Security for the Chinese in Pakistan


-Editorial

A Chinese engineer, his driver, and private guard were injured in a bomb blast on the National Highway in Karachi on May 30.

According to reports, engineer Finche works at a power plant at Bin Qasim Port and lives in Gulshan-i-Hadeed. On the day of the incident, he was travelling to work when the bomb, planted in a flowerpot on the green verge, went off as his vehicle passed by. Fortunately, none of the passengers in the vehicle was seriously hurt and all of them were discharged after first aid.

Strangely, an officer of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) revealed that a pamphlet was discovered near the site of the blast, claiming responsibility by a little known Sindhi nationalist group, the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army. In previous such attacks on Chinese nationals working on various projects in Sindh, the CTD official said responsibility was claimed by the Shafi Burfat-led Sindh Liberation Army. It seems strange that such sensitive information should immediately be released to the media. Surely the wiser course would have been not to thereby alert the elements involved.

Nevertheless, the attack is the latest in a long series of such incidents in Sindh and Balochistan involving Chinese nationals working in Pakistan. These are, as the pamphlet mentioned above states, the consequence of opposition from Sindhi and Baloch nationalist groups to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which they view as detrimental to the interests of their respective provinces and an attempt to control their resources.

The recurrence of such attacks and the proliferation of groups of a nationalist hue claiming responsibility is a worrying development, especially considering the stakes for both China and Pakistan in the CPEC, viewed as a strategic, political and economic game-changer for the region and the wider world. When the CPEC was initially announced, and in the backdrop of the dissidence on display from nationalist groups, militant and mainstream, to the project and especially Gwadar port, the government and military announced a special security force to be raised to safeguard the CPEC project/s and especially the Chinese nationals expected to work on them.

While the proposed new security force was focused on the CPEC, what appears to have been overlooked or not paid sufficient attention to are similar risks faced by Chinese nationals working elsewhere in the country. This is doubly surprising when it is recalled that attacks on Chinese nationals working in Pakistan predate in some instances, the announcement of the CPEC. Given the size and importance of the CPEC, this is perhaps an all too human error to fall into. But having said that, and in the light of the latest incident in Karachi, some fresh thinking may be required.

The Chinese engineer attacked in the latest incident is reported to be amongst three or four of his fellow nationals and colleagues who have chosen to live in rented accommodation in Gulshan-i-Hadeed next to Steel Town, where most of their colleagues are housed in securer colonies.

Police claim the engineer in question and his colleagues in Gulshan-i-Hadeed were warned and requested to move to Steel Town, but they refused. Finche also reportedly refused police security. After the incident, it has been announced that police security will be provided to all Chinese nationals, especially when moving around. This may seem like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, but it is better that such steps are being taken late rather than never.

The strategic and economic gains of the CPEC and other projects on which Chinese nationals are working in Pakistan can only be realised if the engineers and workers are assured of security of life and limb. In the light of the reports of Chinese nationals’ reluctance to accept the security agencies’ advice regarding their residence and movements, it is imperative that the authorities talk to the managements of the Chinese companies as well as the Chinese government to persuade their nationals working in Pakistan to cooperate with our security agencies in their own interest.

That may save us some blushes if, God forbid, some of our Chinese friends in Pakistan were not to get off as lightly as Finche. -Business Recorder

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