An estimated trillion dollars worth of minerals are in Afghanistan including rare earth metals which are required in electric vehicles and other technologies of the future. Pakistan must not be just a transit trade route for these minerals, it must have much greater economic interests.
We must appreciate the armed forces and security agencies for protecting national security and securing an excellent strategic position in Afghanistan. However we must urge the establishment to stop continuously using the CPEC buzzword without defining Pakistan’s economic interests.
Pakistan should become the hub for refining and processing these minerals and then exporting them onwards to China and other countries while also retaining significant amounts for domestic manufacturing. Cheap material input will make our manufacturing highly competitive and will boost exports. Seek domestic investors as well as Saudi & other Arab investment then make deals with Chinese companies to set up factories in Special Economic Zones. The Afghans will get a fair price for their minerals and also there won’t be any other takers other than China and Pakistan.
-Domestic manufacturing gets a huge boost as we have access to cheaper raw material
-Exports increase significantly leading to lower trade and current account deficits.
-Long-term skilled jobs created
Unfortunately our civilian and military leadership, and the private sector lack the vision to think so ambitiously. Their economic vision is limited to DHA and housing societies. Most likely they will settle for breadcrumbs by charging a transit fee so that Afghan minerals can be shipped to China from Gwadar or Karachi.
In 2015 CPEC was going to be a ‘game changer’ for Pakistan’s economy, three years later we were begging the IMF and countries for loans. Now in 2021 the same people are promising CPEC to change our economic fortunes. It should be made clear to the army, government and private sector that CPEC no longer should be about infrastructure or transit routes, it needs to be about industrialisation. Pakistan now has an excellent strategic position in Afghanistan, it should not settle for breadcrumbs and demand a big slice of the trillion dollar cake. We should not miss this economic opportunity.