Pakistani Taliban threaten to attack CPEC unless a 'tax' is paid

Gwadar Port Chinese Pakistan Balochistan

The Pakistani Taliban threatened to attack the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, unless the government pays them a 5 per cent tax on the construction.

In a video message, the commander of the Taliban’s Gandapur faction warned that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a nearly 2,000 mile-long infrastructure project including roads and railways running from China to the Arabian Sea, will be destroyed.

“Five per cent is our tax everywhere,” the commander said, in an address to construction workers in Pakistan’s Dera Ismail Khan.

“Machinery and staff will be targeted” by Taliban fighters if the taxes are not paid, he said.

The Taliban commander’s threats are part of a campaign of extortion aimed at those involved with realising the Pakistani leg of Xi Jinping’s flagship global infrastructure project. Launched in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative is an ambitious plan to develop new trade routes connecting China with the rest of the world.

Abdul Sayed, a research analyst on the security of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region said: “Extortion has been a common practice within the TTP which heavily relies on such revenue streams to cover their expenses.”

“The recent evidence indicates that militants have been demanding taxes from ministers, government officials, contractors, and other businesses in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces and tribal districts,” he said.

The CPEC links China’s western Xinjiang province to the Gwadar port in the southwest, and thousands of security personnel have been deployed to counter threats against Beijing’s interests.

Chinese engineers and workers have come under attack in Pakistan. In 2021, 12 people – including nine Chinese workers – were killed by a blast on a bus carrying staff to the Dasu dam site.

On September 12, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Donald Blome, visited the China-funded deep-sea port project in Gwadar, a visit aimed at building trust with the local population amid Pakistan and China’s declining interest in CPEC.

China’s concerns about security threats to its investments in Pakistan are a big reason why CPEC has lost momentum in recent years. These security risks are growing because it is increasingly not just Baloch separatists but also TTP terrorists that are threatening and indeed attacking Chinese interests in Pakistan,” said Michael Kugelman, South Asia Institute director at the Wilson Centre think tank.

“This new threat issued by a local TTP commander will increase China’s concerns. TTP has enjoyed a resurgence of late, with rising attacks in Pakistan on the whole, and Islamabad has no formal strategy to counter it,” Mr Kugelman said.

“For Beijing, which remains keen to keep investing despite security risks and Pakistan’s economic struggles,  the reality of a twin threat posed by ethnic separatists and Islamist militants is a bitter pill to swallow-but one it appears willing to swallow nonetheless,” he said.

The Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, has mounted a resurgence since the Taliban returned to power in neighbouring Afghanistan. Since then, Pakistan has been hit by a wave of terrorism, mostly in areas along its northern border.

Earlier this month, Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, said that terrorist attacks in the country have increased by 60 per cent and suicide bombings soared by 500 per cent since the Afghan Taliban reclaimed power in August 2021.

On November 3, the Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), an offshoot of the TTP, targeted a Pakistani air base in the central city of Mianwali.

Some 14 aircraft were reportedly damaged in the attack, with 35 military personnel killed.

The Pakistani military sought to downplay the incident, however, claiming that only three non-operational aircraft had been lightly damaged.

The surge in terrorism has caused relations between Islamabad and Kabul to sour, with Mr Kakar accusing the Taliban regime of supporting the TTP by allowing it to launch attacks on Pakistan from Afghan territory.

“We shared all the details with the Afghan interim government, but they did not take action against TTP terrorists who are living in Afghanistan and using that soil against us,” he told state-run Pakistan Television.

The TTP was formed in 2007 by militants who splintered off from the Afghan Taliban and once controlled swathes of northwest Pakistan before being ousted by the Pakistan army in 2014.

Now, the group is once again on the march, seizing territory in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. It has also established a shadow government for the restive city of Peshawar and other border areas of Pakistan.

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024