Alarmed by the delays in the execution of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects as a result of the Chinese professionals expressing security concerns, the Shehbaz Sharif government is trying its best to curtail the ongoing China exodus from the country.
The Chinese confidence in Pakistan’s security system’s ability to protect their citizens and their projects is seriously shaken.
Senator Mushahid Hussain, who is also chairman of the Senate Defence Committee, led a Senate delegation to the Chinese embassy last week to express his condolences over the loss of three Chinese lives in a suicide attack on their van on the Karachi University’s premises last month.
According to the CPEC Authority, the progress review of the projects revealed that all the schemes having socio-economic benefits for Gwadar – considered the crown jewel of CPEC – were falling behind their original completion schedules.
Of 12 China-Pakistan Economic Corridor schemes, including water supply and electricity provision, with USD 2 billion projects underway in Gwadar, only three projects having a value of over USD 300 million have been completed.
The new government has scrambled to assuage Chinese concerns in the wake of the Karachi University campus attack amidst reports on the social media that unnerved by security threats, a large number of Chinese have left Pakistan.
The Chinese are equally concerned. While the Pakistan side has called reports on social media ‘rumours’, the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad has played it down as a ‘routine’ transfer of Chinese personnel.
Pakistan is seriously concerned about the Chinese slowing down the investment and effort in the CPEC projects that have emerged as the principal plank for development.
The new government has let it be known that it strives to be both serious and frank about admitting its lapses. This is different from the approach of the Imran Khan Government which obfuscated and sought to shirk responsibility, particularly on security lapses.
“For instance, last year’s terror attack that killed nine Chinese workers at Dasu hydel project was first sought to be dismissed as a road accident, till the Chinese protested and sent a team to investigate. Pakistan was forced to admit it as a terror attack and direct its investigations accordingly. However, nothing tangible came out of the probe.“
As part of the structural changes, the new government has decided to wind up the CPEC Authority (CPECA). Minister for Planning and, Development Ahsan. Iqbal called for the immediate removal of problems faced by the Chinese investors and contractors working on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) including swift processing of their visa cases.
Fighting perceptions and ground realities, the Sharif government has also ordered a probe into the people behind the social media reports alleging the Chinese exodus.
CPEC has been a major cause of militancy and even terror attacks and a sore point with local populations from Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the north to Sindh and Baluchistan in the south, who feel neglected and marginalised, while their resources get transferred to Punjab and big cities and now to China.