Of 12 China-Pakistan Economic Corridor schemes, including water supply and
electricity provision, with $2 billion projects underway in Gwadar, only three
projects having a value of over $300 million have been completed.
According to the CPEC Authority, the progress review of the projects revealed
that all the schemes having socio-economic benefits for Gwadar – considered
as the crown jewel of CPEC – were falling behind their original completion
schedules, The Express Tribune newspaper reported May 8.
Alarmed about such delays being attributed to lapses and security concerns,
the Shehbaz Sharif Government is fighting to prevent Chinese exodus in the
wake of terror attacks, admitting for the first time that security arrangements for
the Chinese projects and personnel have been grossly inadequate.
The admission has come from a top ruling party lawmaker who has said that
“the Chinese confidence in Pakistan’s security system’s ability to protect their
citizens and their projects is seriously shaken.”
Senator Mushahid Hussain, who is also chairman of the Senate Defence
Committee, led a Senate delegation to the Chinese embassy last week to
express his condolences over the loss of three Chinese lives in a suicide attack
on their van on the Karachi University’s premises last month.
The Karachi University attack was on the three Chinese faculty of the
Confucius Centre, China’s cultural arm abroad, though not part of the multi-
billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The new government has scrambled to assuage Chinese concerns in the wake
of the university campus attack amidst reports on the social media that
unnerved by security threat, a large number of Chinese have left Pakistan.
The Chinese are equally concerned. While Pakistan side has called reports on
the social media as ‘rumours’, the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad has played
it down as ‘routine’ transfer of Chinese personnel.
Quoting Hussain, Dawn newspaper (May 8, 2022) said “There may have been
no exodus of Chinese workers from Pakistan after the Karachi University
attack, but they look less confident about the country’s ability to protect them.”
On May 1, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf also visited the
Chinese Embassy to condole the deaths of the terror-hit. He indirectly linked
it to the CPEC, saying that elements involved in the suicide attack at KarachiUniversity (KU) were threatened by the idea of Pakistan and China achieving
Pakistan is seriously concerned, analysts note, of the Chinese slowing down
the investment and effort in the CPEC projects that have emerged as the
principal plank for development.
The new government has let it be known that it strives to be both serious and
frank about admitting its lapses. This is different from the approach of the Imran
Khan Government that obfuscated and sought to shirk responsibility,
particularly on security lapses.
For instance, last year’s terror attack that killed nine Chinese workers at Dasu
hydel project was first sought to be dismissed as a road accident, till the
Chinese protested and sent a team to investigate. Pakistan was forced to admit
it as a terror attack and direct its investigations accordingly. Nothing tangible
came out of the probe, however.
As part of the structural changes, the new government has decided to wind up
the CPEC Authority (CPECA). Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan
Iqbal called for immediate removal of problems faced by the Chinese investors
and contractors working on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
including swift processing of their visa cases. He visited the CPECA office
asking for an alternative structure so that the CPECA could be wound up. The
top decision making body will be integrated into the Ministry of Planning and
Development “because it was in conflict with rules of business of the various
ministries,” the minister said.
Fighting perceptions and ground realities, the Sharif Government has ordered
a probe on the people behind the social media reports alleging Chinese
Terror attacks – three in last one year targeting the Chinese have shown that
Pakistan’s raising an elite Division exclusive for CPEC projects has proved
inadequate. Besides the military, the security arrangements include 32,000
personnel of the Rangers, police and other para-military forces.
This poses a huge challenge for Pakistan since the number of Chinese working
in Pakistan has grown from 3,000 in 2013 to 60,000 in 2018. As the CPEC
extends its work, it is estimated that five million Chinese could be working in
Sharif assured on May 7 that Punjab alone would not prosper because of the
CPEC. This seems difficult given the past record — CPEC took off when Sharif
was the Punjab Chief Minister and his elder brother, Nawaz Sharif was thecountry’s prime minister. The race for crumbs and loaves that the CPEC throws
is likely to foment militancy in the neglected areas and the threat to the security
of the Chinese investments and personnel.
This has been a major cause of militancy and even terror attacks and a sore
point with local populations from Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in
the north to Sindh and Balochistan in the south, who feel neglected and
marginalised, while their resources get transferred to Punjab and big cities.
The terror attacks have been owned up by ‘nationalist’ groups in the north and
the south. The one at Karachi University was claimed by the Balochistan
Liberation Army (BLA)’s Majeed Brigade.