(TibetanReview.net, Nov07’22) – Chinese employees working on President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects in Pakistan have to work with a stark daily reminder that they are unwelcome there at least to a significant section of the local population – they are to be issued bullet-proof cars for their travels.
The $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a 3000 Km infrastructure network project, links Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea with Kashgar in Chinese occupied East Turkestan (named by China as Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region).
Pakistan and China have agreed to use bullet-proof vehicles for all outdoor movements of the Chinese nationals working on the CPEC projects in Pakistan to protect them from terrorist attacks after Beijing expressed concern over their security, reported the tribune.com.pk, the website of The Express Tribune newspaper, Pakistan, Nov 6.
The report cited the draft minutes of the 11th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of the CPEC as saying the two sides had also agreed to strengthen capabilities of the law-enforcement agencies and investigators. China has also committed to provide security-related equipment for the capacity building of the Pakistani law-enforcement agencies.
President Xi last week expressed “deep concern” over the security of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan on the CPEC projects and sought “reliable and safe environment” for them in his talks with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the latter’s maiden visit to Beijing to bolster the all-weather friendship, noted the PTI news agency Nov 6.
The latest decisions were stated to be expected to help address the concerns of the government of China due to which it was not moving forward on the CPEC front until the security of its nationals was fully guaranteed and Pakistan also fulfilled its commitments under the energy deals.
“Some terror attacks on Chinese nationals dealt a major blow to the execution of the CPEC projects. In the past, China had even demanded of Pakistan to let its security people protect the Chinese nationals,” the report said, citing sources.
Resistance of local Baloch people remains a major hurdle in this project. The region is rich in mineral resources but the impoverished locals of Balochistan – one of the four provinces of Pakistan – struggle for basic minimum necessities, such as clean drinking water, reliable power supply, education and health facilities. Government neglect on poverty and unemployment has given rise to religious extremism.
Non-consultation before taking up the plan and the denial of employment to local population by bringing people from Punjab province to work for the project has increased the hostility.
Besides, the locals are against the Chinese takeover of the Gwadar Port. The Balochistan National Party (Mengal) (BNP-M), the Baloch National Front (BNF), the Baloch Republican Party, and militant organizations like the Balochistan Liberation Front, the Balochistan Liberation Army, and the Baloch Republican Army are among those that oppose this BRI deal with China.
They argue the Chinese involvement is for serving their own selfish purposes. There have been instances of attacking and killing Chinese nationals associated with CPEC. Baloch prefer autonomy and control over their own local resources for their development instead of foreign mega projects, notes a Wikipedia report on the project.