Security threats endanger future of CPEC, warns Chinese official

Published June 22, 2024
ISLAMABAD: Leaders from various political parties pose for a photo with Minister of Central Committee of the International Department of Communist Party of China, Liu Jianchao, and other participants of the third meeting 
of the Pakistan-China Joint Consultative Mechanism, on Friday.—Online
ISLAMABAD: Leaders from various political parties pose for a photo with Minister of Central Committee of the International Department of Communist Party of China, Liu Jianchao, and other participants of the third meeting of the Pakistan-China Joint Consultative Mechanism, on Friday.—Online

• Liu Jianchao underscores need for political stability, friendly media environment to achieve sustainable development
• Pledges of support extended across party lines, Dar reaffirms Islamabad’s commitment to CPEC’s second phase

ISLAMABAD: In a dire warning, a high-ranking Chinese official on Friday singled out security as the foremost challenge threatening the future of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and emphasised the urgent need for enhanced security protocols and a more supportive business and media environment to ensure the project’s continuation and success.

Liu Jianchao, who is serving as the Minister of Central Committee of the International Department of Communist Party of China, was speaking at the third meeting of the Pakistan-China Joint Consultative Mechanism, in which representatives from all major Pakistani political parties participated.

The Joint Consultative Mechanism (JCM) forum, initiated in 2019, convened in person after a five-year hiatus. It also held a virtual session in August 2020.

“Security threats are the main hazards to CPEC cooperation. As people often say, confidence is more precious than gold. In the case of Pakistan, the primary factor shaking the confidence of Chinese investors is the security situation,” he emphasised.

In recent years, militants have increasingly targeted Chinese projects in Pakistan, including CPEC. In March, two notable attacks highlighted the ongoing threats. The banned outfit Baloch Liberation Army attempted to breach the Gwadar Port Authority complex, but the assault was foiled. Meanwhile, a suicide bombing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Shangla district targeted a convoy of Chinese engineers, resulting in the deaths of five engineers and their local driver.

These incidents are part of a larger trend of targeted violence by various militant groups aimed at disrupting this strategic initiative. This persistent threat has significantly impacted project continuity, contributing to the slowdown of CPEC’s progress in recent years.

The Chinese official, however, praised the recent successes of Pakistani law enforcement agencies in combating militancy, noting that these efforts have helped mitigate the challenge posed by militant groups who have “so badly sabotaged” the security environment and targeted Chinese interests. Mr Liu further called for improving the business environment in the country.

Pakistan has difficulty attracting Chin­ese investments due to its precarious fin­a­n­cial situation and a history of unmet commitments to Chinese firms in the power sector. The hesitation among Chin­ese inv­e­s­tors is compounded by the relu­ctance of Chinese insurance company Sinosure to cover new projects, resulting in a significant slowdown in the initiation of these end­eavours. Additionally, the developm­ent of special economic zones, a vital component of CPEC, has remained stagnant.

To counteract these threats, Mr Liu advocated for a unified political front to build broad public consensus and enhance support for CPEC. He also stressed the importance of combating misinformation campaigns. “We must take that seriously and create a CPEC-friendly media environment,” he maintained.

He also underscored the need for stability in the country, saying, “Only when all political parties in a country join hands to ensure political and social stability can there be sustainable development.”

Islamabad committed to second phase In his remarks, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to advancing and upgrading CPEC in its second phase.

Highlighting the presence of senior representatives from all major Pakistani political parties at the meeting, he said it underscored a strong political consensus on CPEC, besides acknowledging the significance of Pakistan-China relations for regional peace and development.

Senate Chairman Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani called for prioritising inclusive and sustainable growth and ensuring that no region is left behind.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, speaker of the National Assembly, reminisced that the Parliamentary Committee on CPEC had previously played a vital role in holding the government accountable and monitoring the progress of CPEC projects through regular updates to the parliament, ensuring transparency and oversight.

Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the Pakistan China Institute, warned that the foremost threat to CPEC’s success lies in the spread of disinformation and fake news. To counter this menace, he advocated for establishing a rapid response information system designed to swiftly combat propaganda and fiction with verifiable facts, thereby safeguarding the project’s integrity.

PTI leader Barrister Ali Zafar voiced concerns about the sluggish progress of CPEC, urging an acceleration in the project’s development.

Meeting with COAS

Mr Liu later visited General Headquarters in Rawalpindi for a meeting with Army Chief Gen Asim Munir.

During the meeting, Gen Munir reaffirmed Pakistan’s unwavering commitment to the strategic partnership with China and pledged full support for the successful implementation of CPEC, according to Radio Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2024

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