Challenges for CPEC and Chinese Nationals

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Gen (R) Saad Khattak
The launching of Chinese OBOR of which CPEC is a flagship has sent shivers and tremors across the regional and global chess board. Status quo forces at both world and regional levels are seriously feeling the heat and a potential threat to their existing hegemony and dominance. The challenges for Pakistan (which continue to be in the eye of a storm since last 15 years) have enhanced manifold by virtue of its pivotal position and potential global realignment in the Greater Asia. The deteriorating and dismal situation in Afghanistan and a visible loss of space and clout to other major players is seen by the US and her allies as a significant reversal despite having suffered tremendously, both in men and money. The evolving regional alignment being seen at a tangent to their regional ambitions, these powers have unleashed a fresh wave of violence against the region focusing on Pakistan. The unprovoked and state managed Indian violations along the Line of Control and recent surge in internal terrorist actions especially homing on Balochistan are visible signs of frustration and clear signals to regional players especially Pakistan that realization of CPEC will be at a heavy price for which fortunately both China and Pakistan remain prepared and committed. Substantial increase in militant attacks in Baluchistan was observed in May 2017 where 23 militant attacks were rerecorded during the month as compared to 10 in the previous month. In these 23 militant attacks in the province, at least 47 people including 44 civilians, two security personnel and one militant were killed while 103 others including 88 civilians and 15 security men were injured. The province witnessed some notable attacks including a suicide attack on the convoy of Deputy Chairman Senate, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidari, killing of laborers in Gwadar and kidnapping of two Chinese from provincial capital Quetta. According to an Islamabad-based independent think-tank, Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), the month of May saw highest number of militant attacks in the last eleven months with 61 percent increase in militant attacks and an increase of 67 in resultant deaths in the country.
The recent terrorist acts by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Alami including the abduction and suspected killing of Chinese couple in Balochistan, the reemergence of TTP – Jamaatul Ahrar in parts of FATA and the drone strike in Hangu area is a clear signal indicating that all is not likely to be well in days and months to come.
Given the above, it can clearly be discerned that the challenges of the security forces specifically in relation to CPEC and Chinese nationals within Pakistan will increase manifold. The other most important factors accentuating the challenges of the security apparatus is the management of affairs of Chinese nationals both by the foreign and interior ministries. As of now there exists a complete lack of awareness with regard to the various categories of Chinese nationals on the streets in Pakistan. One only sees them in twos and threes even in areas not so secure for their movement. Similarly there seems no clear system in place and outlined by the interior ministry to account for every Chinese landing in Pakistan. The recent assertion by the Interior Minister, Ch. Nisar Ali Khan, to account for every Chinese landing in Pakistan with the help of NADRA and the security apparatus at his disposal is a step in the right direction surely begging for implementation in letter and in spirit. On the part of Chinese government and Chinese Embassy in Islamabad there is a requirement of greater degree of involvement in the inflow and subsequent management of affairs of Chinese nationals within Pakistan. There is no doubt that China and Chinese are regarded as highly respected and loved nation and people, however, Chinese visiting Pakistan will have to take into consideration public perception of their own nation in Pakistan. Reports suggest that the abducted Chinese couple were Christian missionaries recruited by a South Korean Missionary who misused their business visa. Such activities will surely damage China’s public perception in the country. One cannot shy away from the efforts already at play across the country against CPEC and China. Concerted efforts to make CPEC a controversial project by forces from within and outside are persistently at play. Negative activities of visiting Chinese friends will play in the hands of those forces that are hell bent to sabotage this iconic project. Pakistan’s religious political parties have always remained favorable towards China, but reports of Christian missionaries in the garb of businessmen can spark negative row in the country. Chinese companies working in Pakistan also need to remain professional and sensitive regarding working conditions, timely wages and other related aspects of their Pakistani employees.
The recent hype in terrorist acts especially targeting law enforcement agencies, senior government officials and Chinese nationals in a span of less than a month does not augur well both for the government and security apparatus. It would be too naïve and simplistic to overlook the alarming development. The government in close collaboration with our Chinese friends is required to work out a comprehensive all-encompassing strategy covering all aspects including security of Chinese nationals within Pakistan. The security forces will have to maintain the impetus of Radd-ul-Fassad and remain aggressive especially in areas where the terrorist outfits with active support from across the borders are once again attempting to reorganize. On the broader regional spectrum Pakistan should continue to remain active in all peace efforts including bilateral ones leading to an early and lasting resolution of the Afghan crisis.