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China arm-twisting bankrupt Pakistan to accept its humiliating demands, even tells Pakistani Military to launch operations against its own citizens in Balochistan

Beijing is mulling deploying Chinese soldiers on Pakistani territory to protect its assets and citizens as part of the CPEC project, discarding Pakistan’s concerns about its sovereignty.

Following the death of its five Chinese Engineers in an attack in March this year and similar casualties in earlier attacks, China has been mounting pressure on Pakistan to accept its humiliating demands. Notably, senior Chinese government officials recently held meetings with Pakistani officials where the security concerns of Chinese nationals were prominently discussed. However, Islamabad has made efforts to conceal several important details about Chinese demands from economically strained Pakistan, especially the Chinese dictating to its military. 

According to reports, Beijing has asked Islamabad to launch another Zarb-e-Azb operation in Balochistan against its own citizens there so that Chinese workers and citizens can feel secure. China telling Pakistani military what to do was first highlighted in a report by Business Recorder which was also reported by other media outlets including some from Pakistan

However, this demand has been blacked out by prominent Pakistani media. Additionally, Business Recorder has also taken down this story. According to the now-taken down story, “well-informed sources in the Ministry of Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives had told Business Recorder that Beijing asked Islamabad to launch another Zarb-e-Azb”.

According to reports, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Sun Weidong held a meeting with Pakistani officials ahead of Pakistani PM’s five-day visit to China. During the meeting, Sun Weidong reportedly emphasised the need for another Zarb-e-Azb following the security concerns of Chinese nationals in Pakistan.  

While, the reports regarding the same have been taken down, the details shared in the Business Recorder have been reported in different phrasing in Pakistan and China. 

Notably, many Chinese citizens have lost their lives in several attacks aimed against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through the Balochistan area. The locals have been dead opposed to these projects and warned China against its “illegal settlement”, “occupation” and plundering of the region’s resources. 

Following the mounting resistance from locals and incidences of militants overtaking Pakistani army outposts in several attacks, China has been displaying its angst with the Pakistani military and its failures. There are apprehensions among locals that China is frustrated by the Pakistani military and warned it that if they are not capable of protecting Chinese citizens, Beijing will deploy Chinese soldiers in the Balochistan region, further strengthening the world’s perspective that Pakistan is turning into a vassal state for China.  

According to reports, Beijing is mulling deploying Chinese soldiers on Pakistani territory to protect its assets and citizens as part of the CPEC project, discarding Pakistan’s concerns about its sovereignty which would also be a scathing indictment of the ineffectiveness of the Pakistani military.  

The recent development comes particularly in the wake of a suicide attack in March this year in which five Chinese engineers were killed. After this, Chinese firms suspended their activities in Pakistan. Later, the Chinese government forced Islamabad to pay hefty compensation of $ 2.58 million to the heirs of Chinese nationals who lost their lives in the attack. Pakistan also claimed that it arrested nearly a dozen militants who were allegedly involved in the operation.

Additionally, China has also emphasised the need to revive the trilateral mechanism between Pakistan, China, and Afghanistan for better coordination on “anti-terrorism measures”. Chinese officials have stressed that China should not be a “high-value target for terrorist groups, rather the Chinese workers deserve high respect in Pakistan.”

Incidentally, in the past, China has categorically lauded the Zarb-e-Azb operation for “improving the overall security situation”. In a press release, Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong had remarked in 2016, “It has improved the overall security situation by launching the Zarb-e-Azb operation.”

Nonetheless, according to reports, Pakistan has constituted a 12,000-strong para-military force just to “protect” Chinese workers in the country.  

Operation Zarb-e-Azb was about subjugating locals, and carrying out extra-judicial killings of regional ethnic-nationals

The operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched on 15th June 2014 in the North Waziristan area along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. While Pakistan claimed that it was a counter-terror operation, several questions were raised about its effectiveness and exacerbating Human suffering in the region including increased allegations of extra-judicial killings, forced displacements, and allowing pro-Pakistani Jihadi groups to flourish.  

According to German outlet DW, Aqil Shah, a Pakistani expert and the Wick Cary Assistant Professor of International Affairs at the University of Oklahoma, had said that there was a fundamental contradiction in the Pakistani military’s counter-terrorism approach. Shah pointed out that while the army goes after the terrorists who carried out attacks in Pakistan, it patronised those who attack its enemies. 

Speaking with DW, Shah said, “The army has fought hostile factions of the TTP, but it continues to use other militant groups as proxies against archrival India.” He cited the example of the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban, which helped Pakistan maintain its influence over Afghanistan, as well as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which continues to plan and carry out terror attacks against India.

The same was reiterated by US Secretary of State John Kerry during his India visit. In an address in New Delhi, Kerry said, “It is clear that Pakistan has work to do in order to push harder against its indigenous groups that are engaged in extremist terrorist activities.” 

He added, “They must work with us to help clear the sanctuaries of bad actors who are affecting not only relations between Pakistan and India but also our ability to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan.” 

A US-based expert on political Islam, Arif Jamal said that the Zarb-e-Azb military operation was never launched to target home-grown jihadists. 

Jamal told DW, “Actually, it was aimed at weakening political parties and not eliminating terrorists. Some of the top global terrorists such as Hafiz Saeed and Hizbul Mujahideen’s Yusuf Shah are openly leading public rallies, recruiting jihadists, and fundraising.”

Prominent Pakistani rights activist Asma Jahangir accused the Pakistani army of running a smear campaign against politicians. It was also seen as an effort to weaken the civilian government in the country by doing extensive PR of the Pakistani military to protect the country from terrorists. 

Additionally, Pashtuns and Baloch nationals witnessed repressive measures (such as extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, discrimination, subjugation of non-Punjabi ethnicities, and surveillance) by the country’s security forces under such programs. 

Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif to embark on five-day visit to China, Beijing mounting pressure on Islamabad to accept more demands

Notably, Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif will be in China from 4th to 8th June. The visit aims to increase cooperation between the two nations as they plan to launch the second phase of the controversial and struggling CPEC project. 

Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar visited Beijing and held the fifth strategic dialogue with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. 

During the meeting, Wang expressed concern over frequent terrorist attacks on Chinese personnel in Pakistan and asked Islamabad to do its utmost to protect them and “eliminate the worries of Chinese enterprises and personnel”. Following which, Pakistan said it has constituted a 12,000-strong para-military force to protect Chinese workers in the country.

China has further asked Islamabad to accept its other demands including one to improve its foreign exchange reserves, clear payments to Independent Power Producers (IPPs), and launch the ML-1 project in phases while addressing concerns of Chinese financial institutions. 

During the recent meetings, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong expressed displeasure over the “slow progress” of the Main Line-1 project (one of the costliest Railway projects in Pakistan), but emphasised its strategic importance and suggested a phased implementation. The project’s high financial outlay, Pakistan’s debt profile, and IMF conditions are causing Chinese financial institutions to scrutinise the technical study.

China also stated that Pakistan should clear early settlement of Chinese power projects to restore trust and secure additional funding and insurance coverage for renewable energy projects, including Kohala and Azad Pattan Hydro Power Projects. As per reports, Pakistan owes Rs 500 billion to Chinese IPPs, and the Prime Minister has directed the Finance Minister to address these payments. 

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Paurush Gupta
Paurush Gupta
Proud Bhartiya, Hindu, Karma believer. Accidental Journalist who loves to read and write. Keen observer of National Politics and Geopolitics. Cinephile.

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