70-year Pak-China people-to-people exchanges hailed

DailyTimes  |  Jun 19, 2021

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties 70 years ago, no matter how the world and domestic politics have evolved, China and Pakistan have always understood, respected, trusted, and helped each other.

This was stated by Prof. Tang Mengsheng, Director of Center for Pakistan Studies at Peking University, in an interview with China Economic Net(CEN).

The friendship between our two countries, which has always been rock-solid and vigorous, is exemplary among state-to-state relations. In the past 70 years, China-Pakistan friendship has always taken firm and strong steps, step by step more steadily.

That is what we often say, China-Pakistan friendship is unbreakable,” Tang said.

After he graduated from Urdu Major, Department of Eastern Languages and Cultures, Peking University in 1974, Prof. Tang Mengsheng participated in the construction of the Karakoram Highway, also called “Pak-China Friendship Highway” in Pakistan, as a translator.

As Tang recalled, the highway builders riding in open-backed trucks left from Xinjiang Province, China. On the road full of potholes, their trip was extremely hard. But to their great relief, upon their arrival, they were warmly greeted by long-waiting local people.

Despite the tough living conditions, the local people always took good care of them. Back in those days, they lived in areas near Hunza and Gilgit, where the roads were built along the mountains with little farmland nearby.

In order “neither to interrupt local people’s daily lives, nor to bring harm to interests of local people”, the construction team’s food supply was brought from China.

“Peaches and apricots were abundant along the highway, thus local people would give these fruits to our workers. Some even brought eggs from their families to us. Whatever difficulties we encountered, people there were always ready to help us, “Tang recalled.

In addition to the harsh living conditions, endless dangers were also faced by builders. On his way back from Islamabad one day, Tang and his colleagues encountered a landslide.

They had to move step by step, treading on the fallen gravels; at the most dangerous place, they tied each other with ropes for safety. A careless move would lead to lethal falling off.

“I had met only a few hazards, but our highway builders dealt with dangers all the time. As the level of mechanization was still very low in the 1970s, we still relied largely on manual carts to carry stones and gravels around. They worked very hard,” Tang said.

“However, it is encouraging to see that highway builders from both China and Pakistan worked side to side, shedding blood and sweat, through freezing winters and scorching summers, brought into existence this highway among cliffs on the Karakoram.

The establishment of this highway is not only a representation of the friendship between China and Pakistan, but also a miracle in world history of highway building,” Tang said.

Hard work will always pay off. Four years later, Tang returned to China in 1978. When he went back to this ever-so-familiar highway 40 years later in 2016, not only his old friends but also some new acquaintances told him about how greatly this highway changed their lives.

“I ran into a waiter at the counter of Serena Hotel in Islamabad. After some words, I learned that he is from Chitral, a place where we passed by on our way to build the highway. He told me that if it were not for the Karakoram Highway, he would not have the chance to walk out of the mountains and see the world. “Tang recalled.

“In 2017,” Tang said, “I encountered a lady from Pakistan Electric Power Company. Her hometown is on the north side of Hunza, a very remote area. Because of the Karakoram Highway, she was able to go to school in Gilgit, which is more than seventy miles away from home. Later she studied abroad in U.K. and became an engineer after returning to Pakistan.”

Touching stories are always alike. Tang added that aside from the tangible benefits to many local people, this highway had also facilitated cross-border trade. While the road used to be seasonal, and always blocked by heavy snow in winter, now it is open all year round.

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