Pakistan Reassures China on Security as Terror Attacks Rise
(Bloomberg) -- Pakistan reassured China its investments and personnel in the country will be protected from increased militant attacks that hindered progress on President Xi Jinping’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative.
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Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang met army chief General Asim Munir on Saturday, who pledged full support for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, according to a statement from Pakistan’s military. Qin also met his counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
“The Chinese side appreciated the measures taken by Pakistan to ensure enhanced security of Chinese projects, personnel and institutions in Pakistan, as well as the steps taken to apprehend and bring to justice the perpetrators targeting Chinese nationals in Dasu, Karachi and other attacks,” according to a separate joint statement from Pakistan’s foreign ministry after Qin’s meeting with Zardari.
Chinese-funded projects were being targeted by militants that resulted in increased attacks on China nationals across Pakistan. A Chinese citizen working at a project was detained last month after being accused of blasphemy but released after a court ruled that no offense had been committed.
At least three Chinese language teachers were killed last year in a suicide attack at a university in Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi. China Gezhouba Group Corp. had stopped work on the Dasu hydro-power project in Pakistan’s north after a suicide bomber killed 12 people, including Chinese citizens, in July 2021.
READ: China ‘Shocked’ by Pakistan Blast, Seeks Security for Projects
China’s cash is crucial to Pakistan. It’s the country’s largest trade partner, a key investor in infrastructure, and also its single largest creditor. In March, Islamabad confirmed it had secured another $2 billion loan from Beijing, as it struggles to meet billions of dollars in debt repayments, and the next tranche of an IMF bailout package remains elusive.
Pakistan is also dealing with Asia’s fastest inflation, exacerbating a worsening economic crisis while the political leaders wrangle over an election timetable.
After a period of relative calm, there’s been a spike in violence in Pakistan since the Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in 2021. According to the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, militant violence spiked by 22% in 2022 compared with 2021.
“China is willing to strengthen cooperation and coordination with Pakistan on the Afghanistan issue,” Qin said, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement early Saturday.
--With assistance from Muneeza Naqvi, Francesca Stevens and Faseeh Mangi.
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