A highway built in northern Pakistan as a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) opened on Wednesday, which experts say will help eradicate rampant terrorism in the region thanks to its role in poverty alleviation.
The 47-kilometer-long segment of the highway that was formally opened on Wednesday by Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi was completed on schedule in less than three years.
It is an important section of the CPEC, an infrastructure modernization project that links China and Pakistan. The highway is the second motorway project in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province after the M-1 motorway built linking Peshawar to Islamabad.
"The CPEC is a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative. China hopes it can link China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to the Indian Ocean to not only boost economic growth but also fundamentally address terrorist, separatist and extremist-related issues through creating opportunities for development," Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs of Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.
Poverty is a hotbed for terrorism and extremism, he said.
For Pakistan and also the entire region, China has wide-ranging ambitions to help Pakistan develop into a middle-income country, Wang said.
"This is a great achievement of the Belt and Road Initiative in Pakistan and is very significant for the country's social development prospects," Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.
"The highway will provide cost-effective transportation to millions of local people in towns and valleys along the highway. It is an essential step toward positioning Pakistan as a trading hub between Western and Central Asia," Hu told the Global Times.
Abbassi at Wednesday's opening ceremony of the highway thanked the Chinese government and Chinese companies in helping Pakistan build the first high-quality highway in the country's northern region, CCTV reported.
The new road runs almost parallel to the existing N35 highway, which is overwhelmed with traffic causing roadblocks and safety hazards and is in poor condition. Work on the Karachi-Lahore highway is progressing at a fast pace, the report said.
Right the wrongs
According to Pakistani media The Nation, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said in June that based on estimates by international financial institutions, Pakistan would be part of the elite G20 club of leading world economies by 2030.
China will provide strong support for Pakistan to achieve this goal and will contribute by righting the past wrongs made in the region by the West, which promoted neither peace nor development, said Wang.
"Now Afghanistan will also be included in the project and this will not only positively impact participating countries but the entire region as a whole. By way of industrialization and economic development, peace and stability in Western and Central Asia will be ensured," Wang further stated.
However, the ambitious plan will also face challenges in Pakistan, such as the conflicts between local tribes and the central government, Hu said.
The issue concerns local tribes and provincial governments locked in competition to ensure that projects of the CPEC pass through their own regions so they can benefit. It doesn't mean they oppose the project or China, Hu explained.