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Hazara murders highlight mounting attacks on Chinese projects in Pakistan

New Delhi |Tuesday, 2021 2:45:06 AM IST
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Amid escalating attacks on Chinese projects in Pakistan, the brutal killing of 11 Hazara coal mine workers by the Islamic State (IS) terror group may have focused on Bostan, the site chosen for a Special Economic Zone under the second phase of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The coal miners belonging to the ethnic Hazara community were killed in Mach, 100 km south of Bostan.

IS, which has claimed responsibility for the attack, has been violently opposing CPEC. In May 2017, the group kidnapped two Chinese nationals from Quetta, and announced their killing the following month. That incident halted the free movement of Chinese nationals in Quetta city.

CPEC, drawing $62 billion in project funding, is the flagship of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - a mammoth trans continental connectivity enterprise that is meant to anchor China's rise as an unrivalled global power.

Under IS ideology, atheist China is a legitimate target, because of its suppression of fellow Muslims - the Uyghur ethnic group in Xinjiang.

Analysts say that the IS deliberately brutalised the killings of the 11 Hazara coal miners to deter China's further involvement in its prestige project. Besides, the murders were meant to incite internal opposition against the Imran Khan government, which has been strategically committed to CPEC.

On January 3, the attackers kidnapped and blindfolded the coal miners. Later they were killed by slitting their throats. The incident became particularly emotive as the terror group released pictures of the slaughter.

The killings have added to the mounting difficulties that have been encountered by CPEC, experts say. "The deteriorating situation in Balochistan is only likely to generate more difficulties for the already problematic implementation of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects in the province," Jeremy Garlick, an assistant professor of international relations at the University of Economics in Prague, was quoted as saying by the website Nikkei Asia.

Predictably, the brutal killings triggered high voltage protests in Quetta, Balochistan's capital, by the Hazara community. The protest ended on Saturday at midnight following the visit by Prime Minister Imran Khan and the decision by the local government to order a high-powered probe.

Observers say that having staked its prestige in CPEC, China is likely to pressure Pakistan to beef up security for Chinese nationals working in the enterprise. With a Pakistani crackdown in the restive province likely, the violation of Human rights of ordinary Balochs is now an imminent possibility.

Under enormous domestic pressure, Khan has sought to deflect blame for the Hazara murders on India. On Sunday, in a conversation with digital media publishers, he asserted that his government had reached the conclusion that India was backing IS to cause turmoil in Pakistan.

(This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

--IANS arm/

( 473 Words)

2021-01-11-20:42:04 (IANS)