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ISLAMABAD: Rumours that Chinese prisoners are working on development projects in Pakistan came up at a meeting of a parliamentary committee on Monday.

Member National Assembly (MNA) Nawab Mohammad Yousuf Talpur of the PPP asked about steps taken to provide security to the Chinese nationals and to Pakistanis by China.

He said a large number of Chinese prisoners were working on development projects of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“I have learnt that prisoners have been brought from Chinese jails and they are constructing roads. They can be involved in crimes so there should be proper security arrangements,” he said.

However, the Ministry of Interior showed ignorance about the presence of Chinese prisoners in Pakistan.

Special Secretary Interior Rizwan Malik told the meeting that Chinese workers were being given a three-layer security.

“There is a separate security for Chinese nationals who have been working on CPEC projects. Separate arrangements have been made for those who have come for electricity projects.” Mr Malik said arrangements had also been made to provide security to Chinese students and business people.

MNA Talpur later told Dawn that he had got information that a large number of Chinese prisoners were working on different development projects across the country.

“I contacted a concerned official who confirmed that prisoners had been working in Pakistan. My doubt was strengthened by an ambiguous response from the Ministry of Interior which rather than rejecting my claim just said it was not in the knowledge of the ministry,” he said.

The MNA said prisoners were engaged in development work across the globe, including Pakistan, but it was strange that prisoners had been brought from China to Pakistan.

“I assume that a secret or unannounced agreement has been made between the two countries because prisoners cannot be sent from one country to another without taking the host nation into confidence. Chinese constriction companies are using prisoners as labourers,” he said.

In reply to a question, Mr Talpur said a number of Chinese nationals had been arrested in ATM fraud cases, especially in Karachi.

“Pakistanis are not capable of carrying out such crimes. I assume that Chinese prisoners are involved in ATM thefts and other computerised crimes,” he said.

The committee suggested providing Rs500 million to the cyber crime wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

During the meeting of the committee chaired by Rana Shamim Ahmad Khan, Director FIA Mohammad Shoaib said the cyber crime wing received 13,000 complaints in a year.

“We have only 15 investigating officers due to which it has become very difficult to probe all the complaints.”

He said the FIA wanted to appoint 444 officials in the cyber crime wing to handle the pending cases.

The committee directed the government to ensure the release of Rs500 million to the agency to hire the needed staff.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2018