Central Trade Corridor (CTC): Door of opportunities for Waziristan
Since decades, Waziristan has remained a corridor of ease for the travellers and traders. Different routes moving in west-eastern direction turned into a corridor with a passage of time. Along with, this area had a history of turbulence, and cruelty. That is why this area generally remained devoid of any important blacktop roads over which the tangible attributes of progress and prosperity could travel to benefit the people living on both sides of Hindukush.
Hostility and poverty in FATA has remained a big hurdle for democracy and economy of the area. Violence stopped the development, and lack of development cultivated an environment conducive for violence. Increased development in this area will decrease the degree of violence. But progress and prosperity are not easy. They need roads to travel on. Education, health facilities, economic opportunities and civic services travel over the roads to reach the people of such remote regions. Due to various reasons, including the presence of foreign armed forces in Afghanistan, violence and poverty are shared attributes of the tribes inhabiting both sides of border. They are co-dependent in socio-economic spheres. Thus, transformational measures can have concurrent effect on both sides. In general, this has been the context of construction of Central Trade Corridor. It has already started paying dividends. The people of Waziristan have welcomed the CTC (Central Trade Corridor) project.
Chief of Army Staff visited South Waziristan this Sunday on 9th November. Army Chief said that Pakistan Army has undertaken progress of the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) as a “priority task”. The general was speaking after the inauguration of the largest bridge on the Central Trade Corridor (CTC) in South Waziristan Agency (SWA). Pakistan Army has undertaken 178 projects so far in the social sector, communication infrastructure and power sector in FATA and Malakand areas. These projects are aimed to improve the quality of life in tribal areas and address the problem of militancy on a long-term basis. CTC is an international standard 705-kilometre-long road network is also being built by army engineers that will run through southern KP and FATA.
The trade route of CTC is: Karachi Port / Port Qasim Sukkur (along Indus Highway) – Rajanpur – D.G. Khan D.I. Khan – Ghulam Khan / Angoor Adda – Afghan Ring Road – Kabul / Kandhar (Kabul: 1,580 km via Indus Highway in Pakistan and Kabul-Gardez Highway in Afghanistan. Kandhar: 1,898 km via Indus Highway in Pakistan and Afghan Ring Road in Afghanistan).
The army chief, during his visit to South Waziristan, talked about ongoing North Waziristan operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’. He said:
“While focusing on early completion, the army will continue with rehabilitation and reconstruction activities. A comprehensive plan in this regard has been chalked out in consultation with the government,” General Raheel (COAS) said.
The CTC will yield immediate socio-economic advantage for the people of North and South Waziristan Agencies, and Afghanistan’s Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces. It will benefit Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the long run, the CTC is expected to play a part in development of trade in the entire South-Central-West Region.
The key benefit is to replace the existing non-mettled roads with international standard blacktop highways and reduce the time distance between North-Western Pakistan and South-Eastern Afghanistan. The intra-Waziristan distance will reduce through an integral road network and it will build a socio-economic and communicational gateway between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
It is often espoused by some that poverty and economic insecurity is not the reason or the core motivation for violence in FATA. But there are other drivers and sources of motivation that far outweigh poverty or destitution as the cause of violence. However, international experience shows that Economic Opportunity Structure does have a noteworthy effect on environment of conflict and conditions of violence. Going by this reality, the CTC is expected to reconstruct and revamp the EOS of Waziristan as well as the neighbouring Afghan provinces.
The construction of Central Trade Corridor is a step in the right direction. It would not only shorten the time distance between north-western Pakistan and south-eastern Afghanistan, but will also play a momentous role in conflict transformation on both sides of Hindukush. It is tangible entity that will act as a link between various intangible attributes of Pakistan Army’s counterinsurgency policy.