Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would review security arrangements for the Chinese nationals working in Pakistan soon after Eidul Fitr in the wake of the suicide attack at the University of Karachi that claimed the lives of three Chinese and a local man.
In view of potential threats being faced by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and other joint ventures between the two countries, the premier would assess all the mechanisms earlier devised for ensuring the security of the Chinese nationals and the new plan being devised by the planning and interior ministries.
Sources said the security plan would be presented to PM Shehbaz in the first week after Eid. They added that the premier had also directed Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Minister Ahsan Iqbal to meet the country heads of all the Chinese companies working in the country to seek their input in security and other arrangements.
The sources said the planning minister was scheduled to visit Gwadar soon after Eid to examine the security arrangements and complaints, if any, by the Chinese companies and nationals working on CPEC projects.
In addition, PM Shehbaz has directed the interior ministry to engage provinces, especially the Balochistan government, for the provision of the security in Gwadar and submit a report in the first week after Eid.
Apart from security arrangements, the sources said, the ministries have been asked to examine the challenges confronted by CPEC projects and see what problems were the Chinese nationals facing for the last four years in connection with their work, visa issuance as well as extension among other matters.
Since assuming charge, Iqbal has expressed serious concerns and displeasure over the sluggish progress on the CPEC projects. “How pathetic is the delay on projects under CPEC, which is a potential game changer for the region,” the minister was recently quoted as saying while directing the officials concerned to hold a meeting to review the progress in a fortnight.
“There is zero progress on the industrial zones of Port Qasim, Islamabad and Mirpur which is unfortunate,” he had noted.
“When you don’t value your investors, why they would come for investment?” In 2017, Iqbal had said, the excitement around special economic zones (SEZs) was so high that all major foreign direct investors were lining up to be a part of it. However, he regretted, Chinese investors moved away because of the delay in the projects.
For the multibillion-dollar Main Line-1 (ML-1) project, the sources said the premier had directed to engage the railways and communications ministries so that all aspects of the CPEC projects were thoroughly reviewed and a foolproof security plan was devised.
The Gilgit-Baltistan government has also directed the officials concerned to make foolproof security arrangements for Chinese nationals in the wake of recent and earlier attacks on them.
“I am directed to refer [to] the recent suicide attack in Karachi that killed three Chinese nationals and to say that the Chief Secretary has desired to ensure special protection of Chinese nationals in Gilgit-Baltistan,” a letter issued by the G-B additional secretary read.
Keeping the potential threats to CPEC and other joint ventures, the letter added, the existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) were required to be reviewed and updated to ensure foolproof security of Chinese nationals working in the geographic limits of G-B.
“The home department shall establish a provincial foreigners security cell, with requisite staff and logistics, to coordinate security SOPs and access to information of all Chinese nationals visiting Gilgit-Baltistan.”
The letter further stated that the cell should regularly liaison with regional and federal law-enforcement agencies. Moreover, it continued, the home department shall separately issue special instructions to the relevant departments.
It has further conveyed to the authorities concerned to mobilise all available resources to improve security measures, especially for Chinese nationals.
Finally, the G-B government has directed the commissioners, DIGs, DCs and SPs to personally visit the Chinese camps and facilities for inspection of security apparatus.
The suicide bombing in Karachi has aggravated concerns about the safety of the Chinese nationals living in Pakistan and tested the patience of the country’s “iron friend” with repeated attacks by the terrorist groups in the recent past.
Earlier in July 2021, a bus carrying Chinese workers in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had come under attack leaving 10 Chinese nationals dead and 28 others injured.
China, the key investor in Pakistan, has not only condemned the attacks but also demanded that Islamabad should take action against those involved in them.