Growing Trend of Negative Coverage of CPEC in Media

By Sajjad Shaukat

In the cyber-age, online information and interaction of peoples by the developed and the less developed countries have further increased the importance of media. Media tools which include TV channels, newspapers and websites have the power to mould peoples’ views in positive or negative sense.

In this respect, terror-attacks in Pakistan’s various regions, especially in the Balochistan province and other anti-Pakistan developments cannot be seen in isolation, as these are part of the conspiracy to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

While, Pakistan’s Armed Forces have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists by the military operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad which have also been extended to other parts of the country, including Balochistan. Country’s primary intelligence agency ISI has broken the network of these terrorist groups by capturing several militants, while thwarting a number of terror attempts. Peace has been restored in various regions of Pakistan, including Balochistan and Karachi.

But, recent blasts in Balochistan and other areas of the country show that the US-led India, Afghanistan and Israel have again started subversive acts to weaken Pakistan and to harm the CPEC. Well-entrenched in Afghanistan, intelligence agencies such as American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad which are in collaboration with the Afghan intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS) are using various terrorist outfits like Daesh and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), including their affiliated terrorist groups in order to conduct terrorist acts in Pakistan. As part of the double game, these secret agencies also support Baloch separatist elements to promote the covert agenda of the US-led entities against China and Pakistan.

It is noteworthy that on March 24, 2016, Pakistan’s security forces disclosed that they arrested the serving agent of RAW in Balochistan. During investigation and in a video, shown on Pakistan’s TV channels, RAW agent Kulbushan Yadav confessed that “he was the agent of RAW” and “during his stay, he contacted various Baloch separatist leaders and insurgents, including Dr Allah Nazar Baloch, to execute the task to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” project.

It is notable that India was openly opposing the CPEC and China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, the US also joined New Delhi. In this context, on October 3, 2017, US Defence Secretary James Mattis told the Lawmakers, “The United States has reiterated its support for India’s opposition to China’s One Belt, One Road initiative…the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a part of which traverses Pakistan-Kashmir.”

Islamabad strongly dismissed the statement from the American defence chief that the multibillion-dollar road and rail network CPEC which is part of China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, passes through a disputed territory of Kashmir, urging the international community to focus on blatant human rights violations and ‘heinous crimes’ committed by Indian occupation forces in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), and reminded the US that Washington had also participated in an OBOR summit.

Earlier, a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry also dismissed Mattis’ statement, saying that the OBOR plan was backed by the United Nations and that CPEC was an economic cooperation initiative.

In this regard, repeated threats of the US President Donald Trump and top American officials to Islamabad and other moves like suspension of latter’s aid are part of the same scheme to thwart the CPEC.

However, terror-attacks to destabilize Pakistan coincide with a continued propaganda campaign, launched through the foreign media against Pakistan, while, giving negative coverage to the CPEC.

In fact, Indian lobbies which are well-penetrated in the US administration and Europe, research centers, think tanks and so-called human rights groups utilize the media tools in defaming Pakistan internationally. Especially, RAW is availing the opportunity of the US-led organized propaganda campaign against Pakistan.

In this connection, much coverage was given by the external media to a report, released on April 13, 2017 by Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) which is in partnership with Mahatma Gandhi International AISBL. The subject report portrayed complete Indian negative propaganda themes about the provinces of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Balochistan and Sindh. Based on falsehood, the report also said that the CPEC is breach of international law and is being implemented without consultation or compensation to the people of the area.

Undoubtedly, GB is the gateway of CPEC into Pakistan, whereby GB’s strategic and socio-economic importance has increased manifold. Like Balochistan, the region has huge potential in trade with China, tourism, minerals, gems, precious stones, agriculture-farming and hydro power production. Therefore, GB’s people who are strengthening their association with Pakistan, pays no attention to the false propaganda.

In this context, a blog under the caption, “Why Pakistan and China must pay heed to the growing local resistance to CPEC—Communities that are being displaced by the project are anxious–and angry” appeared on a website on July 18, 2017, written by Dr. Amiera and Dr. Nausheen H. Anwar. The blog was also republished by the Asia Times (Online) on August 8, 2017. As part of the negative coverage of the CPEC, it was reproduced several times under various titles like “CPEC: The growing resentment and resistance among poor Pakistanis can cost China dearly”, “For Pakistan, China’s huge energy investments may have serious political costs” etc.

Nevertheless, the blog left no stone unturned in making the CPEC controversial. It wrote: “In Pakistan, there’s no topic hotter than the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a multi-billion dollar bilateral development project…its focus on energy development is also desperately needed in a country…At least, that’s the theory. Not everyone sees the changes wrought by the CPEC so positively…with those being impacted by CPEC-funded energy projects, growing citizen mobilisation in Sindh and Punjab may be turning into a political problem for Pakistan…while CPEC projects are already benefiting the national economy, the boon is less assured for those living in the project regions…Many of the residents in CPEC target areas are homesteaders, pastoralists and small business owners…the farmer told us about ongoing resistance to a planned CPEC project that the government had thus far failed to heed. At this point, he said, they should expect violent opposition…Many Pakistanis…both in Punjab and Sindh perceive CPEC development as just another form of oppression.”

Anyhow, this blog indicates as to how propaganda techniques are being employed by the foreign media to target the CPEC.

While, these external media-propagandists who also give undue coverage to the meetings and protests against the integrity of Pakistan, are particularly exaggerating the statements of those Baloch leaders who have taken shelter abroad and are fulfilling the agenda of their foreign masters against the CPEC.

In this respect, RAW and CIA arranged a meeting of Baloch Sub-Nationalists, SSNs (Sindhi-Sub- Nationalists) and the USNs (Uyghur Sub-Nationalists of China) on the termination of 35th Session of Human Rights Counsel in Geneva from 12-14 June 2017. The agenda was; planning against the CPEC/Pak-China’s interests in the region. Mehran Marri attended the conference and delivered a speech (reportedly prepared by RAW) alleging CPEC as exploitation projects and Baloch cultural genocide by Pakistan and China. Representatives of World Sindh Congress (WSC), Uyghur human rights activists, Rebiya Kadeer and Dolikun Aeysa were also present in the said conference.

As a matter of fact, since April 20, 2015, when the Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif signed 51 agreements for cooperation in various fields, related to the CPEC, gloomy coverage of the project had already started in the external media.

But, it is regrettable that by following the pessimistic approach of the external media, in the recent past, some media anchors and the so-called analysts of Pakistan have also given negative coverage to the CPEC by manipulating the differences of the provincial and regional politicians. Thus, intentional or intentionally, they have encouraged the designs of the foreign entities.

Notably, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had led a high-level delegation to China and met Chinese President Xi Jinping and his counterpart Li Keqiang on May 13, 2017. On the same day, Beijing and Islamabad signed three agreements pertaining to economic and technical cooperation of worth 3.4 billion Yuan for Gwadar port and East Bay expressway. In the meeting with the Chinese president, P.M. Sharif stated that the presence of all the chief ministers [of Pakistan’s provinces] shows the importance our nation gives to Pak-China ties. He added, “China is our strategic partner…The benefits of the Chinese investment of $56 billion with regards to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will soon reach the common man in Pakistan.” Chinese rulers also expressed similar feelings.

The reality is that the establishment of CPEC between deep Gwadar seaport of Balochistan and the historic Silk Road city in western regions-Xinjiang of China will connect Gilgit-Baltistan through Khunjerab Pass. Beijing would also build an international airport at Gwadar, while the roads infrastructure in Gwadar would link the communication network of rest of the country to facilitate transportation of goods.

When Gwadar seaport becomes fully operational, it would connect the landlocked Central Asian states with rest of the world. Being the commercial hub, the port is likely to increase volume of trade, bringing multiple economic and financial benefits to Pakistan like the Suez Canal which changed the destiny of Egypt when Israel returned it to the former. It will enable high-volume cargo vessels to move in the major oceans. Gwadar project which is backbone of the CPEC will uplift the impoverished people of Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, including developments in other provinces by providing thousands of employment opportunities, especially to the less developed areas by redressing their grievances. The resulting prosperity in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan would damp the separatist sentiments of the people, which the hostile elements, supported by the US, India and Israeli do not want. Therefore, their media describe the CPEC in negative terms.

Nonetheless, instead of following the growing trend of negative coverage of the CPEC in foreign media, Pakistan’s media should give a matching response to the malicious propaganda of the US-led India, Israel and some western countries against this Pak-China project.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations


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