Globalization, particularly the second wave of changes that are taking place in the shape of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) after the opening of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) about three decades ago will have an immense impact on indigenous people, their culture and ecology. There is a need for political will, research-based information to understand the dynamics of the modern development concept and neoliberal economic agenda of global powers.
This was the crux of discussions at a two-day conference on “Negotiating Change for Sustainability: Horizons of CPEC in Gilgit-Baltistan” organized by the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (#AKRSP) at Passu, a small town in Hunza District’s Gojal Tehsil recently.
“China built KKH with an aim to expand its communist ideology as well as for its strategic purposes. Now through the corridor, the capitalist China is entering the region for business and trade purposes”.–Aziz Ali Dad
The participants including academics, researchers, development practitioners as well as cultural and rights activists, also see ‘huge’ opportunities in the ‘game-changer’ multi-billion-dollar project for the Karakoram, Pamir and Hindu Kush mountain regions.
They, however, were in unison in emphasizing on a continuous dialogue between academia, researchers, civil society, political leadership, local communities and development practitioners to generate knowledge and share information to unravel the complexities of socioeconomic issues, understand the challenges and opportunities in the wake of emerging regional and global power dynamics.
Dynamics of a road and a corridor
“We have to understand the dynamics of a road and a corridor,” Aziz Ali Dad, specialist, #Knowledge #Management, said while sharing his research study on CPEC, covering various sectors in the economy which can provide immense opportunities and challenges for Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral.
“China built #KKH with an aim to expand its communist ideology as well as for its strategic purposes. Now through the corridor, the capitalist China is entering the region for business and trade purposes. Therefore, it will bring a different set of challenges and opportunities,” Aziz, a subaltern scholar who contributes columns to mainstream English media of Pakistan, said.
“There is a lack of knowledge about #CPEC especially in our area and no knowledge generation is currently taking place,” Aziz said.
Where there is a lack of knowledge and information, conspiracy theories fill the vacuum in societies like ours. Conspiracy theories feed most of the information gap in GB, he said, adding that the purpose of the conference is to look at CPEC from a researcher and academics perspective to understand what opportunities it holds for us. But, he put a question: “Who will determine the course of direction?” The traditional societies and structures have not the capacity to do so. “Therefore, academia should build a base for a strong political standing to negotiate it according to the local demands,” he stressed.
Opportunities in energy sector
Noted poet and bureaucrat #Zafar #Waqar #Taj, who was the chief guest, discussed the steps being taken by the government for safeguarding the interests of the GB in the $50 billion project. “When we look at both pre- and post 70s eras, we see a rapid development in our region,” the secretary power said.
KKH brought in education, money, awareness, business. But at the same time, we witnessed the flow of weapons and narcotics in the region. “These dangers are also associated with the CPEC. If we didn’t comprehend what we need and what not we may have only dust in our hands,” he remarked. CPEC is bringing huge investment in energy sector in B2B mode like IPPs. If we are not prepared we won’t be able to harness anything except harm our selves,” he said. It will have far-reaching effects on our culture, language, literature and values, he concluded.
Endangered languages, culture
#Zubair #Torwali, a language activist, also seconded Zafar’s views and concerns about the future of indigenous languages.
Speaking on challenges to the linguistic diversity mentioned that all the 28 languages spoken in the northern region from Swat to Gilgit-Baltistan are in danger of extinction, quoting a 2013 #UNESCO report.
“People of the northern region are confused about their identities; the tough terrain of the region also hinders cultural integration to form a collective approach to handle the common linguistic issue.”– Zubair Torwali
“The tough terrain of the region also hinders the communities to form a collective approach to handle the common linguistic issue,” Zubair said.
He also blamed globalisation and onslaught of commercial media for this sorry state of affairs.
“It is state’s responsibility to take steps for the promotion of endangered languages by making them the medium of instruction in schools, through mainstream media, he recommended.
Exploring new avenues
Earlier briefing about the theme and objectives of the conference, Yasmin Karim, Programme Manager Gender and Development, said: “The regions of GBC have undergone drastic changes with their exposure to the outside world following the abolition of traditional governance structure, transformation in society and shift in economic base.
“The region is now facing new realities which need new ways of seeing things,” she said.
“Globalization offers both opportunities and challenges to societies living in margins.”–Yasmin Karim
Today we live in a global world where time and space is compressing.
The process of globalization offers both opportunities and challenges to societies living in margins, she cautioned.
The regions of #GBC have remained hitherto at the margins of major economic developments that occurred in the neighbouring regions. Being a corridor of Central and South Asia our region has become a pivotal point. We want to generate a discourse that will ensure a sustainable development in the region, she said.
The speakers said the changes emanating from Chinese interest and investment in Pakistan will soon expand into the larger interactions of the One Belt One Road policy that will involve many cultures, economies and ecologies under a single policy framework.
Others who also spoke on the occasion included Safiullah Baig, Fahim Baig, Zaigham Abbas, Muhammed Idrees, Sultan Ahmed, Israruddin Israr, Fazal Amin Beg, Ali Ahmed Jan, Noor Bano, Afiyat Nazar and Dr Muhammed Sadiq.