New Delhi: After ignoring India’s objections to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Islamabad and Beijing are now in the process of setting up a Special Economic Zone in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Pakistan has long facilitated China’s forays into the Jammu and Kashmir region, ceding vast tracts of land in 1963 in the Shaksgam Valley, north of the Siachen Glacier. The Chinese built a road and military posts there in 2017.
ThePrint takes an exclusive look at the latest satellite imagery of the new SEZ, called Moqpondass.
Feasibility, approval and agreements
Feasibility studies were carried out in May and June 2016. Satellite images of the time indicate vehicular movements and a helipad, possibly constructed to ferry VIPs.
In May 2019, Pakistan’s Board of Investments (BoI) approved the fast-track development of nine SEZs, including Moqpondass, about 40 km from the city of Gilgit.
The agreement was reportedly signed between China and Pakistan during PM Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing in April 2019.
Construction began immediately after the signing of the agreement. Although the Pakistani government’s CPEC website says the area allotted is 250 acres, satellite imagery shows that the Chinese are utilising an area more than 750 acres.
The area occupied by the construction company consists of a storage area, a cement concrete production and mixer plant, and two crusher plants.
The construction is in the early stages. Staff barracks are in typical hollow square shape. There are separate barracks, probably for Pakistani staff.
The storage area is littered with steel reinforcing bars (rebars), and huge earth-moving equipment and vehicles.
The crushers and cement concrete plants are already operational and functioning efficiently.
A small masjid has been constructed, possibly for the use of Pakistani staff.