army in 1857, British rulers were faced with the symptomatic of formidable power in the hands of Pakistan army need to restructure the armed forces. At this juncture, the colo- (Siddiqa, 2007). nizers found that Punjabis were more willing to enlist in the British army in return for employment opportunities and mate- rial rewards. As a result, the number of Punjabis in the British Pakistani military and CPEC army grew disproportionately (Siddiqa, 2007). An increasingly powerful role has been assumed by the military The myth of Punjabis and Pathans (from North-West Frontier during the lifespan of CPEC. Army has pushed for a formal role Province) as ‘‘martial race’’ continued even after independence. in the execution of the projects and proposed incorporation of This acted as a cohesive force for retaining ethnic composition CPEC in the National Action Plan (Rana, 2016). The latter and maintaining the inherently elitist fabric of military (Siddiqa, proposal was rejected by the civilian set-up and the civilian 2007). Furthermore, the colonial bias against Bengalis, Sindhis, government has been overall reluctant in sharing control over and Baluchis in recruitment processes continued. This dis- CPEC (Ghumman, 2016). However, army’s power to meddle with criminatory policy fed the tension between the center and the civilian politics combined with Beijing’s disappointed over the provinces. Consequences have been dire: Baluch leaders uphold performance of federal government in securing a stable envir- grievances against the military who view it not as a national onment for CPEC development (Ghumman, 2016) has meant military but a Punjabi force that exploits (Siddiqa 2007: p. 60). that army has made important headways in acquiring an The strong military apparatus bequeathed by the colonial important role in CPEC. government acquired more power as the nascent state struggled The power that Pakistani army is gaining in CPEC operations with nation-making. Owing to the deep sense of insecurity that is making the process of CPEC highly undemocratic. It is leading ensued after independence, the army attained a central role as a to further weakening of the civilian government. There are several protective authority (Ahmed, 2013). The ideology on which developments that point towards this trend. Firstly, new armed Pakistan’s nationalist struggle was based had a huge role to play forces have been formed in Baluchistan and Sindh by the army, in creating these threats. The independence struggle was pitched dedicated solely to protect the CPEC projects (Wolf, 2016). This as a struggle for a separate homeland for Muslims. The much decision was made solely by the top ofﬁcials of the army (Wolf, celebrated “Two Nation Theory”, for once and for all, discarded 2016). According to the four-layer security plan, an estimated all commonalities between Muslims and Hindus of India. The 32,000 security personnel have been assigned to guard over bloody riots following the partition of the subcontinent and an 14,321 Chinese workers engaged in various projects throughout exaggerated belief that India was intent on leading Pakistan to the country (Gishkori, 2015). According to the plan, Baluchistan ruin set the stage for national obsession with security (Ahmed, will be guarded the heaviest, getting about 5,700 personnel of the 2013). The imagined fear took shape following the multiple wars Frontier Corps. Similarly, the operation Zarb-e-Azb launched by between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue (Siddiqa, the army to control militancy in North Waziristan in 2014 also 2007: p. 63). The conﬂict holds immense priority among policy gained legitimacy through CPEC. The Chinese foreign policy makers and the military establishment, who perceive Indian makers were satisﬁed by the Pakistani army’s attempt to eliminate threat as the primary threat to Pakistan. Even internal threats the insurgency led by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement in such as Baluch insurgency and other ethnic and religious tensions the region. Likewise, the Chief of Army Staff kept reiterating the are perceived as an extension of this external threat (Siddiqa, operation’s contribution to ensuring a secure environment for the 2007). completion and management of CPEC. The military establishment derived its ideological power from Secondly, the establishment of Apex committees at federal and the Indian threat and economic strength from foreign powers. provincial levels aimed at enhancing communication between Due to certain strategic events, development aid was quickly civilian and military powers regarding security matters had the turned into military aid (Ahmed, 2013). The bipolar rivalry effect of further weakening the decision-making powers of the between the United States and former Soviet Union gave the civilian government (Wolf, 2016). Handling powers to the apex ruling elites a very effective strategic advantage to solicit alliance committees has meant that important decisions regarding CPEC with the US (Ahmed, 2013). The civil and military rulers of are now being made by the military-bureaucratic complex with- Pakistan utilized this opportunity by marketing Pakistan as a out any participation by the national or provincial assemblies frontline state against the rise of communism and communist (Wolf, 2016). powers. When the alliance with the US to contain the spread of The military by invoking the rhetoric of security concerns has communism became more or less dormant in the 1960s, Pakistan exonerated the state from making CPEC transparent and open to sought alliance with China. Later, Pakistan further diversiﬁed this public debate. Lack of transparency, censorship, and arbitrary PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | (2018) 4:64 | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 | www.nature.com/palcomms 7 ARTICLE PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 actions of the state are conveniently justiﬁed by labelling CPEC as penetration into politics, society and economy has accrued the a matter of state security (Ali, 2017; Bengali, 2015). If the situa- military establishment an important position in the state appa- tion persists, the planning and implementation of CPEC will ratus. CPEC has become another opportunity for the military to become highly undemocratic, creating deeper ﬁssures in the state expand its inﬂuence in the decision-making process of the state. space. However, this potential needs to be evaluated considering The Army has pushed for a formal role in the execution of CPEC not just the politics of Pakistani state and society but also the projects. The process has been facilitated by Beijing’s security nature of the investment regime of CPEC, the Chinese state, and concerns and its own war against Uighur militants. The rhetoric international actors. Although, as mentioned earlier, the ofﬁcial of security has also been used to justify lack of transparency, rhetoric of China’s global investment policy is that of ‘non- censorship, and arbitrary actions of the state, making the process interference’, the foreign policy seems to be evolving as China of planning and execution of CPEC highly undemocratic and realizes the limitations of non-interference and the importance of unequal. Hence, I conclude that unless there is a serious inter- protecting its economic interests (Mohan and Power, 2010). For national or local challenge to this trend, CPEC will only lead to an example, the policy of blocking UN Security Council resolutions increase in the power of Pakistani military. authorizing peacekeepers for Darfur has been lifted and China An analysis of the China’s foreign policy and national interests has put modest pressure on Khartoun to allow UN peacekeeping led to the conclusion that China has little interests or motivation deployment (Hansen, 2008). Changes in the Chinese foreign to alter the power imbalances in Pakistan that are being exacer- policy are driven by the need to secure business interests and bated by CPEC. China is intent on preserving political stability in concerns about “a backlash and the potential damage to its its bilateral relations. This inclination is reﬂected by a no strings- strategic and economic relationships with the United States and attached aid policy, reluctance to meddle in the internal issues, Europe” (Ahlbrandt and Small, 2008). However, this emerging and respect for territorial sovereignty. The less apparent driver of shift is to be understood cautiously as China has not experienced China’s foreign policy is its national interests, which sometimes a fundamental change in values. Economic interests remain the diverge from its principles of non-intervention. For example, top priority and, despite its increasing involvement with the US, China is bent upon preserving political stability and is completely China does not share their rhetoric of human rights and intolerant to regionalist ambitions given the problem of region- democracy (Ahlbrandt and Small, 2008). alism within its borders. Given this concern, China is expected to Although China’s foreign policy has shown ﬂexibility, it is not react well to the regional elites, making diverging claims to important to note that Chinese presence in the Global South is the central planning of CPEC. driven by certain national and economic interests. China has Hence, I argue that, unless there is national or international shown willingness to forgo its non-interference stance if its eco- backlash against the effects of CPEC on Pakistan’s political eco- nomic and national interests necessitate it. In Pakistan, China nomic structure, CPEC can be expected to maintain the status showed this ﬂexibility by pushing for the security establishment’s quo of power structures of the Pakistani state—the ﬁssures of takeover of the security issue of CPEC. Involving the Pakistani which are going to only deepen further. military was also in China’s national interests. Fighting Uighur militants in North Waziristan was one of China’s crucial concerns Received: 26 April 2017 Accepted: 23 April 2018 that led to the Chinese state forming an alliance with Pakistani military. Historically as well, China has been more comfortable in negotiating with Pakistani military elite than its turbulent civilian counterpart (Small, 2015). Hence, Pakistani military elite’s power can only be expected to strengthen with this project unless there’s Notes a serious international or local resistance to this trend. 1 Pakistan Muslim League (N) is a center-right conservative party in Pakistan. PML-N is claimed to be solely representative of Punjabi interests. 2 Although there is no available data on the number of CPEC-related terrorist activities Conclusion that have occurred in the past, there are some news reports that paint the bloody The study aimed to understand how CPEC is interacting with the picture of CPEC. A report by a Pakistani, English language newspaper, ‘‘The Nation’’ political economic structure of Pakistan. To this end, through a claimed that different attacks have killed 44 Pakistani CPEC-related workers between 2014 and 2016. The targets were mainly men working on the construction of road in historical analysis, I deconstructed the Pakistani state and divided Balochistan (The Nation, 2016). In a report compiled by Asia Times in 2017, several it into three major powers: the central state, the regional elites, incidents of different nature have been recorded occurring in Balochistan and Sindh and the military. Throughout the paper I used these categories to that year. The report lists incidents targeting Frontier Corps personnel, police analyse the role of these powers in the planning and imple- ofﬁcers, CPEC laborers, and Chinese nationals working for different CPEC related mentation process of CPEC and how these interactions are projects (Shakil, 2017). Although the security situation surrounding CPEC is dire and affecting the political landscape of Pakistan. Furthermore, I out- demands attention, various acts of violence are also being used by various stakeholders to support the narrative that CPEC is under threat from external lined the economic, national and strategic interests of China in powers. Attacks and blasts in Balochistan have been openly labeled as ‘‘attempts to Pakistan in order to analyse how China can be expected to sabotage CPEC’’ by government ofﬁcials (Shahid, 2016). intervene in this process. 3 Turkistan Islamic Party is an extremist Islamist party founded by Uyghur nationalists After establishing a link between infrastructure and state, I in Western China. The separatist party aims to form an independent state for argued that, since the very beginning, the project of infrastructure Uyghurs in Xinjiang called ‘‘East Turkestan’’ (Davis, 2010). development in Pakistan has been deeply connected with the 4 Uyghur Muslims are a religious and ethnic minority in Xinjiang province of China. Under the Qing state, Xinjiang region was never colonized and was strategically nation-building process. However, in its attempt to create a maintained as a frontier zone with its own governing structure (Davis, 2010). After homogenous space, the Punjabi-dominated central state ended up the fall of Qing dynasty and the ensuing political turmoil, China was declared a creating fractured spaces that housed regionalist ambitions. multinational state in 1949. However, The Communist Party’s anti-rightist campaign CPEC, I argued, has initiated a new regime of regionalist politics aimed to root out “local nationalism.” The Cultural Revolution was an even stronger by appropriating a disproportionate share of projects to Punjab force against the ethnic minorities inhabiting in China. The Uyghur in Xinjiang were and by keeping the planning of CPEC highly secretive and one of the victims of this state repression. Over the years, this ethnic minority developed into a separatist, militant entity (Davis, 2010). The Uyghur militants are undemocratic. believed to have transnational networks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Next, I analysed the role of military in Pakistani politics to Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan (Davis, 2010; Small, 2015). understand its role in CPEC. Over the years, Pakistani military’s 8 PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | (2018) 4:64 | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 | www.nature.com/palcomms PALGRAVE COMMUNICATIONS | DOI: 10.1057/s41599-018-0115-7 ARTICLE 5 The civilians have become victims of War on Terror (Qazi, 2012). Apart from the Business-standard.com (2017) Protestors to be charged under anti-terrorism laws: budget restraint caused by massive military spending, civilians have also been direct Pak on CPEC row. Business Standard, [online]. Available at: http://www. targets of the war. CIA’s drone campaign inside Pakistan started in 2004. 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Palgrave Communications – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 5, 2018
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