Gilgit Baltistan: The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship programme of the Belt and Road Initiative, is an economic expansionist programme aimed at conquering a key geographical location lying at the heart of Central Asia, India and China, i.e., Gilgit Baltistan (GB) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

CPEC was sold to the people of GB as a landmark project to uplift their lives and infrastructure, but it has in fact deepened their colonial subjugation, reported International Forum for Right and Security (IFFRAS).

More importantly, the implementation of the project constitutes an illegal encroachment on territory that is legally a part of the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Currently, one consequence of the imperialist conquest of GB by China has been natural resource exploitation and infrastructural development by Chinese companies in GB, whose primary beneficiary has been the Pakistani military, reported IFFRAS.

Under the banner of CPEC, work has been initiated on mega dams, oil and gas pipelines, and uranium and heavy metal extraction in GB.

This has come at a cost to local livelihood and environmental sustainability. More importantly, GB provides over half of the drinking and irrigation water to Pakistan. Chinese mega projects are showing an adverse impact on the local climate leading to uncontrollable pollution and irreversible depletion of aquatic ecosystems, reported IFFRAS.

Moreover, the glacial death, pollution, abrupt weather transformations, loss of natural habitat and disappearance of ice sheets is not just detrimental to GB but also to Pakistan as a whole.

Notably, there is more glacial ice in Pakistan than on earth outside the Polar Regions and over 80 per cent of this ice is in 7,253 glaciers in GB. Further, over 60 of the world's tallest peaks with heights above 20,000 feet from sea level are in GB. The Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindukush converge right where River Senge (Indus) meets River Hanisara in GB.

World Bank warns that one-third of these glaciers will disappear by the end of this century causing famine of great magnitude in Pakistan. Melting ice sheets would also release viruses locked away for thousands of years causing an unprecedented rise in occurrences of rare diseases, reported IFFRAS.

The other major challenge in GB is that deforestation, which causes landslides. The loss of forests to Chinese hydroelectric projects in PoK is palpable.

Pakistani Army came to GB with the promise of protecting locals. However, it has transformed itself into a horde that has snatched indigenous lands and imposed Chinese interests on locals.

The military has confiscated hundreds of thousands of acres of private land in Skardo, Diamer, Shigar, Ghizer, Gilgit and Hunza and awarded it to Chinese companies.

In one instance, the army bulldozed and flattened homes in Maqpondass to grant private land to a Chinese company to build CPEC-related SEZ. This happened at midnight and in the Holy month of Ramadan!, reported IFFRAS.

Also, the infrastructural development involves the establishment of 37 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) along the route of the CPEC, nine of which are proposed to be made in GB. Moqpondass is one such SEZ being built and is rich in precious stones.

All the mining contracts in the region are already being poached by China or their sponsored private contractors. This has caused displacement to thousands of residents and resulted in wave after wave of protests. Further, 1.8 million jobs promised to be generated by CPEC for GB never materialised and instead, China has sent thousands of its own workers to work on CPEC projects. Pakistan Army is committing real treason and terrorism by sacrificing the well-being of locals for China, reported IFFRAS.

Further, new reports (June 15, 2022), indicate that China has asked Pakistan for permission to set up military outposts in Baluchistan for the security of CPEC. If this report is correct, it will not be long before Chinese military outposts are established in GB in the name of providing security to Chinese personnel working on CPEC projects, reported IFFRAS.