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Couple’s abduction exposes risks along China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Chinese media

The state-controlled Global Times said the kidnapping was a worrying trend and marks the CPEC with security questions.

world Updated: Jun 13, 2017 10:27 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
China Pakistan Economic Corridor,couple abducted,Chinese
Pakistani security officials examine the site of a powerful explosion in Mastung district, some 20 km south of the provincial capital Quetta on May 12.(AFP FILE PHOTO)

The kidnapping of a young Chinese couple teaching Mandarin in Balochistan, the centre of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has set off alarm bells in the government, with the state-controlled media saying the abduction “highlights risks” of the project.

The couple was abducted from Quetta’s Jinnah Town in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province on Wednesday.

On Thursday, China condemned the kidnapping, saying it “attaches high importance to the safety of Chinese citizens overseas”.

A day later, the state media said the kidnapping was a worrying trend and marks the CPEC with security questions.

“No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping yet. But it is worth noting that Islamic militants have often carried out abductions of foreigners on Pakistani soil, either for ransom or to get publicity for their cause,” the tabloid Global Times said in an article.

“Chinese people have also been targeted occasionally, despite the friendly relations between the two countries,” it said.

The daily noted that the Balochistan province is at the “centre” of CPEC, which is expected to link China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the southern coast of the country.

“But the restive region has seen frequent violence committed by Islamic terrorists and separatists, and the Belt and Road program is often exposed to potential threats. Last year, a Chinese engineer was injured in a bomb attack in southern Pakistan and a separatist group, the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they were targeting the CPEC,” the Global Times article said.

It said Beijing has urged Islamabad to step up its efforts to protect Chinese citizens in the country, especially after the attacks and the security risks.

“The Pakistani government has deployed 15,000 military personnel to protect projects under the economic corridor,” the paper said.

“Terrorism, political infighting and attempts by local political parties to divide the ‘CPEC cake’ have already caused substantial delays,” Shi Zhiqin, the executive dean of the newly opened One Belt, One Road Strategic Institute in Beijing wrote a few months ago in a widely circulated paper titled ‘The Benefits and Risks of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’.

Terrorism is one among multiple problems and “there have been many terrorist attacks in Pakistan,” Shi told HT earlier this month.

“The first of these risks is terrorism, which has long affected Pakistan’s internal security and stability. Although Pakistan has worked hard to strike at religious extremism and terrorist activities, its problems with terrorism have not substantially improved in recent years... Indeed, there already have been numerous occasions when Chinese engineers working in Pakistan have been attacked or even lost their lives,” Shi wrote.

First Published: May 26, 2017 09:48 IST