Chinese development projects and citizens are at risk of becoming “targets of terrorist attacks” in Pakistan, China’s state-owned Global Times recently cautioned in an editorial, citing deteriorating security conditions ahead of the Muslim country’s general election.
HRW urged Islamabad to “take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of candidates and political party activists who are at risk of attack from the Taliban and other militant groups.”
Election-linked attacks “have raised fears of an increase in violence as Pakistan prepares for the polls. Chinese organizations and personnel in Pakistan should remain vigilant toward possible terrorist attacks and avoid being targets,” Global Times declared on Sunday.
The Chinese state-owned media outlet explicitly noted that the Chinese-Pakistani Economic Corridor (CPEC) component of Beijing’s multi-trillion dollar One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is at risk of being attacked by terrorists in Pakistan.
Terrorists in Balochistan, the largest province in Pakistan that sits along the Afghanistan border, have attacked CPEC projects in the past.
Citing a recent Islamic terrorist attack on parliamentary candidates that left up to 149 people dead and more than 180 wounded in Balochistan, Global Times warned that Chinese citizens working on CPEC projects are again facing an increased jihadi threat.
Global Times reported:
If the situation in Pakistan continues to deteriorate, it’s possible that some CPEC projects in fields such as energy and transport may become targets of terrorist attacks. Chinese citizens living in Pakistan need to increase security awareness, reduce outdoor activities in the coming weeks and avoid going to crowded places. Chinese enterprises doing business in the country should also raise their security measures.
Global Times suggested that Pakistan should adopt “security-related investment projects” under CPEC that mirror those implemented by Beijing in China’s Muslim Uighur (or Uyghur)-majority region of Xinjiang, the largest province in the country that shares a border with Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and war-ravaged Afghanistan.
Human rights groups have long accused China of oppressing its Uighur population, which Beijing has repeatedly denied.
This year, the U.S. State Department reported that China had forced “hundreds of thousands” of Muslim Uighurs accused of terrorism into so-called “re-education camps” also known as “mind-transformation centers.”
Global Times noted:
Islamist extremism and separatism in Xinjiang is one of the greatest threats to national security. Substantial progress has been achieved in cracking down on extremists who conduct terrorist activities. China is willing to share its experience with Pakistan to maintain regional security and stability.
More security-related investment projects must be introduced to Pakistan under the CPEC framework.
To the dismay of India, which has come out against CPEC, the project is expected to run through the portion of Kashmir controlled by the Pakistani government, which New Delhi claims to own.
Kashmir is a Muslim-majority volatile region in the Himalayas claimed by Islamabad, New Delhi, and Beijing. Beijing is known to stay in the shadows, backing Islamabad over the Kashmir dispute between nuclear-armed regional foes India and Pakistan.
Although animosity against India has fueled the alliance between China and Pakistan, the ties between Beijing and New Delhi are improving, the Hindustan Times reported Tuesday, conceding that doubts remain.
Beijing is one of Pakistan’s top allies and supporters, often defending Islamabad against U.S. assertions that South Asian country serves as a sanctuary for terrorist groups that operate in neighboring Afghanistan, including those that are known to support Islamic Uighur hardliners in China.
To no avail, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has suspended security aid to Pakistan over Islamabad’s reluctance to stop harboring terrorist groups, namely the Afghan Taliban and its al-Qaeda-linked ally the Haqqani Network, deemed the top threat against American troops by the Pentagon.
This year’s parliamentary elections have proven to be a springboard for candidates backed by Islamic hardliners, including groups accused of terrorist activities, and contenders charged with heinous crimes such as murder and rape.