THE uptick in attacks targeting Chinese nationals in Pakistan must not be taken lightly by the government and the security apparatus. Firm steps are needed to prevent such incidents from recurring. The latest incident occurred in Gwadar as a motorcade carrying Chinese nationals was attacked on Friday on the East-Bay Expressway. Some local children were killed in the act of terrorism, while a Chinese individual was injured.
Earlier, Chinese citizens had been attacked elsewhere in the country, including in Karachi late last month, and earlier in the horrific Dasu incident in the middle of July, in which a number of Chinese nationals were killed. Clearly, efforts are afoot by hostile actors to damage the Pakistan-China relationship, specifically the flagship CPEC project, by targeting China’s citizens in Pakistan. While the Pakistan-China relationship is deep and multifaceted, China has issued a strongly worded statement in the aftermath of the Gwadar incident. The Chinese embassy in Islamabad has asked Pakistan “to take practical and effective measures” to prevent such incidents in the future and to “conduct a thorough investigation”.
Moreover, the Chinese ambassador, Nong Rong, met Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid on Sunday and called on Pakistan to provide “stronger security protocol” to nationals of his country. It should be recalled that after the Dasu incident, both the foreign minister and the army chief had to assure Chinese officials that Pakistan would do all it could to bring the perpetrators to justice.
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With the fall of Kabul and the security situation in Afghanistan incredibly fluid, Pakistan must remain on its toes where security threats are concerned. While the threat from religiously motivated militants having sanctuaries in Afghanistan is very real, Baloch separatists also operate out of Pakistan’s western neighbour. The banned Baloch Liberation Army claimed it had carried out the Gwadar attack. Therefore, Pakistan must make it clear to the new set-up in Kabul that it is their responsibility to act against all elements working against this country on their soil. Domestically, intelligence-based operations need to be carried out to neutralise cells that are looking to harm Chinese nationals and interests in this country. Some states in the region that do not want to see Pakistan-China ties prosper will be ready to take advantage of the changing geopolitical situation in the area. Their efforts must be thwarted by the security apparatus so that foreign nationals can work here in a secure and peaceful environment.
Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2021