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China wants Pakistan to pay $38 million as blood money for its engineers killed at hydel project site

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor has become a millstone around Pakistan's neck (Photo: Xinhua/IANS)

China seems to be pressuring Pakistan to pay $38 million as compensation for the nine Chinese engineers who were killed in an attack in July this year. The engineers were working on the Dasu Hydropower Project which has remained stalled for three months as Pakistan has not paid the compensation.

In an exclusive news story, Pakistani newspaper Business Recorder says that Pakistan has constituted a committee comprising ministries of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Interior, and Water Resources which is negotiating with the Chinese embassy to decide on a compensation package and restart work on the hydropower project.

India Narrative had earlier reported that China was seeking compensation for its engineers killed in the attack. 

A deadly attack on a convoy carrying a team of Chinese and Pakistani engineers of the 4,300 MW Dasu project resulted in the deaths of nine Chinese, two locals and two personnel of the Pakistani forces. The attack was spearheaded by an explosive laden car that rammed into the bus carrying Chinese engineers.

Considering the severity of the incident, Pakistan initially tried to mislead China about the attack, calling it an accident. However, China uncovered the lies and put pressure on Islamabad to investigate the incident and severely punish the culprits. 

The Pakistani committee to negotiate with the Chinese embassy has further constituted a sub-committee to sort out issues related to the Dasu project as the compensation sought by China is thought to be “irrational”.

Quoting sources, the Pakistani newspaper says: “The Subcommittee will develop a benchmark for compensation considering that if the demand of the Chinese government is met as it is, it will create issues for the government in future”.

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Pakistan is also debating if it had provided insufficient security to the Chinese engineers.

Reportedly, the China Gezhouba Group Corp–which was working on the Dasu project, is insistent that it will not restart the project until it is provided compensation and enhanced security.

Pakistan has witnessed a series of deadly attacks on Chinese nationals, who are present in the country in large numbers due to close economic ties between the two all-weather friends. The presence of the Chinese nationals is causing fears among the Baloch as they feel they might be marginalised further.

The showpiece of economic cooperation is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $62 project that encompasses a gigantic transport corridor running from China's Kashgar to Pakistan's Gwadar and Karachi ports.

The CPEC also includes power projects and the development of the multi-purpose Gwadar port with facilities for commerce as well as the navy.

The CPEC has however upset people in Balochistan–one of Pakistan's most impoverished provinces. The Baloch say that even as Pakistan has kept them underdeveloped, the overwhelming Chinese presence only seeks to further their economic and social marginalisation.

The Baloch who have been fighting for independence from Pakistan have now begun to attack Chinese projects and people. In some of their most audacious attacks, they have targeted Chinese ambassador Nong Rong, five-star hotels as well as the Karachi stock exchange–40 per cent of which is owned by Chinese firms.