Tag Archives: Belt

Pakistani militants against the Belt and Road are targeted in Afghanistan | Instant News

ISLAMABAD – Members of a Pakistani militant group that attacks projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiative are being killed in Afghanistan by Pakistani security forces in growing numbers.

According to Kiyaa Baloch, a journalist covering the insurgency in Pakistan’s large Balochistan province, the intensification of Pakistan’s military operations against the Baloch separatist group first began in 2004.Since then, many Baloch families have fled across the border to Afghanistan, where locals consider them to be refugees.

In recent months, many Pakistani militants have died in Afghanistan, mostly in Kandahar province, which borders Balochistan.

On December 20, a son of Hazrat Gul, a Baloch leader, was kidnapped in Nimroz province; five days later his bullet-ridden body was found. The Balochistan Post, a pro-militant Urdu-language website, reports that Gul has provided shelter to Baloch men fleeing military operations in Balochistan. There were incidents on December 10 and 19 in which two members of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) and two others from another militant group were killed in the Kandahar area.

The Baloch separatist group has been alarmed by the increasing killings of their members and sympathizers. Brahumdagh Bugti, leader of the BRP, issued a statement on December 20 claiming that “Baloch refugees” were attacked in Afghanistan by Pakistani security agencies. He said international human rights bodies should pay attention.

Aslam Baloch, a key commander of the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), was killed in December 2018 by a suicide bomber in Aino Mina, a major city in Kandahar. Since then, Baloch militants and their families in Afghanistan, especially in Kandahar, have been frequently attacked, according to sources close to Baloch militants and tribal elders there.

Under Baloch, the BLA established a special unit that carried out suicide attacks against Chinese interests, including the BRI-backed project in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. CPEC is BRI’s mainstay of relationships worth more than $ 50 billion in infrastructure projects in Pakistan.

Baloch masterminded attacks in 2018 on the Chinese consulate in Karachi and on buses carrying Chinese engineers in Balochistan’s Dalbandin region.

40% of shares on the Pakistan Stock Exchange are owned by three Chinese companies. After four BLA militants attacked the Karachi stock exchange last June, Pakistani law enforcement officials concluded that they had been in direct telephone contact with their handlers in Kandahar during the operation. The day after the attack, the BLA headquarters in Aino Mina were bombed.

Karachi police crime scene investigation unit outside Pakistan Stock Exchange after being attacked on 29 June 2020 © Reuters

“Drug traffickers, Taliban commanders, tribal chiefs, police officials – everyone in Kandahar is involved in a booming killing industry,” Sanauallah Noorzai, a tribal elder in Kandahar, told Nikkei Asia. “Just pay and hire an assassin to kill anyone in the area.”

Interestingly, so far no one has claimed responsibility for the recent deadly attacks on Baloch militants in Afghanistan.

The escalation in violence could support Pakistan’s longstanding view that Indian-backed Baloch militants are using Afghan territory to launch attacks on Pakistan.

In November, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, held a joint press conference with his country’s military. Qureshi claims to have evidence of India assisting Baloch militants with “terrorist” activities launched from Afghan soil targeting Chinese interests in Pakistan. New Delhi and Kabul both dismissed the allegations as “fabricated.”

Pakistan has raised the issue of Afghanistan-based Baloch militants during peace talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban. They have asked for guarantees that Baloch militants will not be able to launch future attacks from Afghanistan.

Afghan forces are responsible for security along the side of the tough and dangerous border with Pakistan. © Getty Images

“It appears that the attack on the Baloch group on Afghan soil was the result of an agreement on security cooperation and intelligence sharing between Pakistan and Afghanistan under pressure from the United States,” a former Afghan diplomat who served in Pakistan told the Nikkei on condition. anonymity. In 2019, the US added BLA to its global terrorist list, primarily at Pakistan’s request.

Last year, a number of Pakistani Taliban commanders, especially Sheikh Khalid Haqqani and Qari Saifullah Peshawari, died in Afghanistan, including in Kabul, in various ways, the Afghan diplomat said.

Pakistani Taliban leaders, like many Baloch militants, also took refuge in Kunar and Khost provinces on the Afghan border after avoiding a Pakistani military operation.

Some analysts believe that after establishing contact with the Afghan Taliban, Beijing wanted to target the Baloch group in Afghanistan. Beijing has been involved in a variety of security issues, including separating the Taliban from Muslim separatist groups in Xinjiang province and protecting Chinese investment in West Asia.

Although the Afghan Taliban has denied involvement in the December killings, analysts believe China can hire Taliban commanders to target Baloch militants.

A container truck near the city of Quetta, Pakistan. China’s Belt and Road Initiative aims to promote trade relations with West Asia and beyond. © Reuters

CNN reported on December 31 that President Donald Trump recently received unconfirmed Chinese intelligence offering payments to non-state actors in Afghanistan for attacking US soldiers.

On Monday, the head of the Afghanistan National Security Directorate told the Afghan parliament that at least ten Chinese nationals suspected of spying for Beijing were detained in December in Kabul. The agents suspected were pardoned and deported.

A security official in Islamabad said that with the recent increased cooperation between Iran and Pakistan, and work underway to fence their 900 km long common border, Baloch militants are increasingly moving their hideouts to Afghanistan.

For years, Iran and Pakistan have blamed each other for failing to eradicate the militants who have taken refuge along the border. Pakistani intelligence has been closely monitoring Baloch militant groups in Balochistan’s Panjgur, Kecch and Gwadar districts – an area on the border with Iran, the official said.


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Pakistani army prepares to gain Belt and Road authority | Instant News

KARACHI – Pakistan will pass a law that will place the supranational body overseeing the $ 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s main Belt and Road Initiative, under the control of the Pakistan Army which will also gain immense power. .

A parliamentary committee earlier this month passed the CPEC Authorities 2020 Bill despite strong opposition from some lawmakers. According to Junaid Akbar, chairman of the parliamentary committee, the bill will be submitted to parliament for a final vote in the second week of December.

The Pakistani government under Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan’s ruling party Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which are seen as aligned with military interests, have been working for months to get the bill through the committee. The proposed law seeks to restore the controversial CPEC Authority – which has been closed since the end of the presidential order in May.

If enacted, the law will shift control of the CPEC project from the ministry of planning and development run by the civilian bureaucracy to the CPEC Authority headed by retired army General Asim Saleem Bajwa. In addition, Bajwa will report directly to the prime minister instead of the ministry and replace the planning minister as co-chair of the joint Pakistan-China committee.

Even though the presidential order has ended, Bajwa continues to lead the CPEC Authority as chair, a situation that has led opposition legislators to question the legality of his position. In a briefing to the committee, the planning ministry denied having a chairperson of the CPEC Authority; they also denied that they gave Bajwa a salary or allowance.

Retired General Asim Saleem Bajwa is on the brink of gaining the power to carry out investigations into any incumbent he considers not cooperating with the CPEC Authority. © Getty Images

Outside observers say intrigue reveals a military proclaiming itself to be an attempt by the elected government to find its footing.

“Civil leadership [under Khan and PTI], who never held national power until winning the 2018 election, has struggled with public policy on multiple levels, “Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank, told Nikkei Asia was seen in part as a play of military power to asserts greater influence over key projects that are believed to be more eligible for supervision.

“In Pakistan, retired military officers often stay close to their former employers, and the military can exert influence through these retirees. [officers]. So, while General Bajwa formally reports to the civilian leadership, one cannot ignore the influence his former boss will exert over his decisions and actions. “

The CPEC authority was originally formed in 2019 by a presidential order that passed through parliament, just before Prime Minister Imran Khan went to China for the third time in a year to appease China due to a lack of progress along economic corridors.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, left, greets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in October 2019, right after the presidential order creating the CPEC Authority. (Photo courtesy of Government of Pakistan)

The CPEC project came to a halt for months after Khan took power in 2018, mainly due to allegations of corruption related to the handling of the project by the previous government. There are also accusations that the deal unfairly benefits Beijing. Khan’s government is struggling to overcome twin deficits and unsustainable foreign debt. Prior to his election, the former cricketer had been a vocal critic of the corridor, citing a lack of transparency.

But with Bajwa at the helm and Khan now making CPEC the cornerstone of its development plans for Pakistan, CPEC’s power and transportation projects have begun.

Since its inception, the CPEC Authority has drawn criticism from opposition parties, notably the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party, which advocate strengthening of the existing civilian institutions involved in CPEC.

Parties allied to the bill have also raised brazen opposition to the military’s role in politics. They have organized countrywide rallies under an alliance called the Pakistan Democratic Movement, alleging that the ruling PTI had framed them in a bogus corruption case with the backing of the army.

Supporters of the Pakistani Democratic Movement raise flags as they listen to their leaders during anti-government rallies in Karachi on October 18, 2020. © Reuters

The proposed law is controversial for two reasons: It grants CPEC Authority officials impunity, rendering them responsible for the tens of billions of dollars that would be spent on corridor projects and placing them outside the purview of Pakistani courts. In addition, the bill stipulates that if a public official does not cooperate with the CPEC Authority, the chairperson will have the power to order an investigation into the incumbent.

“The lack of oversight and regulation by civilian authorities is worrisome, as it allows the CPEC Authority to operate with impunity and is not accountable to elected officials,” said Kugelman. “Some might argue that taking CPEC’s portfolio from an inexperienced civilian leadership and putting it in military hands would make CPEC policy more efficient. Maybe so, but also make CPEC policy less democratic.”

“The military wants CPEC authority when the project starts [in 2015], but the PML-N government is against it, “said Ayesha Siddiqa, a researcher at the SOAS South Asia Institute at the University of London who has written extensively on the Pakistani Army’s business interests.” They argue that authority will add to the extra bureaucracy. Now, the CPEC Authority [under the army’s control] was established to streamline the share and control of the military. “

According to the Pakistan Army’s official website, the Frontier Works Organization, the construction and engineering armed forces, “has built 3,797 km of roads” in the last 30 years, “in addition to preparing 8 completely new and upgraded airfields.”

Said Siddiqa: FWO “has a contract for road construction as part of CPEC, and has also registered an interest in copper mining. So, any mining that will be carried out under the rubric of CPEC, the FWO will benefit.”


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Pakistan will placate the Belt and Road opposition with more projects | Instant News

KARACHI – To quell stiff opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, key to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government launched a major development package for the country’s south-western Balochistan Province. .

Khan announced the package during a visit to Turbat, 160 km northeast of the port city of Gwadar, a major preparation point for the economic corridor. The Prime Minister’s Accelerated Development Package for South Balochistan, as it is called, consists of projects worth tens of billions of Pakistani rupees.

The package aims to create 120,000 jobs, build 1,100 km of roads, build 210 health units, expand Turbat International Airport and provide gas and electricity to 320,000 households in southern Balochistan.

This includes loans for 2,000 fishermen to buy boats and funds to build 16 dams to irrigate 60,700 hectares of land. The plan also includes building part of the M8 highway, a project already part of an ongoing $ 50 billion economic corridor project.

“China’s annual trade is $ 2 trillion and Gwadar will link Pakistan with this trade,” Khan said at a ceremony marking the start of the program in Turbat.

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The official aim of the package is to bring southern Balochistan on par with other Pakistanis in terms of development. However, insiders say another goal is to silence opposition to the economic corridor, which is strongest in the Makran division in South Balochistan.

In May 2019, the Pearl Continental Hotel, near the port of Gwadar, was attacked by Baloch separatists. Last month, a military convoy escorting Oil and Gas Development Co. employees. be targeted in the same area.

Malik Siraj Akbar, a South Asia analyst based in Washington, believes Makran has been the epicenter of the Baloch resistance to economic corridors and the Belt and Road in recent years. “It is important to deal with local people’s grievances and lead them to rally support for CPEC,” Akbar told Nikkei Asia.

Other experts are skeptical the development package will serve its purpose.

“I doubt that the announcement of a new aid package by the Pakistani government for the Makran division will end opposition attacks on Chinese interests,” said Jeremy Garlick, assistant professor of international relations at the University of Economics in Prague. He added that although some local residents were happy, the opposition groups which strongly oppose the building of Gwadar in China will not change their minds overnight based on the investment pledge, as they will see this package as an attempt to “buy into their agreement.”

There is also political opposition to the way the package was announced. “People in northern Balochistan will feel discriminated against because of that [the announcement of] a targeted development package in southern Balochistan, “said Aslam Bhootani, who represents the Balochistan coastal belt in the Pakistan National Assembly. He told Nikkei that the elected representatives were not appointed before finalizing the package south of Balochistan.

Bhootani argues that building a highway and expanding the airport under the package will do little to help people in the region, who lack water and the means to make a living. He suggested that the package should include a way to import electricity and gas into the Makran region from Iran, while applying for an exemption from US sanctions on Iran.

As Pakistan is still negotiating with the International Monetary Fund to proceed with the $ 6 billion Fund Extension Facility suspended in February, experts say it is a mystery where the government will find funding for the South Balochistan package. The facility was suspended after Pakistan failed to comply with IMF requests to raise electricity prices and impose additional taxes, fearing a public backlash.

Garlick is also skeptical. “It’s hard to see where a cash-strapped government will get that kind of money unless the funds come indirectly from China,” he told the Nikkei.

Akbar is more hopeful, saying the government often makes big promises about projects and then forgets about them. But according to him the South Balochistan project is different. “This project appears to be a priority for Islamabad to see if they can create a region in Balochistan that is modern, thriving and welcomes CPEC. The South Balochistan project has the support of Islamabad and it is a priority for the Pakistani government to eradicate the ongoing insurgency and clear up areas of violence separatists, “said Akbar.

He added, with that context, the packages might be disbursed sooner than previously promised.


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Pakistan’s Belt and Road Railroad runs into bottlenecks because China charges low fares | Instant News

KARACHI – Main Line Project 1, or ML-1, railroad, the largest in China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Pakistan, ran into trouble because Beijing was reluctant to fund the project at the 1% interest rate Islamabad demanded.

ML-1 is the largest initiative in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, with a price tag of $ 6.8 billion. With a length of 2,655 km, it connects Karachi in the South to Peshawar in North Pakistan. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the federal minister of railways, claims that ML-1 will provide jobs for 150,000 people in Pakistan.

The country will invest 10% of the project costs as equity, and will cover the remaining 90% through Chinese loans under the CPEC framework. Only Chinese companies are eligible to bid on the project, according to state-owned newspaper China Daily.

This will be implemented in three stages as the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, does not allow Pakistan to borrow more than $ 2.5 billion at one time, as part of an Extended Fund Facility to help address structural imbalances by strengthening foreign reserves.

According to Pakistan Railways, the first phase of work is scheduled to start from January 2021. However, after the hesitation shown by Beijing in agreeing to the loan terms, the ML-1 project is unlikely to start on schedule.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan before meeting in the Great Hall of the People on April 28, 2019 in Beijing. © Getty Images

Experts believe Beijing used the tactic of procrastination so as not to end up agreeing to a bad deal.

“Beijing doesn’t want to say no [to ML-1], he wants to appear committed in Pakistan, but at the same time he realizes the risky environment for Chinese investment, “said Jeremy Garlick, assistant professor at the Jan Masaryk Center of International Studies at Prague University of Economics and Business.” Instead of rejecting the request, China delaying by offering investment but creating obstacles for the final deal is to delay things, “Garlick told Nikkei Asia.

Krzysztof Iwanek, head of the Asian Research Center at the Warsaw War Studies University, believes that often what is presented globally as ‘Chinese investment’ turns out to be Chinese loans. “CPEC is also being built through Chinese loans,” Iwanek told the Nikkei, adding it was no surprise that Beijing was looking to profit from most of the CPEC projects.

Andrew Small, a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund in the United States, is of the view that China has been flexible with Pakistan at the back, but has generally become a little tougher on the initial terms of the deal. “This is partly because [China] want[s] to ensure that the project is viable enough to make financial sense even under the tougher conditions, “Small told the Nikkei.” They are consistently reluctant to cut interest rates on new or existing projects but are consistently willing to inject financing into the Pakistani economy when needed, “he said.

Against this backdrop, Pakistan has secured a temporary debt relief of $ 3.2 billion under the G-20 COVID-19 Debt Service Suspension Initiative. Although a small amount given Pakistan’s foreign debt, it will give Islamabad some breathing room at a time when Beijing is showing its reluctance to fund infrastructure projects in Pakistan.

Garlick, author of “The Impact of China Belt and Road Initiative: From Asia to Europe,” believes that G-20 debt relief can temporarily stem the tidal currents, but cannot hide that Pakistan needs a long-term solution to overcome it. chronic shortage of foreign reserves. “If conditions get very difficult, Pakistan may have to step back and accept Chinese loans at interest rates that are close to the rates set by China,” he said.

China’s opaque loans to Pakistan are also an obstacle in Pakistan getting further loans from Western countries. “Global lenders want greater transparency about what China is doing before it is willing to take certain actions on its own – they don’t want to be in a position to de facto provide guarantees to Chinese lenders,” Small said.

With no further possibility of obtaining loans from Western countries, Islamabad has no choice but to seek them from China for projects deemed economically significant, as not all Chinese-backed projects have stalled: the Orange Lahore Metro Train, the first. in Pakistan a metro rail service built at a cost of $ 1.6 billion under the CPEC framework, launched a passenger service on Sunday.

But experts doubt the final economic success of the ML-1 project will increase Pakistan’s foreign debt by $ 6 billion.

Small said that like many large railroad projects, the ML-1 would not generate significant direct profits. Its success depends essentially on conveying another positive externality. For example, it will reduce shipping costs and times for large shipments within Pakistan. It could also help revive the country’s railways, which were on the brink of collapse.

Garlick shares the same view. “Why is the railroad line generating 150,000 jobs? It will generate some jobs, but it is unlikely the effect will be as red as the Pakistani government claims,” ​​he said.

He added that the Pakistani government’s claims about Chinese investment and CPEC in general had been exaggerated from the start. “There is a track record on the Pakistani side claiming that CPEC will be a ‘game changer’, but so far after five years there is no sign of any kind of game being changed,” he said.


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