The foundation stone for the first energy project under the $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes though Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, has been laid in the restive Balochistan province.
Chinese state media said the coal-fired power project in Hub region of Balochistan will be built at a cost of $2 billion and its two 660 MW units will provide electricity to four million families after the project’s completion in 2019.
“The power complex is also expected to generate 9 billion kilowatt hours of electricity to the Pakistani national grid, and provide cheaper energy to Pakistani consumers,” People’s Daily online reported.
There are plans to build 11 energy projects with a generation capacity of more than 7,000 MW under CPEC. The Hub project is a joint venture between State Power Investment Corporation, China Power International Holding and the Hub Power Company of Pakistan.
India has objected to the CPEC because it passes through PoK.
Pakistan’s power minister Ahsan Iqbal was quoted as saying that $35 billion had been allocated for energy in the budget for CPEC, which will have a network of infrastructure projects.
Iqbal said the large allocation had been made because Pakistan had faced its “acutest energy crisis” in 2013, with power shortages of up to 18 to 20 hours a day. “Without fixing the energy problem, no country can move forward on its development path. CPEC has helped Pakistan fix the biggest problem in its economy for future growth,” he said.
Last September, China said it was “highly concerned” about the security of its workers engaged in the construction of CPEC projects in Balochistan after a Baloch leader threatened to target the projects.
“China is highly concerned about the security of the CPEC. We appreciate great efforts made by Pakistan side in ensuring the security of the corridor and Chinese workers there. We hope that Pakistan side will continue to do so in future,” foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang had said.
According to reports from Islamabad, 15,000 Pakistani security personnel have been deployed to protect Chinese workers involved in CPEC projects.