This aerial photo taken on May 23, 2023 shows the Rashakai Special Economic Zone under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in the northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. 【China Road and Bridge Corporation/Handout via Xinhua】
"No one, except the Chinese company, believed that I could do it," said Ghulam Khatoon, a professional truck driver.
By Misbah Saba Malik
Ghulam Khatoon, a native of the underdeveloped Thar Desert in Pakistan's south Sindh province, has evolved from a financially challenged housewife into a resilient and independent woman, all because of the waves of development brought by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to her hometown.
Launched in 2013, CPEC, a flagship project under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is a corridor linking Pakistan's southwest Gwadar port with Kashgar in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, highlighting energy, transport, and industrial cooperation.
Khatoon is now a professional truck driver at CPEC's Thar Coal Block-II Coal Electricity Integration project. Her path to employment has not only improved her life but also profoundly impacted her entire family, which now enjoys a higher standard of living, improved access to education, better-quality food, and a newfound sense of peace and happiness.
"Driving a mighty dump truck professionally and making good money out of it by a woman who had never even ridden a bicycle in her lifetime was implausible. No one, except the Chinese company, believed that I could do it," Khatoon told Xinhua.
The project, built by China Machinery Engineering Corporation, has a major power plant under CPEC in Pakistan to help the country meet its electricity demands by using locally available coal.
"There are several dozen women at work, and CPEC illuminated our lives with colors of happiness and prosperity," she added.
This photo taken on April 22, 2023 shows Chinese and Pakistani staff members of the Thar Coal Block-II Coal Electricity Integration project posing for a group photo during a dinner celebrating Eid al-Fitr in the Thar Desert in Pakistan's south Sindh province. 【Str/Xinhua】
CPEC is also acting as a game-changer for Gwadar, where it develops and operates the port as well as brings about positive changes to the lives of the city's residents.
Talking about the impact of CPEC on the education sector, Muneer Notezai, a district education officer in Gwadar, said he has witnessed first-hand the changes in his hometown and recalled how many local students had to quit their studies after high school due to poor road infrastructure to other cities.
He said it is nothing short of transformative, as a Chinese company supported the expansion of a small school with a capacity of 50 students to a big college building where over 500 students receive a high-quality education.
"In the old town of Gwadar, where most of the residents were fishermen for generations, CPEC introduced a technical vocational training institute, offering a wide range of courses, including port management, information technology, and artificial intelligence," he added.
This photo taken on March 21, 2023 shows the view of the Thar Coal Block-I Coal Electricity Integration project in Sindh province, Pakistan.【Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal】
Apart from that, a state-of-the-art hospital is being constructed. After its inauguration, healthcare access will be greatly improved so residents will not have to travel long distances to the country's big cities for medical treatment.
"The Chinese are also constructing a desalination plant to cater to the need for clean drinking water of the residents of Gwadar, and after its inauguration, a substantial supply of clean drinking water will be available for the area that has long grappled with water scarcity," Notezai said.
The China-aided New Gwadar International Airport is a monumental blessing for the region, as it will drastically reduce travel constraints and promise increased economic activities and opportunities, Notezai noted.
Aerial photo taken on June 3, 2022 shows a section of the China-aided Eastbay Expressway of Gwadar port in Gwadar of Pakistan's southwest Balochistan province. 【Jiang Chao/Xinhua】
Infrastructural development in the country's northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province under CPEC has made life comfortable for residents, significantly increased business opportunities, and brought prosperity to people's lives.
Muhammad Ashfaque, a trader of clothes and dry fruit in the provincial capital city of Peshawar, said that before CPEC, it took him hours to reach cities within the province and the country's north Gilgit-Baltistan region, but now his business has doubled as he can access new markets for buying.
"A great dream of businessmen is coming true with the construction of the Rashakai Special Economic Zone in Peshawar under the CPEC framework. It presents a fantastic investment opportunity as after its inauguration, the Chinese will bring investment and technology, which will be instrumental in training our labor force and enable Pakistan to leverage cutting-edge technology for its benefit," he added.