BEIJING: Islamabad will set up a special force of approximately 10,000 troops to protect Chinese people and enterprises along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a visiting senior Pakistani diplomat said on Wednesday.
Syed Tariq Fatemi, Special Assistant to the Prime minister for Foreign Affairs, revealed the establishment of the force in reply to Beijing’s security concerns over the increasing number of Chinese involved in more than 200 projects in the country, including 14,000 engineers and technicians, China Daily reported.
“We have decided to create a special force of highly trained military people who will be specially equipped and will have special organizations in concerned ministries backing them,” Fatemi said. “Their task will be to provide the necessary safety and security of Chinese working in Pakistan and the Chinese companies and industries set up there.”
The special assistant added that the move demonstrated the Pakistani government’s strong commitment and that further steps would be taken as needed.
He said there were regular consultations about the issue with China, and that any problems would be addressed.
The CPEC is an ongoing $46 billion project invested in by China that will expand Pakistan’s infrastructure by linking its southwestern port city of Gwadar to China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region via a vast network of highways and railways.
Concerning the potential for differing opinions among local leaders on the routing of the CPEC, Fatemi said Pakistan had reached a national consensus and “to say there is controversy is wrong”.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called a meeting in January to address concerns of different parties over CPEC routes, Fatemi said.
Before the meeting, Pakistani media had reported that political parties in Pakistan were divided over the different routes. The opposition voiced its concerns about the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the ruling party, favouring the eastern route of the corridor running through the PML-N’s stronghold, Punjab. Lawmakers in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region, which is on the western route, have urged the government to include other provinces in the mega project.
It was decided at the meeting that the western route of the corridor would be constructed on a priority basis.
“Of course, all political parties want to push their agenda, all political leaders have their ideas, but everyone was fully supportive of this project at the end of the meeting and everyone was deeply appreciative of China’s assistance in undertaking this massive transformation, which, according to the experts, is going to bring about a win-win situation for nearly 6 billion people in the region,” Fatemi said.