Most of Chinese in Karachi have converted to Islam and engaged in private businesses. While, majority of Chinese in Karachi who are working as shoemakers and beauticians hailed from Canton. Chinese dentists and restaurant owners originally belong to Hubei and Hakka as well as from Canton or Beijing, respectively. A small number of Chinese are also settled in Punjab (Pakistan), including in Lahore and Islamabad.
In 2007, about 3,500 overseas Chinese engineers and technicians were temporarily residing in Pakistan while working on various Pakistan-China states run projects. In 2009, their number was estimated to be over 5000, including over one thousand living in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan. Presently, in mid-2015, there were 8,112 Chinese working on 210 projects, across the Pakistan.After Karakorum Highway, construction of a deep sea port at Gawadar in Baluchistan was one of major Chinese project in Pakistan. Construction work at Gwadar port started in March 2002 with Chinese aid of US$ 198 million, out of total amount of US$ 248 million required for the construction of phase-I of the port.
China had a threefold interest in extending its assistance to develop Gwadar port viz. to consolidate bilateral relations with Pakistan, diversify and secure its oil import routes and its presences in the Indian Ocean. With this engineers and technicians started pouring in Gwadar.
However, Baluchistan posed a serious threat to Chinese as the province is economically backward, discriminated by Punjabi dominance and it harbored Baluch nationalist sentiments, which reached to its height in 1973-77. Armed attacks on Pakistani military personnel, damaging government property and installations, especially gas pap lines are carried out routinely by Baloch separatists, which also poses a serious security threat to Chinese and their projects in Baluchistan.
Physical security of Chinese engineers stationed in Pakistan has remained a critical issue and cause of concern to Pakistan. Intimidation, physical assault and murder of Chinese engineers and technicians working in Pakistan have been occurring on regular intervals.
It is in the Gwadar where first major casualty of Chinese engineers working in Pakistan took place after militant attacks on May 3, 2004 when three Chinese engineers were killed and six seriously injured in a car bomb. While twelve Chinese engineers were being taken to the project site. It was a major attack on foreigners in Pakistan since eleven French engineers and technicians were killed in Karachi in 2002.
Later, on October 10, 2004, two Chinese engineers working at the site of Gomal Zam dam in South Waziristan Agency on Pakistan-Afghanistan border were kidnapped along with their driver and security guard. While three Chinese, working in Attock Cement Factory were killed on February 15, 2006 in Hub area of Baluchistan, on July 8, 2007 three Chinese were killed and another was injured by unidentified gunmen near Peshawar.
Even Chinese women had also been attacked in Pakistan as on 28, 2012, a Chinese women Jian Hua, along with her Pakistani companion, was shot dead in Peshawar. Subsequently, on June 22, 2013, two Chinese and one Chinese American were killed when a group of nine tourists was attacked in remote area of Gilgit- Baltistan by some gunmen who were in guise of paramilitary forces.
Furthermore, a visiting Chinese engineer was publicly and repeatedly slapped (April 17, 2014) by a policemen at Karachi railway station in full public view. Interestingly, a Pakistani political analyst described the incident as a “latest edition of unpleasant occurrences” with Chinese in Pakistan.
Although during construction of Karakoram Highway in Pakistan during 1960-70 a number of Chinese engineers, technicians and laborers had laid down their lives, but unlike militancy related recent developments in Pakistan they were not killed by the terrorists.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first visit to Pakistan (April 20-21, 2015), two significant bilateral developments took place.
Firstly, China’s mega plans to invest US$ 46 billion for ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan were unveiled by President Xi, and secondly Pakistan divulged its decision to provide security to Chinese people working in Pakistan directly under the control and command of the Pakistan army.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plan for the development of Pakistan’s infrastructure under its ‘One Belt, One Policy’, seeking getting its physically connected to markets in Asia, Middle East, Europe and beyond. The Chinese investments under CPEC included US$ 33.79 in Pakistan’s energy sector, US$ 5.90 billion on constructions of roads from Kasghar-China to Gwadar, Karachi and Hyderabad, US$ 3.69 on railways US$ 1.60 billion in Mass Transit in Lahore, US$ 0.66 billion on further development of Gwadar sea port and US$ 0.04 billion on China-Pakistan Fibre Optics.
Meanwhile, during Chinese President’s visit to Islamabad, security issues remained the focus of talks between President Xi and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who assured President Xi that for Pakistan, China’s security was as important as Pakistan’s security. Pakistan is highly infested with militancy sine last three decades and a number of Chinese working in Pakistan had been causality at the hand of militants, particularly in Baluchistan where China’s biggest project is on. During President Xi’s visit China announced some significant security plans for the safety of over 8,000 Chinese working in Pakistan on US$ 46 billion Chinese aided projects in progress.
Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain, during his meeting (Islamabad, April 21, 2015) informed President Xi that Pakistan army had created a 12,000 strong ‘Special Security Division’ for the security of Chinese nationals working on various projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on the 3,000 km long route, which would be commanded by a Pakistan army officer of the rank of Major General, who will be responsible to the Pakistan Chief of Army.
This special security division for Chinese people in Pakistan would comprise nine army battalions and six wings of the civil armed forces. President Xi was also informed that about 8,000 security personnel had already been deployed for the protection of 8,112 Chinese nationals working on 210 projects in Pakistan.
Significantly, during President Xi visit to Islamabad, rift between Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was also witnessed as the latter remained absent during officials talks and in the ceremony hosted in honour of President Xi, in protest of side lining of his ministry over the issue of formulating security plan exclusively by the Pakistan army to secure economic corridor agreements with China.
While China has been committed to Pakistan about the timely completion of all projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the Pakistan government has also been giving top priority to the physical safety of Chinese people working in the Pakistan at the highest level. In this context, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif personally reviewed and discussed (Islamabad, September 4, 2015) with army chief, General Raheel Sharif the requisite steps for the security of Chinese working on various projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. General Sharif also briefed Nawaz Sharif about deployment of the armed forces at the route of projects.
Notably, the Pakistan government sees an ‘international conspiracy’ and involvement of ‘foreign hand’ in killing Chinese people in Pakistan to derail economic cooperation between China and Pakistan as well as to curtail China’s growing global economic influence.
However, there are domestic reasons also. In Baluchistan, where maximum causalities of Chinese had happened, some nationalist outfits, particularity, the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), are critical of Punjabi dominated Pakistan government’s discriminatory economic and political policies. In addition, the killings of Baloch Shias at the hands of some ISI supported Sunni radical outfits is another reason for unrest in the province.
Meanwhile, Balochistan’s Home Minister Sarfaz Bugti claimed (Quetta-September 7, 2015), that Chief of Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch was believed to be killed in an operation by security forces. It has to be seen whether killing of Dr. Baloch will bring any normalcy in the province and sense of security for Chinese workers in Pakistan.
Thus the main reason of attacks on Chinese and other foreigners is to scare off outsiders from investing in developmental activities in Balochistan, benefits of which are believably to be plundered by outsiders, specially Punjabis, the most imperious community of Pakistan.