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After Xi’s rebuke, Pakistan agrees to transit Chinese nationals in bullet-proof cars

A CPEC project in progress (Photo: @AmbNong)

Chinese nationals working on CPEC projects will use bullet-proof vehicles for safety according to an understanding between Beijing and Islamabad.

Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune reported that the two “all-weather” allies agreed to use bullet-proof vehicles for outdoor movement of Chinese nationals working on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The decision follows after Chinese President Xi Jinping did some plain speaking with visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif that Beijing was unhappy with Islamabad’s exertions in protecting Chinese nationals working in CPEC projects. Last week Xi had expressed his “deep concern” to Sharif during his two-day visit to China over the safety of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan.

He had also demanded, “reliable and safe environment” for the Chinese people during his talks with Sharif.

The Pakistani newspaper reported that under the 11th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of the CPEC, both countries have agreed to strengthen capabilities of the law-enforcement agencies and investigators. Reportedly, the two sides did not sign the JCC saying that there was no time due to a hectic schedule.

However, China seems to be having its way in certain areas. It will provide security-related equipment and help in capacity building of Pakistani law-enforcement agencies. It will also help Pakistan investigate the crime against the Chinese nationals.

Despite Chinese pressure Pakistan has not agreed on one major demand – to allow Beijing to send its troops for the safety of CPEC projects as it impinges on the sovereignty of the nation.

Chinese nationals working on the $62 billion transport and energy corridor project that links up Kashgar in the strife-torn Xinjiang province to the Gwadar port in the disputed Balochistan region have come under attack from Baloch and Sindh nationalists in Pakistan. Many Chinese nationals have lost their lives in attacks in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Besides the deterioration in diplomatic relations between the two countries over poor safety of the Chinese nationals, work on CPEC projects had come to a halt because of repeated attacks on Chinese nationals. Chinese power firms in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region demanded compensation for their killed engineers and shut down work on the hydro-power plants citing insufficient safety.

Besides the security of Chinese nationals, the much-touted CPEC has suffered other setbacks largely due to Pakistan’s poor financial condition, high rates of interest levied by China on loans to Pakistan and opposition to mega projects from local communities who find it exploitative.

Also Read: Chinese workers say they live in fear throughout Pakistan—BBC Urdu service

Baloch target Chinese again—first female suicide bomber kills three Chinese nationals in Karachi