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China-Pakistan projects won’t be safe if local feelings are ignored

The attack comes on the heels of the Balochistan Liberation Army’s (BLA) failed attempt to enter the Gwadar Port Authority complex on March 20. The complex houses Chinese workers and engineers, as well as Pakistani intelligence offices.

The Majeed Brigade, the BLA’s suicide squad, has carried out terrorist attacks against Chinese economic interests, workers and engineers in Pakistan since 2018.

The latest attack has again targeted Chinese engineers working on the Dasu hydropower project. Last July, the Pakistani government decided to form a task force comprising personnel from the Pakistan Army, Punjab Rangers, Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts, police and levies force to ensure “foolproof” security of the project. Tuesday’s attack will bring the efficacy of the task force into sharp focus and could revive China’s past demand to allow private security companies to protect Chinese nationals and projects in Pakistan.

Pakistan has refused to allow private Chinese security companies to operate in the country, particularly in conflict zones. Sources say the Pakistani authorities fear that allowing private Chinese security companies will not only reflect poorly on their leadership but also strengthen conspiracy theories about CPEC.

Furthermore, some in the West would see the arrival of private Chinese security companies as a precursor to the arrival of People’s Liberation Army troops in Pakistan.

The timing of the attack could not have been worse for Pakistan’s newly formed and fragile coalition government, struggling to revive from a downward economic spiral. It is banking on CPEC’s second phase which involves opening up special economic zones and cooperation in other sectors to revive the economy.

The Baloch separatists view China as a