Amid recent terror attacks on Chinese nationals and Belt and Road Initiative’s (BRI) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in Karachi, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, China has demanded military outposts for the security of its citizens working in the country, sources told CNN-News18.

According to diplomatic sources in Islamabad, China has been demanding security for its citizens and CPEC projects from Pakistan Law Enforcement Agencies for long.

They have now sought military outposts in areas under United States’ influence or usage during Cold War and war on terror.

On April 26, a burqa-clad Baloch woman suicide bomber struck a van near Pakistan’s Confucius Institute, killing three Chinese teachers, including the head of the department, and their local driver.

Dr Nadir Uddin, the Pakistani director of the institute, said the remaining 12 teachers have left for China, along with the remains of the deceased teachers.

The banned Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) linked Majeed Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack on the teachers.

CPEC PROJECTS UNDERWAY

The major CPEC projects underway are Bostan Industrial Zone (Special Economic Zone, SEZ) near Quetta, Balochistan; Chaman district of Balochistan bordering with Afghanistan; Gwadar Port, Specially Zone-I & Zone-II; some patrolling units on CPEC’s western alignment which covers hostile areas of Balochistan like Awaran, Khuzdar, Hoshab and Turbat areas; Mohmand Marble City (SEZ) near Mohmand Agency bordering with Afghanistan and Sost Dry-Port & Moqpondass Special Economic Zone Gilgit-Baltistan.

The source also told that Beijing was setting tougher conditions for Islamabad and seeking CPEC’s rollover debts to maintain pressure for the military outposts.

Pakistan is currently cash-strapped and has no financial support from friendly nations like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, China and Malaysia, and even the International Monetary Fund’s programme for Pakistan is at a “crucial stage” and the next round of talks with the IMF is likely in Doha, Qatar on May 18.

With more than Rs 300 billion in stuck dues, more than two dozen Chinese firms operating in Pakistan on Monday said they would be forced to shut down their power plants this month unless payments were made upfront.

China Export & Credit Insurance, Sinosure, is reportedly reluctant to accord approval to 1124-MW Kohala Hydropower Project in AJ&K, a project of CPEC, owing to overdue payment of other CPEC projects in operation, sources close to the Managing Director, Private Power & Infrastructure Board (PPIB), said.

‘WILL CONTINUE TO TARGET’

Baloch separatist leaders claim that Chinese in Balochistan are working under the shadow security of Chinese Military and they will continue to target them.

Balochistan Liberation Army’s spokesman said: “We have targeted and killed Chinese security personnel in Gwadar Port and other areas where they are working on CPEC projects. The BLA has also issued and sent many warnings to Chinese authorities to pull out of Balochistan.”

Chinese authorities will also take up the issue of security in Pakistan with the new political leadership as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is set to visit Beijing in the next couple of weeks.

AFTER US DEMAND?

In diplomatic circles, a source also claimed that this demand came after the United States’ demand for bases in Pakistan to fight terrorists and surveillance in Afghanistan and the US is keen to re-operate Shamsi airbase in Balochistan.

The source also told that China was keen to invest in Afghanistan and wants to expand its BRI project, so Beijing needs to secure Pakistan and Afghanistan with its military outposts.

Division of Pakistan Army in September 2016 and set up Navy’s Special Force TF-88 for Gwadar port’s security in December 2016, as a response to major concerns over protection of CPEC and its workforce from serious threats.

During the past 50 years, this is the first time that Sino-Pak relations have come in hot waters. In fact, China has not been confident about working in Pakistan since ex-PM Imran Khan took charge.

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