What Beijing’s Plan for Pakistan’s ‘Family Planning’ Stigmatizes and Punishes

BEIJING, China — In a darkened hospital room in southwestern Pakistan’s Quetta city, Naheed Kausar, 35, lay on the operating table, her hands over her stomach, bracing for a procedure that would render her infertile. The mother of seven had come to the government-run Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital of Quetta to undergo tubal ligation after repeated attempts to convince her husband to practice contraception had failed. “I don’t want to have any more children,” she said, her voice trailing off as she held back tears. “We can barely feed our existing children, how will we manage more?” The scene in Quetta is a manifestation of a less-known yet crucial aspect of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the centerpiece of Beijing’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The two countries signed the landmark project in 2015, aiming to connect China’s Xinjiang province to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port through a network of roads, railways, and pipelines. However, the ambitious project has also brought with it a set of stringent measures to control population growth in Pakistan, raising concerns among rights groups about reproductive coercion and the stigmatization of family planning. One of the key pillars of CPEC’s population control strategy is a program called .

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