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HomeGeopolitical CompassSouth & Southeast AsiaThe Pakistan Army’s Belt and Road Putsch

The Pakistan Army’s Belt and Road Putsch

Author: Arif Rafiq

Affiliation: Vizier Consulting

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Policy

Date/Place: August 26, 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Opinion/Argument

Word Count: 3000


Keywords: Kashmir, Pakistan, China, CPEC, Imran Khan


This argumentative piece on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), comes at a time when Islamabad under Prime Minister Imran Khan has focused itself on the $60 billion investments by Beijing. Author Arif Rafiq, known for his unrestrained commentary on South Asia and backing his arguments with facts and figures, argues that the new CPEC authority being led by a former Pakistan army general potentially is a parallel government undermining the civilian leadership. Pakistan also faces a dilemma and a risk when it entered an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan program (the 22nd in the country’s history) while it focuses on CPEC – a sore in the eyes of the US and its allies, including India. Islamabad must strike a balance if the US’s war on BRI expands as Washington effectively launches sanctions against several BRI companies. As Pakistan progresses, the balance of its civil-military relations and its impact on the country’s much-required economic development will be the focus of many from outside. From being an unknown politician in Islamabad to now a CPEC-focused Prime Minister, Khan has won appreciation when he went on to say: “Pakistan’s future is with China. We should be clear on this. Our [economic] development has now been intertwined with China.” There has been a flurry of attacks by terrorists against Chinese targets on the CPEC, and Pakistan’s army has reportedly raised a specific battalion to secure it. However, the author argues that the military’s “mission creep may severely distort economic policymaking” with its commercial and strategic interests cannibalizing Pakistan’s budget and taking precedence over Khan’s stated focus on developing human capital in Pakistan and improving the welfare of its people. He links it with Pakistan’s “unending elite tug of war.” “The Army can help break that cycle by not getting in Khan’s way,” he asserts.

By: Riyaz ul Khaliq, CIGA Non-Resident Research Associate



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