China Border Trade: A Bane or Boon for the Local Population?
By Meharban Karim Alvi
Pak-China border has been considered as one of the peaceful borders between the two neighbor and friendly countries. The area is hosting thousands of national and international traders, visitors and tourists annually with hospitality and support in a pleasant and peaceful environment. It is a common perception that the locals are running successful businesses and have benefited largely from this trade route. But in reality this opportunity has remained unhelpful in many ways.
Before opening of this trade border the livelihood options for the people of border area were agriculture, livestock and tourism. People had more emphasis on education for a quality life and to earn respectful career. The local community was renowned for its rich culture of respect, care, brotherhood and social cohesion.
However over the last few years the situation has drastically changed. Our youth have spent their valuable time and money to establish businesses, but all are suffering losses. There are many cases of youth and their families being bankrupt. In addition to the economic loss, unfortunately our youth have been exposed to drugs and unhealthy habits. Business style has remained unprofessional, unethical and applying shortcut approaches to get maximum benefit in a short span of time is the norm, instead of being the exception. There are cases where locals have sold their lands to outsiders for minimal price and now feel resource constraints.
With the passage of time, a new trend of political and ethnic elements has entered the border trade system, resulting in a power game. This power game is being played using the divide and rule phenomena. This is creating conflict, mistrust, violence and volatile situation, which is not only destabilizing the economic opportunity through cross border trade but also weakening the social fabric of our society.
Democratic norms and good governance had taken roots in our communities through community mobilization and village institutions over the last few decades. Meritocracy, transparency and accountability are few of the basic principles to govern.
It is need of our time to follow these principles to run our affairs rather than following dictations from above and outside. Political, religious and ethnic elements should be set aside for a collective cause if we have a real vision for our area. This is also a crucial need of the time for various development agencies, educated and professionals to come forward and join hands to play a neutral role to overcome the dividing elements and fill the gaps of inefficiencies, sensitise and build capacities of local population to get maximum benefit and be ambassadors of peaceful trade between Pakistan and China!