This has brought to the fore the secretly discussed issue of surrender of Pakistan’s autonomy to China by both the civilian government and GHQ, Rawalpindi.

 

New Delhi: In what is being seen as a stand taken by the pro-American group in the Pakistan military against the “surrender” of the country’s strategic interest to China, Pakistan Navy and Pakistan Coast Guard have refused to vacate land that has been promised to Chinese companies by Pakistan’s civilian authorities and generals of GHQ, Rawalpindi for CPEC projects.

This has brought to the fore the well-hidden but secretly discussed issue among the members of the Pakistan military over what they call the “surrender” of Pakistan’s autonomy to China by both the civilian government and GHQ, Rawalpindi.

This refusal by the Pakistan Navy and the Coast Guard to vacate land in the Gwadar area and hand it over to Chinese companies that are stationed there for projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has slowed down the progress of work “considerably”. The chunk of this land that the two wings of the Pakistan military are refusing to vacate is for the construction of Gwadar free zone and Gwadar Eastbay Expressway that are considered to be the most important parts of the entire projects under CPEC.

This stand by the Pakistan Navy, which is led by Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi, was raised by the Chinese officials with the 12 members of the Cabinet Committee on CPEC that had met last month. These 12-member committee is headed by Pakistan’s Minister of Planning, Development and Reform and includes ministers who head Communication, Foreign Affairs, Interior, Law and Justice, Maritime Affairs, Petroleum, Power, Railways and adviser to the Pakistan Prime Minister on Finance, Commerce and Institutional Reforms.

Informed sources said that the total area of the land is around 116 acres, including 72 acres that are in the possession of the Pakistan Navy, while the rest 44 acres are with the Coast Guard. The refusal to hand over the land has led to a situation of confrontation between the Chinese companies on the one side and the GHQ, Rawalpindi on the other, with the civilian authorities including the empowered committee of CPEC and the concerned ministers facing outbursts from both sides.

In the deliberations, which were the second such deliberations on the same issue that were held within 20 days, the Chinese companies expressed their anger over the delay in handing over the land. They also told the Cabinet Committee that it was “surprising” that the Navy and the Coast Guard, which is headed by Brigadier Saqib Qamar, were ignoring even explicit and repeated orders of the empowered committee and the concerned Minister of Defence and Minister of Interior.

The 44 acres that the Pakistan Coast Guard occupies have been earmarked for developing the strategic Eastbay Expressway project which will connect Gwadar port with the Makran coastal highway.

According to testimonies shared in the deliberation, the Coast Guard received compensation for vacating the land but instead of handing it over to the Chinese officials, it started constructing new buildings without even taking the permission of the Minister of Maritime Affairs.

One of the members of the Cabinet Committee on CPEC, who was present during the deliberations, said that the Coast Guard officials were told by the Prime Minister’s Office as well to vacate the land but even then they refused to do so.

Incidentally, the fencing in and around Gwadar city, which had started being put up in the first week of December last year, as reported by this newspaper in its 19 December edition (Pak turning Gwadar into open prison on China’s order) has been stopped after stiff resistance from the local Baloch population. This too has annoyed the Chinese companies that are demanding that the city should be fenced so that Baloch nationalist fighters do not “disrupt” the CPEC projects.