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Pakistani minister: Islamabad would like Beijing to talk to Kabul on terrorism


Islamabad would like Beijing to talk to Kabul on terrorism, Pakistani minister says
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Pakistan’s minister for planning and development, Ahsan Iqbal, says his country is not opposed to Afghanistan’s inclusion in a Chinese-funded mega-development project, but would like Beijing to persuade Kabul to crack down on terrorist groups operating on its soil against Islamabad.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s new government, which took office in March, is anxious to revive the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC – a roughly $62 billion flagship project that is part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative – which has suffered a slump in recent years due to political, economic, and security problems in Pakistan.

Iqbal recently met officials in China to prepare for Sharif’s upcoming visit aimed at quickening the pace and broadening the scope of CPEC.

Securing CPEC

Threats against Chinese nationals have emerged as a major impediment to CPEC’s progress in recent years. Since 2021, at least 17 Chinese nationals have died in targeted attacks in Pakistan.

In late March, five Chinese workers and their Pakistani driver were killed when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into their bus. Pakistani authorities identified the attacker as an Afghan national and claimed the attack was planned in Afghanistan.

"I think this is a cause for concern," Iqbal said about the alleged use of Afghan territory for attacks on Chinese citizens in Pakistan.

Speaking exclusively to VOA, Iqbal said his government would like Beijing to use its influence to push Kabul to take action against cross-border terrorists.

"We also hope that China would also persuade Afghanistan because Afghanis [Afghans] also listen to the Chinese government in the region," he said.

The Afghan Taliban deny giving space to terrorists, but research suggests terrorist groups have a presence there.

When asked if Islamabad had formally requested Beijing to push the Afghan Taliban to curb anti-Pakistan terrorist groups, Iqbal referred VOA to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The minister rejected the idea that attacks on Chinese nationals were a failure on Pakistan’s part, where a special military unit as well as local law enforcement are tasked with ensuring their safety.

"When you’re fighting a war against terrorism, terrorists always find a way," Iqbal said, adding that major powers like the United States and Russia were also victims.

Chinese officials are pressing Pakistan publicly to ensure better safety of their workers and to hold those responsible for the killings accountable.

Iqbal said Beijing was right to demand better security for its nationals and that it knows Pakistan is doing more.

"But the Chinese government has said it very clearly that such cowardly incidents will not deter them from pursuing CPEC," he added.

Washington vs. Beijing

Chinese funding, while welcome, comes largely in the form of expensive loans. According to AidData, a research unit based at the College of William and Mary in the U.S. state of Virginia, between 2000 to 2021, Pakistan’s cumulative debt to China stood at $67.2 billion.