‘Challenging situation’ besets China in Pakistan

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Pakistan has decided to further beef up security to safeguard the commercial interests of China after both the sides acknowledged a challenging security situation being faced by the strategic ally’s citizens, projects and institutions in the country.

Islamabad and Beijing have agreed to further deepen their cooperation in the security horizon as well as to jointly defeat any conspiracies sabotaging the friendship and amicable cooperation between them, according to the understanding reached between the two countries during the 11th Joint Cooperation Committee meeting – the highest decision-making body of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Both sides took over 10 months to develop a consensus draft of the outcomes of the 11th JCC held in October last year, particularly on the issues of cooperation in various areas, including security.

Last week, Pakistan reviewed the implementation status of CPEC.

It was decided that interim Planning Minister Sami Saeed would hold a special meeting with Pakistani security officials to review the implementation of the security-related measures agreed with China during the 11th JCC, according to the planning ministry officers.

The wording of the final document suggested that the Chinese had taken the issue of security of its citizens and commercial interests very seriously.

A Pakistani official involved in these deliberations for the past many months said that was why both sides had agreed to take extraordinary measures.

“Both sides acknowledged that the Chinese personnel, projects, and institutions in Pakistan are facing a ‘challenged security situation’,” the documents read.

In recent years, many Chinese citizens working on the CPEC and other projects have been targeted.

These attacks have prompted a serious review of the institutional arrangements put in place to protect Chinese interests and lives in Pakistan.

In addition to security, the lack of implementation of the agreed policies and unsolicited proposals being pushed by the Pakistani side have hampered work on the CPEC.

Because of a lack of consensus on many of these proposals, China did not agree to further expand cooperation in the areas of energy, climate change, and tourism during the 11th JCC.

Pakistan did not follow the procedures laid down for seeking China’s consent for some of these new projects in areas of energy and tourism, resulting in their rejection by Beijing during the last highest-level parleys.

The Pakistani officials said that both sides had now acknowledged the importance of the enhanced work plan for safeguarding the security of the Chinese citizens and investments in the country.

It was decided that the security cooperation would be enhanced through mutual consensus and unity of purpose.

Pakistan has also set up two special security divisions for the protection of Chinese investment under CPEC. It has now been decided that bulletproof vehicles would be used for all outdoor movements of the Chinese nationals working on the projects.

Pakistan would assist the Chinese companies in independently purchasing and importing bulletproof vehicles in consultation with the relevant stakeholders. China assured to provide security equipment and training to Pakistani officials for foolproof security of its citizens.

The sources said that it was decided that China would establish a training facility for private security guards of Pakistani security companies and law enforcement agencies personnel to equip them with the modern techniques as well as modules for the protection of its citizens’ lives.

For the security of non-CPEC and other projects that were small, scattered, and distant, it was decided that the current arrangement would be further beefed up.

However, Islamabad emphasised during these interactions that the Chinese citizens residing in Pakistan should also adhere to the security protocols and standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The purpose of these steps was to ensure the protection of non-CPEC projects and the Chinese nationals working on them.

Pakistan also urged China to ensure that its workers followed the local labour laws and any breach of them could lead to an untoward incident.

Pakistan expressed its concerns about the Chinese citizens living in scattered residences, encouraging them to reside in a clustered pattern in major cities aimed at ensuring their security.

China promised that it would strengthen the supervision over its companies operating in Pakistan and ensure that they would abide by the country’s security regulations and standard procedures. The Pakistani side stressed the need for employing only capable security companies on the sites of the projects.

Pakistan is devising a new objective criterion for the ranking of private security companies.

The managements of the projects will hire only those companies, which have been acknowledged as competent for Chinese security by the Centre or the respective provincial governments.

To negate the growing propaganda against CPEC, Pakistan and China also agreed to publicise the achievements of the multibillion-dollar initiative and advertise about its mutual benefits.

It was also decided that CPEC would be promoted at the regional level as a harbinger of peace and stability.

Pakistan and China decided to encourage the participation of Afghanistan in regional CPEC projects. Pakistan will identify the prospective projects in different sectors to be proposed for Afghanistan’s participation.

Last week, Pakistan reviewed CPEC’s expansion to Afghanistan.

The foreign affairs ministry informed the interim planning minister that the modalities for the participation of a third country in the CPEC had been shared with his ministry after consultations with all the stakeholders.

However, the Pakistani authorities had not yet given their formal approval to these modalities.

The delay in finalising these modalities for a third country’s participation might cause a delay in their signing on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum to be held in China, according to the planning ministry officials.

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