UNFORTUNATELY the Chinese couple who was abducted from Quetta was killed mercilessly and many claims before and after their abductions have made the case curious. According to media reports the Chinese couple working in Pakistan was kidnapped by armed men pretending to be policemen around midday on May 24, 2017.
It was reported by eye witnesses that they were dragged into a vehicle without number plates by three unknown men and a bystander was shot also who tried to stop abduction. No group claimed responsibility of kidnapping and Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, after their seizure highlighted that the pair had been studying Urdu at a language centre. Local police however earlier stated that they were teaching Mandarin, Chinese language in some institutions in Balochistan. In the first week of June, IS came up with a claim that they have killed Chinese nationals who were abducted. The assertion by the IS which is still to be verified, came after the announcement of successful operation against IS affiliated militants in Balochistan was carried out.
Conversely, recent investigations after the Chinese killing narrate another side of story. It was revealed that the Chinese couple, which was abducted from Quetta last month and was later allegedly killed, belonged to a group of Chinese people who had obtained a business visa for Pakistan but were engaged in preaching. They were hired by some Korean company who secretly wanted to assign task of evangelisation. Pakistan’s Interior Ministry report mentions that the couple was part of a group of Chinese citizens who obtained business visa from the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing but instead of carrying out any business activity they went to Quetta where they were engaged in preaching activities in the disguise of learning Urdu language from a Korean national.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar mentioned that it was highly unfortunate that a misuse of the terms of business visa contributed to the unfortunate incident of abduction and subsequent murder. “Where the government makes every effort to provide security to foreigners, the visiting foreign nationals are equally bound to abide by the terms and conditions of their visas and inform local authorities about their movements and activities in view of the security requirements, if any”, he asserted. One of the media sources about the undertakings of Chinese mentions that the institute which brands itself as language teaching institute was in fact clandestinely preaching Christianity. They were operating with the help of underground Church where they were assigned tasks to campaign Christianity to female populace of Balochistan. They adopted different tactics to entice people towards Christianity.
Consequently the unfortunate killing of this Chinese couple has raised grim points to be deliberated by the both countries. Firstly, it is seen as a threat to CPEC and can be an effort by adversaries to sabotage this project by maligning its image as an insecure area for development in Pakistan. China is backing huge investment in its South Asian neighbour as part of its OBOR flagship project that will link its far-western Xinjiang region to Gwadar port in Balochistan with a series of infrastructure, power and transport upgrades. In past and till today a far cry is heard from those who are in constant effort to sabotage this friendship corridor. Secondly in Pakistan, enrolment in Mandarin-language courses has increased rapidly and resultantly exchange programs will make their entry progressively.
At this point both the countries need to pay attention as the fake expatriates may take advantage of these exchange programs cunningly and might involve in some kind of nefarious activities in country. Thirdly for business purposes or tourist happenings visa policy on both sides needs review. Visa or entry permits should be issued after complete investigations. On both sides record and data bank of personnel be shared with complete privacy and database authorities must be vigilant enough in performing their assigned tasks. Fourthly, Pakistan has been through jeopardy of militancy for more than a decade and the resource rich province of Baluchistan has always remained target of antagonists. In fact, bordering Iran and Afghanistan, this province has gone through many ups and down because of separatist movements and other political enmities on resources.
Fifthly, even though the CPEC which is now a harbinger of economic boon for this province and Pakistan, this fact cannot be denied that to incapacitate this project and make Chinese nationals afraid of working in Pakistan particularly Balochistan this attempt of Chinese couple abduction and later killing was made. However if they were secretly working for other objectives then China too has to be watchful and check elements which are trying to damage friendly relations between both countries. Sixthly, Pakistan has to review the affinities of militant groups and handle them with full strength who are trying to create space for IS to operate in Pakistan.
Definitely in past a greater thrust has reduced violence in country but if militancy is rearing its head again then it should be crushed timely. In the end it is important to mention that media is very powerful tool which can uplift and downside anything anytime. Western and foreign media fabricated stories in their desired way and tried to portray that relations between China and Pakistan were reserved after Chinese abductions and this was prominent in SCO meeting which is totally false. So before believing, thinking is must!
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.