ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa on Saturday said that security forces were “fully prepared” to meet all security challenges to projects of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Chinese nationals living in the country.
He made these remarks during a visit to the headquarters of the 15,000-man newly-created Special Security Division (SSD), charged with the “security of Chinese on CPEC and non-CPEC projects”.
Gen Bajwa recalled the “hostile agenda” of forces opposed to the mega-connectivity and infrastructure project, which still faces threats from both regional and external players.
Receives Peshawar Zalmi at GHQ, dubs foreign players who came to Lahore ‘national heroes’
The military had announced the raising of the SSD soon after President Xi Jinping’s visit to Islamabad in 2015 for the groundbreaking of CPEC projects. The division will provide security to Chinese personnel and projects throughout the country. It has been established in close collaboration with China and the two sides are also cooperating in the implementation of a multi-layered security plan.
The SSD consists of nine army battalions (9,229 personnel) and six civil armed forces wings (4,502 personnel), which have been raised at a cost of over Rs5 billion.
The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms has allocated one per cent of the total cost of CPEC projects for the running expenditure of the SSD to provide security for the corridor, project sites and Chinese nationals in the country.
The interior ministry finalised the SSD’s terms of reference (TOR) in January and sent them to provinces. The force will be deployed in accordance with Articles 147 and 245 of the Constitution and under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
During the visit, Gen Bajwa was given a detailed briefing on the Integrated Security Mechanism, run by the SSD.
Speaking on the occasion, he said the army remained committed to ensuring security for CPEC and the workforce involved. “He appreciated SSD for their state of preparedness and arrangements for execution of the assigned mission and tasks,” an ISPR statement said.
Security has been a major concern for the Chinese and they have emphasized this in their public statements time and again, shrouding their emphasis in phrases such as “should create a good environment [for] security” and “look forward to creating a more secure and sound environment”.
Apart from security incidents involving the construction of roads, three attacks on Chinese workers were reported last year.
Also on Saturday, members of Peshawar Zalmi — the Pakistan Super League champions — met Gen Bajwa at the General Headquarters.
“The COAS congratulated [the] team and the management on their performance and success. He appreciated efforts by PSL, all teams and the management for bringing back cricket to Pakistan. He made a special mention and conveyed thanks for foreign players and guests who came to Pakistan,” an ISPR statement said.
Gen Bajwa said Pakistan was a peace-loving country and cricket was the most favourite game here and a binding force for the nation, hailing the foreign players who came to Lahore as “national heroes”.
Video footage of the meeting released by ISPR showed the army chief handing out souvenirs to Zalmi players, including Mohammad Hafeez, Umer Akmal and team owner Javed Afridi.
Following the meeting, several players from the squad — including DJ Malan and Marlon Samuels — posted messages on social media thanking the army chief for his gesture.
Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2017