Over the past decade, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is reshaping the development landscape of Punjab, the most populous and agriculturally rich province of Pakistan.
The collaboration between China and Punjab in the agriculture sector has played a crucial role in boosting agricultural productivity, improving farming techniques, and increasing the quality of agricultural products. This not only supports local food security but also positions Punjab as a potential exporter of high-value agricultural commodities to China and other international markets.
The integration of agriculture and industry in Punjab creates a robust supply chain and value-added opportunities, further strengthening the province’s economic prospects. Chinese assistance in intercropping, high-yield seeds, pest control, and agricultural machinery training contributed to this success. Agricultural exports to China reached $730 million in 2022, expected to exceed $1 billion during the current year. Collaborations in research, training, and infrastructure development have further enhanced Punjab’s agriculture. The leasing of state land for corporate farming and partnerships in various sectors also support the industry’s growth.
Furthermore, the CPEC Unit of the Agriculture Department in Punjab has been entrusted with a crucial role as the primary resource center for both the Public and Private Sectors. Its main objective is to raise awareness among key stakeholders, such as farmers, producers, exporters, the general public, and government officials, about the vast array of opportunities and implications arising from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Through investments and technology, China is promoting Punjab’s agro-processing units, individual quick freezing, potato powder or flakes manufacturing, dehydration, olive oil extraction, and solar dehydration of vegetables. These initiatives aim to reduce post-harvest losses, enhance shelf life, and boost product value. By collaborating with China, Punjab is advancing its agricultural productivity and ensuring food security for the future.
Moreover, China’s timely and substantial assistance proved invaluable in Pakistan’s battle against the worst-ever swarms of desert locusts a few years ago. Thanks to the support from China, the National Locust Control Centre reported that no locusts were reported from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Punjab provinces, with affected areas witnessing a significant decline in locust populations. China provided 300,000 liters of essential pesticides, 12 drone sprayers, and 30 other spraying equipment, worth US$5 million, to combat the locust threat.
Additionally, the Department of Plant Protection of Pakistan received protective gear and equipment from China. The cooperation between the two countries extended to training, technology transfer, and the establishment of monitoring and early warning platforms. Pakistan’s agriculture sector now stands better equipped to handle future locust challenges, ensuring food security and safeguarding the world’s food basket.
Additionally, the possibility of collaborating with Chinese experts to control foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and other animal illnesses is being considered by the Punjab government. This collaboration signifies significant opportunities for the livestock sector in Pakistan and reinforces the strong relationship between China and Punjab in agriculture and livestock-related initiatives.
Punjab is known for textiles, engineering, chemicals, automotive, and other industries. CPEC’s focus on industrial development and establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Punjab, such as the Allama Iqbal Industrial City in Faisalabad, leverages the existing industrial base, attracting local and foreign investment, creating employment opportunities, and boosting exports.
The development of the AIIC is part of CPEC’s broader plan to promote industrialisation and economic diversification in Punjab. By facilitating the growth of key industries, CPEC aims to create thousands of employment opportunities, enhance the province’s export capacity, and foster economic growth.
China has also shown its commitment to help Punjab in coping with the smog crises. During a meeting with the caretaker CM Punjab Mohsin Naqvi, Chinese Consul General, Lahore Mr. Zhao Shiren assured continued cooperation with Punjab in various sectors, pledging complete assistance in tackling the smog problem. Furthermore, Chinese companies are also installing Air Quality Monitoring Stations across Punjab for informed decision making in environment sector.
China has also come forward to the forefront to secure Punjab’s cities. Few months ago, Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) and Chinese company Huawei have signed a settlement agreement, with the Chinese company taking responsibility for operationalising the entire PSCA infrastructure. The Punjab government will not have to pay any additional amount, and maintenance works will be carried out at the initial dollar rate of Rs.104, as per the original agreement.
Additionally, Punjab is home to major educational institutions, research centers, and skilled labor. The province has a well-established education system, producing a large pool of qualified professionals. CPEC emphasises knowledge sharing, capacity building, and collaboration in the academic and research sectors. Punjab’s strong educational infrastructure and skilled workforce enable it to contribute significantly to the human resource development aspect of CPEC. Chinese government and intellectuals are also helping in establishing Chinese Study Centers across the most of the Universities in Punjab, which will not only increase people to people exchange but will also promote Chinese culture in the province. Similarly, the Chinese have pledged full assistance in improving health facilities for the people of Punjab. This support includes preparation of synovac vaccine and facilitating the vaccination of a significant portion of the population against COVID-19.
Moreover, there are plans to sign an MoU with Nadra to ensure 100% certainty in identifying unidentified bodies in government hospitals, with both health departments fully cooperating to implement the MoU and provide support in medico-legal cases in Punjab’s government hospitals.
Punjab witnessed a major breakthrough when Pakistan signed the deal under which China would build a 1,200-megawatt Chashma-V nuclear plant at Chashma in the Mianwali district of Punjab.
CPEC has prioritised several projects and initiatives in Punjab, ensuring the province’s active participation and substantial benefits from the corridor. The development of energy projects, including the Sahiwal Coal-fired Power Plant, the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park, Karot Hydropower project and the upcoming Azad Pattan hydropower project in Azad Jammu Kashmir and Punjab region, addresses the energy needs of Punjab, ensuring a stable power supply for industries, businesses, and households.
Transport infrastructure development in Punjab under CPEC is significant. The Peshawar-Karachi Motorway (Multan-Sukkur Section) and the Orange Line Metro Train in Lahore are flagship projects that have improved connectivity within the province, easing the movement of people and goods. The Cross Border Optical Fiber Cable project enhances communication networks and digital connectivity, benefiting Punjab’s IT sector and facilitating e-commerce and digital services.
Moreover, Chinese companies have expressed interest in investing in diverse sectors in Punjab, such as steel, agrochemicals, spinning machinery, chicken farms, meat processing factories, and more. Several delegations from China visited the Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT) to explore investment opportunities and discuss potential projects. The Chinese investors are keen on establishing warehouses for steel products, chicken farms, meat processing factories, and petrochemical-related industries. Additionally, some Chinese delegates are interested in manufacturing steel, aluminum, and plastic doors in Punjab, while others are exploring opportunities in pesticides, agrochemicals, petrochemicals, fiber aramid products, solid tires, and spinning machinery. The PBIT has assured full support and facilitation to the Chinese companies in establishing their presence in Punjab.
China is also contributing in Electronic Vehicle industry in Punjab. Huaihai Holding Company, a Chinese vehicle manufacturing company, is teaming up with its Pakistani partner to invest $10 million in the production of electric vehicles in Punjab. The initial focus will be on manufacturing two-wheeler and four-wheeler vehicles in the region.
CPEC’s railway upgradation project focuses on Punjab’s railway network, with the upgradation of the Main Line-1 (ML-1) from Karachi to Peshawar and Taxila to Havelian. This project aims to increase train speeds, improve safety, and enhance the efficiency of freight and passenger transportation in the province.