ISLAMABAD: Senior officials associated with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have called for enhanced security measures for timely completion and implementation of projects.

“Effective and timely implementation of CPEC projects is crucial … the importance of internal security environment, especially in areas where CPEC projects are being undertaken is of paramount importance,” Planning Division Secretary Shoaib Siddiqi said at a conference organised by the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) during the inauguration of China Studies Centre.

Meanwhile, CPEC Project Director Hassan Daud Butt called for “doubling the efforts to eradicate terrorism”.

The government has already set up a Special Security Division (SSD) comprising 15,000 personnel from Army and civilian law enforcement agencies for the safety and security of the projects.

The SSD has deployed its personnel on four projects in Punjab and seven in Sindh, in addition to Gwadar which in fact has, to some extent, addressed the Chinese government’s security concerns.

However, killing of labourers working on road projects and the reported slaying of a Chinese couple in Balochistan, and most recently the martyring of two Navy personnel in an ambush in Jiwani has renewed security fears.

Meanwhile, Pakistan and China who have been cooperating on the security issue are jointly investigating the killing of the Chinese couple, which otherwise has been claimed by the self-styled militant Islamic State group.

Chinese Deputy Chief of Mission Zhao Lijian did not speak about the terrorism threat but praised the CPEC as the “fastest and most effective project under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)”. Some 19 early harvest projects worth $18.5 billion were making smooth progress, he added.

Mr Zhao said that out of the two units of 1320MW Sahiwal Coal-Fired Power Plant, the second 660MW unit had completed the test-run and would soon become operational, while the first unit was already inaugurated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last month. Another such plant in Port Qasim is expected to be completed this year.

Mr Zhao further said that the bidding process of the Eastbay Expressway project, linking Gwadar port with the network of the main National Highway, was in the final stages and its groundbreaking was expected to be performed by the end of the year. Besides, work on Gwadar International Airport would also commence this year, he said.

The Grant Agreement on Gwadar Airport and Framework Accord on Eastbay Expressway were signed during Nawaz Sharif’s visit to China last month.

President, Strategic Vision Institute, Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said that China was not only playing an important role in the development and security of Pakistan, but also had an important influence in the entire region and beyond. He said the CPEC was an unparalleled plan for the development, regional connectivity, industrialisation and infrastructure development.

Introducing the think-tank’s China Studies Centre, Dr Cheema said, it would endeavour to study Pakistan-China relations, role of China in South Asia and beyond, besides carrying out an in-depth research on security, economic, development, political aspects of the BRI and the CPEC and its impact on regional integration.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2017