ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office said on Friday that the security of Chinese personnel is an ongoing topic of discussion with China and the government is committed to providing best possible security to their workers in Pakistan.

“Regarding the safety and security of Chinese personnel, programmes and projects, this has been a matter that has been accorded the highest level of priority by the government of Pakistan and we continue to have discussions with our Chinese friends on this,” FO spokesman Asim Iftikhar said at the weekly media briefing.

Chinese concern about security of its workers in Pakistan has remained a major obstacle to bilateral cooperation.

Though attacks on Chinese had been on the rise for some time, the suicide bombing of the van carrying Chinese teachers in Karachi that left four dead, a couple of weeks after the Shehbaz Sharif government took office, alarmed Beijing.

The attack was a major setback for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects that slowed down as the Chinese authorities ramped up pressure on Pakistan to improve security.

Islamabad accepted the Chinese offer of cooperation in investigation and a group of experts visited Pakistan for assisting in the probe.

A gang of terrorists belonging to Balochistan Liberation Army, a terrorist outfit that was believed to be involved in the Karachi University attack, was smashed as a result of that investigation.

This eased some of the Chinese concerns, but they aren’t still fully satisfied.

President Xi Jinping, during Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s recent two-day visit to China, expressed “great concern” over the safety of Chinese nationals in Pakistan and hoped that Islamabad will ensure “a reliable and safe environment” for the Chinese working there.

The Foreign Office spokesman said: “At the highest levels the assurances have been communicated to the Chinese leadership regarding Pakistan’s commitment to ensure the safety and security and to take all necessary measures in that regard.”

Replying to a question, Mr Iftikhar said: “I don’t see any reason to assume that there is any change in position, either from Pakistan or China, with regard to our respective core issues.

“I think China’s position on Jammu and Kashmir has been consistent and always very clearly articulated including in this joint statement, and also on support for Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. So I can reassure you that there is no shortcoming of any kind in the joint statement.”

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2022

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