Concerns over CPEC security as violence spreads in Balochistan

| Updated: Jul 29, 2017 13:56 IST

Islamabad [Pakistan], July 29 (ANI): Recent violence in Balochistan has again fuelled deep concerns about security for projects of the USD 57-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) according to a report in the New York Times. Earlier this month, four Shias were murdered while travelling from Quetta to Karachi. Armed men riding on two motorcycles attacked their car on a highway close to Quetta in what police suspect was a sectarian attack. Though no group has yet claimed responsibility for the murders this has once again raised question marks about the future of the landmark transport and energy link that is being planned between western China to Pakistan's southern deep-water port of Gwadar. This latest killing would be fourth such attack in recent weeks in volatile Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. Factions of the Islamist Pakistani Taliban group and the Islamic State have claimed two of the four attacks, including two in which six police officers were killed. The Pakistan Army is of the view that soft targets are being attacked by militants, frustrated by defeats. According to another report published by The Diplomat, the issue of ensuring security of the CPEC has by and large been overshadowed by the promise of development The primary question being bandied about is whether Pakistan is secure enough for undertaking such massive foreign investment engagement worth over USD 57 billion dollars. "The harsh truth of security risks in Pakistan is not totally lost on Chinese planners. After all, Chinese nationals in Pakistan have been targeted by extremists for many years. The Chinese government has, therefore, time and again raised this issue with Pakistan," says The Diplomat in a recent article. Earlier this year, authorities in Pakistan created a Special Security Division that included 9,000 army soldiers and 6,000 paramilitary personnel to provide security for Chinese nationals and projects. Additionally, various types of CPEC security forces have been deployed in the provinces. The Pakistan government has said that it has allocated Rs.1.8 billion (USD 17 million) for CPEC security in its budget for 2017-18. These security assurances notwithstanding, it did not prevent the abduction and then killing of two Chinese nationals by Islamic State affiliates. Islamabad was placed under huge pressure at that point in time to rescue the kidnapped Chinese, but was unsuccessful. Pakistan, according to The Diplomat, might be trying its best to ensure the protection of Chinese workers, but from China's perspective, all these measures will be discounted by the mere fact of any incidents. Beijing will continue to insist that Pakistan tackle this issue of security for the CPEC comprehensively and systemically. (ANI)