Terrorism Is Now Hurting Ties with Iron Brother China

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Jihad and terrorism have long hurt Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors and its western partners but now it is hurting relations with Iron Brother China. Pakistan’s law-enforcement agencies may have completed an investigation into the March Dasu terror attack against Chinese nationals, but this has failed to impress Chinese authorities who are demanding a large-scale anti-terrorism operation, like Zarb-i-Azb, against the militants.

While China has supported Pakistan in international fora, Beijing has also fully supported the Financial Action Task Force’s recommendation that Pakistan comply with its counterterrorism financing and anti-money laundering commitments. The maximum favour the Chinese officials extended to Pakistan in this case was to support the country’s need for more time to fulfil the financial watchdog’s requirements.

As an editorial in Dawn noted, “The reports of China’s demand for a massive counterterrorism operation are reflective of Beijing’s concerns over the escalating threats to Chinese nationals working on CPEC-related and other projects in this country. Pakistan has a history of launching such counterterrorism operations at the request of China. The Lal Masjid operation in Islamabad in 2007 was launched after Chinese President Hu Jintao called Gen Musharraf. Prior to the operation, women students of the Jamia Hafsa madressah had kidnapped Chinese health workers who they believed were commercial sex workers.”

The Pakistani state’s argument is that it is difficult to undertake a military operation at a time when Pakistan’s economy is in the throes of a deep crisis. However, as the editorial warned, “it seems that the Pakistani leadership is underestimating the demands of its friends for a fully secure environment for their investment. This is not only about China, a major investor in Pakistan, but also other friends of the country, such as Saudi Arabia, which have concerns similar to Beijing’s when it comes to putting their money here. These states are taking security concerns very seriously.”

The editorial also warned that “the state has fanned the flames of intolerance in society, and this has eroded the social fabric and made conditions insecure for the minorities and for those who think differently from the state. Intolerance has become a huge hurdle in the way of economic progress, including foreign investment. How will the Chinese forget the incident last year when one of their nationals barely escaped lynching by a mob at the Dasu Hydropower Project site? The Chinese official was simply asking employees to complete their work before going for prayers.”

In conclusion the editorial called upon the Pakistani state “to abandon its approach of pacifying the sentiments of the hardliners, and instead, stand with the weak and the victims, regardless of their religion or community.”

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