Pakistan’s Army is set to take near-total control of the Beijing-financed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a US $60 billion infrastructure building plan replete with railways, roads, ports and special economic zones (SEZs) that is key to China’s global Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).
A bill in Pakistan’s parliament will give the powerful military a firmer hold over the initiative and its related multi-billion dollar contracts, a martial move some see as aimed at reassuring Beijing that their investments will be more secure amid militant attacks on Chinese engineers and others facilitating the infrastructure projects.
The move comes amid rising indications China is backing away from its initial financial promises to Pakistan under the ambitious scheme
Recent media reports, citing data compiled by Boston University researchers in the United States, note that overall lending by the state-backed China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China declined from a peak of $75 billion in 2016 to just $4 billion last year. Provisional 2020 figures show that amount shrunk to around $3 billion in 2020.
The belt-tightening is believed to be in line with Beijing’s so-called “rethink strategy” for its US$1 trillion BRI, which is under broad fire for “structural weaknesses” including opacity, corruption, over lending to poor countries resulting in “debt traps” and adverse social and environmental impacts, the Boston University research said.