Differences between Pak Govt., military hold up CPEC security plan

| Updated: Aug 23, 2017 11:20 IST

Islamabad [Pakistan], Sept. 19 (ANI): The plans for operationalising the Special Security Division (SSD), which was to be set up to provide security to the Chinese personnel working on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, have been held up by civil-military wrangling. It is feared that if the issue is not resolved at the earliest then it could potentially affect the CPEC timelines, reports the Dawn. The military had announced the raising of the SSD soon after Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Islamabad last year, but even after an year and a half there are no agreed terms of reference (ToR) that would govern the working of the SSD. The Pakistan Government has been sitting on the ToR proposed by the army indicating it is not comfortable with the draft. The role envisaged by the military for the SSD is to advise, guide and 'indirectly' control the civilian law enforcement agencies in issues related to the security of CPEC projects. Besides, the SSD can act as 'first responders' in cases of threats to critical projects. But Islamabad's apprehension is that such "wide-ranging ToR" could expand military's influence on law enforcement agencies at the cost of civilian administration's authority. There are also differences over who would be in-charge of the SSD. The government thinks that the SSD has to be under the Interior Ministry's command whereas the military has so far kept itself in the lead and intends to maintain that role. Two wings of the SSD - North and South - are to be set up. Though the army has established the SSD-North, which covers the area between Khunjerab Pass on the Pakistan-China border and Rawalpindi, the government is reportedly holding back the executive and financial approval for the SSD-South. It is estimated that creation of a new wing could take about 12 to 18 months which implies that even if the approval is given now, the SSD-South will not be functional by the end of 2017. Security is particularly problematic in the area that has to be secured by the SSD-South. The Frontier Works Organisation, which is engaged with road projects in Balochistan, has already lost 44 men, including 26 soldiers, in the province in security-related incidents. At present, there are close to 10,000 Chinese personnel working on different projects across the country. Their number is expected to grow as the CPEC projects' implementation progresses. (ANI)