China pressure on Islamabad for own security cover for CPEC projects

China appears to have not given up its plan to replicate its Africa practice of using private security agencies in Pakistan. It has already adopted this very model in Central Asia to protect its assets and workers.

While Pakistan has stuck to its no as of now, “circumstances may well force Islamabad to change its stance”, a media report said. 

The “request” is a sign of the spreading tentacles of Chinese PSCs overseas, which act as extensions of the Chinese state, reported The HK Post.

Nikkei Asia reports (28 June 2022) that the Shahbaz Sharif government has turned down the Chinese request but Beijing is likely to continue pushing for such an arrangement.

When the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) began in 2015, the primary concern was security. This remains an issue even today since the CPEC is the flagship of the Belt and Road Initiative of President Xi Jinping, reported The HK Post.

In early June, China’s Ministry of State Security had formally asked the Pakistani government to allow a Chinese PSC to operate inside the country.  It followed a dastardly attack by a suicide bomber on Chinese instructors of the Confucius Institute at the Karachi University (KU)/

The Interior Ministry, however, objected and offered assurances that Pakistan’s security forces would protect Chinese nationals and assets, a report in Beijing News Net said.

Six years ago in 2016, Pakistan Army raised a Special Security Division (SSD) to protect CPEC assets. There are two SSDs — the 34 and 44 Light Infantry Divisions — with 15,000 troops each

The killing of ten Chinese nationals last year in an attack on a bus at Dasu Dam Project site and this year’s Karachi attack prompted China to opt for its Africa Model for security.

The Chinese move could lead to the conclusion that Beijing has completely lost trust in Pakistan’s capacity to protect its interests at a time anti-China sentiment is prevalent, said Beijing News Net report and quoted a former Pakistan Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal to say that tension could arise between Chinese security companies and the local population.

This resentment against China will increase if Chinese security companies are allowed to guard Chinese interests in Pakistan, reported The HK Post.

This is especially true in Balochistan, where anti-Chinese sentiment is already very high. Baloch insurgents see China as agents of colonization of Balochistan and primary exploiters of the province’s natural resources in the name of the CPEC.  The fishermen of Gwadar, where a port facility has been set up as a part of CPEC are already on war path protesting the presence of Chinese trawlers and marching with the slogan “Gwadar ko hak do”.

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