Gilgit Baltistan reforms aimed at providing better security cover for Chinese investments

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Islamabad, Sep.4 (ANI): The recent administrative reforms for the Northern Areas, officially known as Gilgit Baltistan, announced by the Pakistan government, is primarily aimed at providing a better security cover for the rapidly growing Chinese interests in the region, an analyst has said.

According to Quetta-based development analyst, Syed Fazl-e-Haider, the reforms, which were announced last week, are targeted at providing an enhanced security cover for the region which has seen some massive Chinese investments in the recent past.

Despite the Pakistan government not giving Gilgit Baltistan the status of the country's fifth province, the reforms would see the region having a legislative assembly, a chief minister and a governor.

China has invested heavily in numerous projects in the Northern Areas and is likely to launch several new projects, particularly in power sector, costing billions of dollars.

Beijing's profile in the Northern Areas has been rising for the past decade, with investments in a range of infrastructure projects. Important China-funded projects include the construction, maintenance and expansion of the Kara Koram Highway (KKH), Haider said.

The proposed Bunji dam is estimated to cost up to seven billion dollars and will have a capacity to generate 7,000 megawatts of electricity. Under the deal, undertaken on a build-operate-transfer basis, all the investment will be made by Chinese entrepreneurs.

It may be recalled that during his China visit last month, President Asif Ali Zardari signed a memorandum of understanding on construction of a hydro-power station at Bunji, in Gilgit Baltistan.

Both Beijing and Islamabad are also planning to link the KKH to the southern Pakistani port of Gwadar in southwestern Balochistan province through the Chinese-built Gwadar-Dalbandin railway, which extends up Rawalpindi, Haider added further.

China has already agreed to give Pakistan 121 million dollars supplier credit out of a total cost of 12 billion rupees for the construction of the Karakoram Highway to establish links with the Bhasha dam site to help transport heavy machinery needed for its construction.

Besides that Islamabad is also expecting an investment of 1.5 billion dollars per year from European, Arab and Chinese companies which are willing to form a conglomerate on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis, Haider said. (ANI)

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