Why terror groups are increasingly targeting Chinese nationals in Pakistan

Apr1,2024



In the wake of a devastating attack that took the lives of five Chinese engineers, security concerns have led some Chinese workers to consider leaving Pakistan. This recent incident, which targeted a vehicle en route to the Dasu power project, has largely disrupted critical hydropower projects and raised concerns among Chinese nationals working in various projects worth under $60 billion. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Initiative.
Suspension of civil works and layoff of workforce
In response to the tragic incident, the Power Construction Corporation of China (PCCC) has stopped civil work at the Tarbela 5th Extension Hydropower Project in Swabi district of KP province and fired more than 2,000 workers. The suspension, aimed at re-evaluating security measures, underlines growing concerns among Chinese companies operating in Pakistan.
The tragic incident is part of a series of targeted attacks against Chinese personnel and interests in Pakistan, which has heightened tensions and required a strong response from both Islamabad and Beijing. A team of Chinese investigators has joined Pakistani authorities to further investigate the attack, stressing the urgent need to step up security measures to protect thousands of Chinese workers in the country.

Why are the Chinese being targeted?

  • An ISPR statement blamed “specific foreign entities” for the recent rise in terrorism. Meanwhile, the Foreign Office attributes the unrest to “opponents of the Pakistan-China partnership”.
  • However, it is the local terrorist group that is attacking Chinese projects and civilians. The scenario in Pakistan is affected by the twin threat of insurgency by Islamic terrorists and ethnic separatists, especially in the Balochistan region. Such groups have been held responsible for the recent attack in Shangla, as well as attacks on strategic ports and naval bases used by China. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Balochistan Liberation Army and Islamic State-Khorasan. These groups aim to destabilize the region and challenge the extensive investments made as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Analysts point to the complex interplay of ideologies, socio-political factors, and local dynamics that fuel these insurgencies. The support of religious organizations and the spread of extremist tendencies in the Hazara region present a challenging environment to maintain security. The involvement of local terrorist groups such as Mujahideen Gilgit-Baltistan and Kohistan (MGB), which maintain links with the TTP and sectarian organizations, further complicates the security scenario.
  • According to a report in Pakistani newspaper Dawn on 'targeting of Chinese citizens', although the region is not overwhelmingly opposed to development, there is a widespread belief that initiatives such as dam construction and road expansion would lead to urbanisation, women's liberation and modernisation. Will get a boost. , Some people see these changes as a threat to their religious and cultural traditions.
  • There are people who express solidarity with the Uyghur population Xinjiang, while others are uncomfortable with foreign individuals in their area. These sentiments may contribute to a growing unease toward Chinese individuals in the region.
  • In an incident reflecting the tense local environment, a blasphemy charge was filed against a Chinese national working at the Dasu dam site last year, indicating the possibility of conflict, Dawn reported.

Impact on China-Pakistan relations
In response to the growing threat, the Pakistani government has promised to strengthen security for Chinese projects and personnel. This involves the creation of a dedicated force consisting of police and military units. However, analysts argue for a more comprehensive approach to address underlying tensions and to modify the strategy of outsourcing security maintenance to local and external religious figures.
Amid diplomatic efforts to reassure China of its commitment to security, Pakistan faces the challenge of balancing development aspirations with the imperative to protect its citizens and foreign allies against an increasingly complex terrorist threat.
(with inputs from agencies)



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