Photograph of a Chinese man working on one of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects showing him carrying an AK-7 gun as he surveys the mountain terrain before him, has gone viral.
The photograph shows the bespectacled Chinese man in black T-shirt. He holds the rifle in the left hand while peering through what seems his survey equipment.
The source of the picture is not known, but diplomatic circles say that besides meeting the security contingency, it could be a part of the Chinese effort at disseminating information and also a signal to the Pakistani hosts of their dissatisfaction at the security arrangements.
However, the arming of Chinese personnel could complicate security measures in that they could cause confrontation at the ground level. A number of near-riot situations between the Chinese and the Pakistani security personnel. Some have seen fistfights have turned ugly.
The photograph comes in the wake of the July 14 terror attack on a bus carrying workers and engineers that killed 10 Chinese, and injuring more. They were being transported from the hydro-electric project at Dasu dam site in Upper Kohistan of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that is being undertaken under the CPEC.
Pakistan had initially announced the attack as a road accident due to engine failure, but changed its stance after traces of explosives were found at the site. Upset at the incident, the Chinese, both in Beijing and those stationed in Pakistan, tersely demanded “maximum punishment” for those responsible. A 15-member team of Chinese investigators joined the investigations last weekend.
Neither side has announced outcome of the joint investigation. But the matter has serious implication for both countries. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was in Beijing on July 23 to hold discussions.
The situation has turned more serious of late with heightened activities of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the region, where its cadres are busy collecting funds and join militia in support of the Afghan Taliban engaged in military operations against the government in Kabul.
China has invested massive sums of money into creating, training and equipping two Special Security Divisions (SSDs), the 34 and 44 Light Infantry Divisions with 15,000 troops each. While the 34 Light Division was created in September 2016, the 44 Light Division was created in 2020.
The Pakistan Budget 2021-22 has focussed on CPEC (besides Covid-19 pandemic), especially security for the Chinese personnel and their installations that have come under terror attacks in the past as well.
The Pakistan Army had asked for and received more funds for equipping these divisions. However, the Chinese ostensibly believe that Pakistan has failed to carry out their duties and have been at the receiving end of insurgent attacks.
Seen through diplomatic exchanges, this has been a sore point with the Chinese since such lapses on CPEC, which is their flagship project, impacts projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in several countries.
The Pakistani side has responded with new photos showing Chinese workers and engineers in Pakistan being protected 24×7 by armed guards.
Many attacks on Chinese personnel have been reported. One such attack was carried out in Ormara on October 15, 2020, when 14 Pakistani security personnel were dragged out of a bus and killed by Baloch militants.
In the recent past, Pakistan has faced troubles arising out of alleged Chinese involvement in its internal affairs. Officers of SSD have earlier been implicated in various embezzlement schemes of Chinese money.
The latest blast is not the first attack against the Chinese whose presence along the projects of the CPEC are said to have unsettled locals in many areas of Pakistan. (Ends)