Baloch ire prompts security fears for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

By AFP
Published: April 21, 2015
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Amid lingering security fears regarding a $46 billion economic corridor which involves major construction in some highly unstable areas, the army has assured its personnel would provide security.

Director General Inter Services Public Relations Asim Bajwa in a tweet announced that a special security division comprising army battalions were going to be deployed for the security of the projects.

The special security division will be comprised of nine Army Battalions and six wings of civil armed forces, said Bajwa adding that the division will be commanded by a major general.

Pakistani and Chinese officials on Monday signed a series of more than 50 accords to inaugurate the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which will create a network of roads, railways and pipelines linking China’s restive west to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan.

Read: Trade corridor tops Chinese investment bonanza

The project is part of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” plan to expand its trade and transport footprint across Central and South Asia. It will give China easier access to Middle Eastern oil via the deepwater port of Gwadar in southwest Pakistan.

The Chinese aid also aims to boost Pakistan’s long-underperforming economy, which the IMF projects will grow 4.3 percent this year, and tackle its long-running energy crisis.

Beijing and Islamabad have long enjoyed close ties and Xi’s speech on Tuesday, the first by a Chinese president to a joint session of parliament, was full of the flowery rhetoric that typifies their official exchanges.

Read: Pakistan high on Chinese diplomatic agenda: Xi Jinping

“Today Pakistan has a historic development opportunity. Prime Minister Sharif has crafted the vision of the Asian tiger dream. It outlines a great blueprint for Pakistan,” he told lawmakers.

But away from the handshakes and backslapping, there are real security concerns over much of the plan, which relies on developing Gwadar — control of which was passed to a Chinese company in 2013.

The port lies near the mouth of the Gulf of Oman, east of the Strait of Hormuz through which much of the Middle East’s crude production passes.

Read: China’s security as important as Pakistan’s, Nawaz tells Chinese president

But linking Gwadar to the rest of Pakistan and on to the western Chinese city of Kashgar, 3,000 kilometres away, would involve major infrastructure work in Balochistan.

This is one of Pakistan’s most unstable provinces and has been dogged for over a decade by a bloody separatist insurgency.

Baloch insurgents, who oppose Gwadar’s development while the province is not independent, have in the past blown up numerous gas pipelines and trains and attacked Chinese engineers.

Earlier this month the Balochistan Liberation Front claimed an attack in the province that left 20 construction workers from elsewhere in Pakistan dead, the bloodiest separatist incident since 2006.

Read: ‘Outsiders’ targeted: Orgy of bloodshed let loose in Turbat

Siddiq Baloch, editor of the Balochistan Express newspaper, said the rebels want to scare off investors and developers who are working with the Pakistani government — such as the Chinese.

“There is the thinking that by doing this, they want to disrupt the working of the economy, disrupt the administration, challenge the administration in the area,” he told AFP.

Suppressing the rebellion by force in Balochistan’s desolate and sparsely-populated landscape, much of which is desert and mountains, has proven difficult.

Abdul Malik Baloch, the Balochistan chief minister, said strenuous efforts were under way to try to negotiate with the rebels.

“I am trying to convince them, but still they are not convinced,” he told AFP in the provincial capital Quetta.

“This is my honest opinion, this is the only way — to start talking and bring the insurgents to the table.”

In a bid to allay fears, President Mamnoon Hussain told him a special army division would be given responsibility for the safety of Chinese workers, a presidential source told AFP.

Baloch insurgents on Monday attacked an airport in Gwadar district, causing damage but no casualties, in a vivid reminder of the dangers.

Read: Security forces successfully repelled attack on Air Traffic Control Radar in Pasni

Andrew Small, author of The China-Pakistan Axis, said China’s recent experience of working in Pakistan had given it a good idea of which projects could proceed in spite of security worries.

“China is certainly not completely confident that all the projects will be protected, but they think these security problems are one of the main reasons that it’s so important that they move ahead, for the sake of Pakistan’s stability,” he told AFP.

Read: Two security personnel killed in Gwadar gun battle

Even if not all the projects envisaged in the corridor plan went ahead, Small said, “The scale is so large that it should still have a major economic impact regardless”.

And while the Chinese projects dwarf an American assistance package to Pakistan of $5 billion that began in 2010, Small said Beijing was not interested in supplanting Washington in the region, preferring to see the US maintain its support.

Xi wrapped up his two-day visit on Tuesday before travelling on to Indonesia for an Asian-African summit.

Reader Comments (29)

  • MUNIB
    Apr 21, 2015 - 1:17PM

    The Corridor starts from Gawadar and Ends at GB but no representative of both were seen the protocol given to Chinese President.

    Pretty much explains why Balochistan wants independence and GB is disgruntled over NO-PROVINCE status.

    Dear Punjab, is Balochistan and GB not part of Pakistan ? Recommend

  • Whiskey Khan
    Apr 21, 2015 - 1:49PM

    If the wealth is dîstributed fairly to the people then the so called Separates and the insurgents will die its own death. Not only the Govt. but the Baluchi leaders have themselves ignored the the common people of the provinceRecommend

  • Kam
    Apr 21, 2015 - 2:16PM

    Balochistan will benefit most from this corridor making Gwader a rival to Dubai and a world leading trade centre. Anybody against it is no friend of Baloch people.Recommend

  • just truth
    Apr 21, 2015 - 2:24PM

    hussain haqqani put baloch separatists and india as equal affectees of US arms deal with pakistan…hmm point to ponder.Recommend

  • Usman
    Apr 21, 2015 - 2:53PM

    Benefits of millions of dollars saved in transport and transit costs for good to China will easily over weigh any security fears. I’m happy this investment will also eliminate insurgency in Balochistan and teach a real lesson to these criminals.Recommend

  • Pity
    Apr 21, 2015 - 2:56PM

    Balochistan will be the province that will gain the most benefit from the development of Gawadar. Baloch insurgents, who are opposing it, are working on foreign agenda. Recommend

  • Chachoo
    Apr 21, 2015 - 3:29PM

    @MUNIB: In Pakistan it is a fashion to do Punjab bashing and you are doing just that. Blaming Punjab is the easiest thing to do. In the last Government in all projects no representative from Upper Punjab were seen. Their gas was almost closed and they witness the worst load shedding ever. So did they complained like that for five years.? PMLN is in power in the center and obviously you will witness their presence there. Recommend

  • ajeet
    Apr 21, 2015 - 3:34PM

    Baluchistan’s resources should be used for welfare of the Baluch, not Chinese or Pakistan.Recommend

  • Pakistani baluch
    Apr 21, 2015 - 3:34PM

    @just truth:
    We should claim a refund from India. for all the salary that was paid to him when he was supposed to be Pak’s ambassador :)Recommend

  • Mir Sadiq
    Apr 21, 2015 - 3:55PM

    Punjab as always will reap the lion’s share of the rewards on any project. Recommend

  • Asad
    Apr 21, 2015 - 4:42PM

    @ajeet

    dude take a side, Pakistan`s internal matter being discussed Hmm. Recommend

  • Blunt
    Apr 21, 2015 - 4:45PM

    @Chachoo:
    It’s a habit of us to live in past and blame for everything wrong on previous governments. Not defending those ones, but can you please explain what present govt has done even for the Punjab? Isn’t their gas still down and worst ever load shedding breaking all previous records.Recommend

  • concerned
    Apr 21, 2015 - 4:56PM

    I a from Khi and I say please no more Punjab bashing.

    this will benefit all if everyone accepts it.

    think as Pakistan for once people. Recommend

  • fayyaz
    Apr 21, 2015 - 7:38PM

    The change in China Pak economic corridor route will further alienate Balauchistan and KPK. The new route is restricted almost entirely to Punjab. It appears for the present government Punjab alone is Pakistan. With this changed route, it is quite likely that the corridor will terminate in Karachi and not Gwadar if the security situation does not improve. Surprisingly the new route remains almost entirely in the map of Balkanized Pakistan published in the US Armed forces journal. The other three provinces should join hands to ensure that the route of the economic corridor is not changed.and other three provinces also benefit.Recommend

  • syed baqar ahsan
    Apr 21, 2015 - 8:59PM

    Baloch are disturbed by their own Sardars,army has a good solution for them soon they will get. Recommend

  • Xiteru shiming
    Apr 21, 2015 - 9:44PM

    Long live friendship between china and pakistanRecommend

  • ja
    Apr 22, 2015 - 12:18AM

    @pakstani baluch. funds, claim, aid, donations. Etc etc such words r a life line of pakistan!
    @ asad. When u run a nation. On imf funds, export terror, sell nuke tech to rouge nations, etc etc. It’s never internal matter than.

    Soon China will have their army boots in Pakistan under the pretext of security. Pak will become the 1 st nation to rent it’s country out. Congrats.Recommend

  • roarwali
    Apr 22, 2015 - 12:48AM

    It’s not the security but the myopic vision of Prime minster of Punjab that will be hinder its development at least immediately.
    No representative of GB, KPK and Baluchistan was present at the occasion. Also from one of the Chinese television visuals the whole road is diverted to Punjab. This is enough to make more troubles and give enough reason to separatists and nationalist parties to exploitRecommend

  • Ridwan
    Apr 22, 2015 - 3:14AM

    So the Balochi sardars wish to stop development until independence? Its a self-fulfilling prophecy. they are upset that balochistan is under developed, but then they prevent development of any kind. Recommend

  • Qasim
    Apr 22, 2015 - 6:24AM

    More like it is Indians being salty and their paid agents doing the talking. Recommend

  • Palijo
    Apr 22, 2015 - 9:22AM

    Pakistan was created for Punjab only it seems. Baluchistan and Sindh are treated as step provinces by Punjab. That is the sad reality and that will always be the case. Recommend

  • Khurram Mahmood
    Apr 22, 2015 - 10:20AM

    @ajeet:
    Baluchistan is an integral part of the Great Pakistan. All the resources that are available in east, west, north, south or in any part of Pakistan belongs to none other than Pakistanis and only Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Abdullah
    Apr 22, 2015 - 10:45AM

    People who are making a lot of noise
    that only Punjab will benefit are making a ridiculous claim here.
    By merely seeing a map somewhere in which a road passes through Punjab, they are making all sorts of crazy assumptions.
    The final routes of the project are yet to be decided after feasibility studies and mutual consultation by the authorities.
    Even if much of the route passes through Punjab, how will the other provinces remain deprived ?
    Lastly,what if Chinese experts after their analysis decide not to pass majority of the route through smaller provinces due to security and feasibility reasons ? What will do then ?
    Start bashing Chinese for causing rift
    among provinces ? Recommend

  • Abu Saad
    Apr 22, 2015 - 12:51PM

    @Ajeet, take a side. Its Pakistan’s internal matter. indians are the one responsible for the current situation on Balochistan and Pakistan.Recommend

  • asad
    Apr 22, 2015 - 12:56PM

    @ja

    My low IQ Indian friend your outburst show the extent of hatred you have for Pakistan, its alright kiddo I can understand your degree of frustration when billions of dollars investment is being poured into Pakistan and India as always is getting ‘thainga’

    Secondly contrary to your claim, India`s total debt is many times more than Pakistan. Its India which is a rouge state and hated by all its nieghbors Nepal, Pakistan, Srilanka, China and Bangladesh because of the terrorists activities that it funds in these countries. Just like its failed attempts to fund the militancy in Balochistan and Srilanka without much success.

    So it indeed is an internal matter of Pakistan. But I guess low lifes like you won`t get over your obsession with Pakistan because of the inferiority complex which as always remain a constant reminder for people like yourself.Recommend

  • KMC
    Apr 22, 2015 - 1:59PM

    @fayyaz:
    Please broader your vision my brother. Its not about the alienation of any province. Please recall that China is installing one of the largest Steel Mill at Chiniot/kalabagh (i dont remember the exact location) plus china is going to develop the Thar Coal reserves and install Power plants nearby. All these activities also need development of infrastructure. Any map we are looking at this point may not reflect the actual picture.
    We should trust and empower our government with positive attitute. With the investment of this magnitude, it seems not possible that any part of Pakistan will be left out. What we should do right now is focus on our self development in terms of skills so that during and after the completion of this development activity, we must be ready to play our role.
    Let us not make it a political issue and creat another Kalabagh Dam. Otherwise, we will suffer a great deal.Recommend

  • KMC
    Apr 22, 2015 - 2:02PM

    @Mir Sadiq:
    Why don’t you leaders share the royalty of Sui Gas with Common People. Why tribal Sardars alone get the Royalty? its actually your tribal heads who are culprit not a common Non-baloch Pakistani. Please identify the actual cause rather than blaming others.Recommend

  • KMC
    Apr 22, 2015 - 2:06PM

    @ja:
    People like you previously dragged us away from prosperity with such thinking. Now try to come out of that frame of mind else leave Pakistan. Now we cannot afford such like criticism or comments.Recommend

  • ahmad bilal
    Jun 14, 2015 - 4:01PM

    These people are not criminals but they only fighting for their rights .give them their rights and they will not harm anybody
    @Usman: Recommend

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