ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in a meeting with Senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi on Thursday reaffirmed Islamabad’s commitment to enhance the security of Chinese nationals working in the country.
Beijing has pledged over $60 billion for infrastructure and energy projects in Pakistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework that is a central part of China’s initiative to forge new “Silk Road” land and sea ties to markets in the Middle East and Europe.
At the center of CPEC is the impoverished southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan, where Beijing is building the port of Gwadar. Chinese engineers working at the port came under attack from an operation claimed by the separatist Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) last year.
The BLA has claimed a number of major attacks in recent months, including a simultaneous storming of two paramilitary bases in Balochistan earlier this year and an attack outside a university in Karachi in which three Chinese nationals were killed. In July last year, a suicide bomber blew up a passenger bus in northern Pakistan that killed 13 people, including nine Chinese working on a hydro-power plant.
This week, reports in international media suggested following recent attacks China had asked Pakistan to allow it to use its own security company to protect its nationals and assets in Pakistan. The interior ministry did not respond to Arab News requests for comment.
In a meeting with Yang Jiechi, a high-ranking Chinese politician and diplomat, who is serving as a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, PM Sharif reiterated his strong condemnation of the attack outside the Karachi University and underscored Pakistan’s determination to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“He reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to enhanced measures for safety, security and protection of the Chinese nationals, projects and institutions in the country,” the foreign office said in a statement.
Pakistan has set up a special desk at the ministry of interior to ensure the security of foreign nationals, especially Chinese citizens. A 15,000-strong army division was set up in 2017 specifically to safeguard projects in the CPEC initiative.
Sindh raised a protection unit of about 2,600 police officers to help safeguard 4,000 Chinese working on CPEC projects, and another 1,000 working in other businesses. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province also conducted a census of Chinese nationals and raised a force of about 4,200 officers to protect foreigners.