03/02/2018, 13.56

Security threats discouraging investments in Gwadar Port

The Pakistani government has deployed a 15,000-strong security force to protect Chinese projects. Since 2003, the province of Balochistan has been hit by scores of attacks. Opposition lawmaker slams the use of Chinese prisoners as cheap labour.

Gwadar (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The climate of broad insecurity in the Pakistani province of Balochistan and the presence of thousands of policemen "could discourage investment” in the port of Gwadar, the flagship of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), this according to several foreign business people in Pakistan for the inauguration of the new commercial port facilities funded by Beijing, which views it as a bridgehead on its New Silk Road.

On Monday, almost 8,000 delegates attended the opening of the Gwadar Exhibition Centre. The ceremony included cultural shows and a firework display.

Many investors were however more concerned about the special 15,000-strong security force deployed to protect the port and the hotel where the delegations from about 100 countries were staying.

"Nobody will come and invest in this climate of fear," said Muhammad Zafar Paracha, director at the Pakistani partner of MoneyGram International.

Balochistan, in southern Pakistan, is a radical Islamist stronghold with various radical groups present, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

About 900 people have been killed and 1,800 wounded in suicide attacks in province since 2003, this according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which monitors Islamist groups and terror attacks in South Asia.

The area is mostly off limits to outsiders with journalists and visitors closely monitored by Pakistan's intelligence agencies.

Experts note that Islamabad has every interest in protecting Beijing's investments, which are worth about some US$ 60 billion to the CPEC.

The once sleepy sea town is expected to become the country’s first deep seaport. However, many Pakistanis are critical of the project.

At the top of their list is the fact that China is getting the most out of the deal. Chinese companies are in fact not employing local workers. Overall, about 400,000 Chinese are living in Pakistan, almost all involved in the CPEC.

Some Pakistanis complain that the presence of Chinese workers has increased the crimes rate in Pakistan. Recently, several Chinese nationals were arrested in connection with ATM skimming frauds in Pakistan. Millions of rupees in cash were seized by police.

Yesterday, an opposition lawmaker also complained about Beijing's long-standing business model is based on the use of inmates from Chinese prisons as low-cost workers.

"I have learnt that prisoners have been brought from Chinese jails and they are constructing roads. They can be involved in crimes, so, there should be proper security arrangements," warned Mohammad Yousuf Talpur, a Member of the National Assembly Nawab for the Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP).

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