The silk route is an ancient trade route through the Karakoram to China and central Asia. Around a thousand years ago Romans, Arabs and later British India used this geopolitical and strategically important way for trade and commerce.
In the era of British India, the territory of Pamirs and Karakoram was suspected for future USSR invasion and probably empire of China. E.F Knight named this region as “where the three empires meet”. Therefore in 1889 a British officer and spy Younghusband was appointed for a special survey in this northeast buffer region among the three great powers. He explored a hidden state on the silk route was Hunza. Younghusband came to know that Mir (ruler) of Hunza has a monopoly over silk route means, every caravan passing through Hunza was been looted by a special man of Mir. The raid-operation force was used to be deployed at Yarkand near Pamir. The operation knows as “Yarkand raid”.
However, Mr Younghusband inquired Mir of the day Safdar Khan -1889 the purpose of violence on the silk route. Mir replied that “in this valley there is nothing except stones and ice, possessing little pasturage or cultivable land. Raiding is our only source of revenue. If the British wanted this stopped, then they must compensate us we have nothing to eat”. Although people of that time approached violent way for their state interest and survival but got benefit from the trade route.
Today there is once again a new opportunity for Yarkand raiders (people of Hunza) in the form of OROB China Pakistan economic corridor. But now we have to approach legal, political and economical way, unlike Safdarkhans’syarkand raid policy. It is the perfect time for the entire people of Gilgit Baltistan to take participation in the economics of the mega project. The federal govt must provide incentives like free trade zones or economic zones, encourage entrepreneurs through loans, tourism development and promotion institutions. GB is more stakeholder than other parts of Pakistan but unfortunately, people of the region are being alienated in every aspect of CPEC project.
Albeit there are political and social demerits of the project but economically it can bring prosperity to the region if civil society and our representatives in GB legislative assembly ask from Islamabad regarding our equal rights. If failed, of course, we would be there just counting the number of trucks passing on the KKH per day. Therefore people must be aware before outsiders dwell on the important economic zones and devour our own rights.
The isolated region like Gilgit Baltistan does not enjoy the fruit of the economic growth like other regions of Pakistan. Being located in difficult topography, a project like CPEC will bring unprecedented growth for the region.
Improved road and possible rail connectivity will allow faster movement of goods and services in the region. Through this, the local products like ( minerals, fresh and dry fruits, cultural things etc) of Gilgit Baltistan can be also marketed there product with the world. Fresh produce can now be shifted to consumption centres quickly, which will not only allow people to enjoy regional produce but also enable producers to get access to a larger market, better income, and the living standard of people rapidly increase.
Immediate benefits from the projects may not be visible in short-term but for the long-term view, these projects bring in the huge amount of development, prosperity and general peace. In business point of view, the people can take too many benefits many different investors will invest the capital in this region. Small and large industries probably build the unemployment will reduce. I wish people of Gilgit Baltistan good wishes and a great future.
Nadeem Alam a student of Management Sciences at Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad.