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Pakistan Army begins fencing of Gwadar zone to protect Chinese assets

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NEW DELHI: Pakistan is fencing off the entire 24-square-kilometer area surrounding the Gwadar port in Balochistan at China’s behest following an increase in attacks against Chinese assets in the region.

The Pakistan army in collaboration with the local authorities would execute the project in what would be a gated enclave under the Gwadar Smart Port City Master Plan, ET has reliably learnt. Authorities plan to have 15,000 acres of land secured with iron barriers in the first phase of the project, claimed persons familiar with the plan.

Beijing has grown apprehensive following Pak Army’s failure to control the rising number of attacks on Chinese projects in Balochistan which houses the entry point of CPEC. The attacks have peaked in 2020. The Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS) or the Baloch People’s Liberation Coalition have stepped up attacks against Pak Army and Chinese nationals.

The gated zone would be equipped with more than 500 high-definition surveillance cameras to keep a close watch on “suspicious activities”. There are even reports that China could introduce a “permit system” to monitor or regulate entry and exit from the zone.

Pak media reports claimed that authorities could even control the movement of the Baloch population living in the surroundings of Gwadar port. The Gwadar seaport in Balochistan, which Pakistan leased out to China’s Overseas Port Holding Company for 40 years, is strategically important for Beijing for its energy needs and maritime influence in the Indian Ocean and reduces its dependence on Malacca Straits.

Sources claimed that the fencing plan has also triggered resentment among the Baloch population and MPs from Balochistan are planning a move in parliament against the Pak Army’s plans.

Addressing a recent press meet, a member of the National Assembly from Gwadar, Mohammad Aslam Bhootani, expressed concern over the decision and said that fencing Gwadar in the name of security will create doubts in the minds of the local population.

Former Senate Chairman and Pakistan People’s Party Senator Mian Raza Rabbani noted in a statement, “The decision of the federal government to fence the port city amounts to divide it into two parts. In an era when the Berlin Wall fell, the city is being divided under the garb of security concerns. It has raised serious concerns amongst people of the area.”

Besides Balochistan, China is also interested in developing Sindh’s coastal areas. The Imran Khan government recently facilitated Chinese investment by establishing a “Pakistan Islands Development Authority.”

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