Pakistan’s people have reached out to the guest – will Beijing understand that it takes more than smart economic action? Photo: Gilbert Kolonko
Chinese Workers Bash Their Chaperones – This new scandal of Chinese citizens in Pakistan plays into the hands of all those who consider Beijing’s activities in the region to be those of a colonial power – only China can still help Pakistan in this case
Images are currently running in the Pakistani media showing Chinese engineers and trench workers in Pakistan’s Punjab province beating up police officers who had been assigned to protect them – but the reason seems to be camp fever rather than colonial posturing. According to local police, it all started when the 30 or so Chinese workers tried to leave their camp on the highway between the cities of Bahawalpur and Faisalabad after work without taking their escort with them. When the Pakistani policemen tried to stop them, the Chinese workers attacked them. Several cell phone recordings show that the mainly plainclothes guards were noticeably restrained, but the Chinese workers nevertheless launched further attacks on the workers.
In early April, a 46-year-old Chinese businessman was deliberately shot dead in his parked car in the southern port metropolis of Karachi – he was traveling without his Pakistani escort (cf. Dead Chinese in Pakistan. This was followed by renewed police protection for the at least 10.000 Chinese nationals working on the new Silk Road in Pakistan.
The last two foreigners murdered in Pakistan were also Chinese. In early February 2017, the two engineers in southwestern Quetta in Balochistan were allegedly kidnapped by IS and killed shortly thereafter. This explains why the Pakistani police this time consistently forbade their subjects to go out on their own.
In the Punjab region, temperatures are already close to 40 degrees Celsius and Chinese workers are sometimes housed for months in modest shelters or tents. Entertainment is also in short supply at the often remote construction sites in Muslim Pakistan. Only empty alcohol bottles near Chinese workers’ camps all over the country are evidence of one of the few diversions for the guests in the culturally foreign country – in some regions even a lively alcohol trade with the local population has emerged.
Pakistan is a hard country – and the predominantly modest population is used to suffering. Photo: Gilbert Kolonko
The Chinese, too, are just people who don’t put up with everything, blob because their People’s Party envisioned it that way on the friction board some 20 years ago: A 2500-kilometer corridor through Pakistan with trenches and pipelines from the northern Kunjerab Pass to the port on the Arabian Sea, where Beijing is draftily building a deep-sea port in Gwadar with billions of dollars. For this purpose, small Chinese states within the state with Chinese enterprises are to be created throughout Pakistan.
Naturally, Pakistan’s partner should also benefit from Chinese involvement: Power plants and new trams are being built on the edge of the Silk Road corridor, paid for by the host with Chinese loans. The (corrupt) Pakistani politicians were easily persuaded to sign the treaties, which were unfavorable for Pakistan (cf. China buys Pakistan).
The purchase became cheaper for Beijing because Pakistan had become tainted with the Western world, as the Pakistani army could not refrain from supporting the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan and sending Pakistani extremists into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. But in this game of Pakistani army, the first problems start in Beijing’s plans:
Although, unlike the West, they have never allowed themselves to be driven to open criticism of Pakistan, this does not change the fact that Chinese in Pakistan have also become targets of jihadists and resistance groups. Simply because they know that by attacking the Chinese they can harm the Pakistani state.
Even where there is plenty of water: nothing but problems. Photo: Gilbert Kolonko
Pakistan’s corrupt leaders have made many enemies in their own country in the 70 years since the country’s existence – they lost East Pakistan as early as 1971 because they treated the Bengali Pakistanis like second-class citizens. For nearly 40 years, those responsible have waged a war of oppression against the people of Balochistan, the country’s flattest and roughest province.
The areas near the border with Afghanistan, the so-called FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), are still governed by a political envoy from the capital Islamabad, as they were in British colonial times. To this end, the Pakistani army has also used these areas to hide and train Islamic extremists in order to bring a Pakistan-friendly regime to power in Afghanistan.
But in the tribal areas of the FATA, a movement is also emerging that is rebelling against the will of the rulers in Islamabad. The people of Pakistan’s northernmost province, Gilgit-Baltistan, also want to finally receive all civil rights. But out of pure wishful thinking, those responsible refuse to recognize the disputed region, which is part of the Kashmir conflict, as a full-fledged province of the country. For if this were to happen, Pakistan would at the same moment accept that the Indian-administered part of Kashmir belonged to India (cf. The solution of the Kashmir conflict lies in Gilgit-Baltistan).
Pakistan is completely run down – even exports to the country’s secret sixth province, Afghanistan, have plummeted since Pakistani generals began using Afghan refugees in Pakistan as leverage against Kabul. Since 1947, the population of Pakistan has increased sevenfold to 210 million. Yet, despite having the world’s grossest meltwater resources (above the polar zone), the country has the third grossest water problems on earth. Every year 250 die alone.000 young children die as a result of contaminated drinking water. The same number of drug abuse. In addition, air pollution and adulterated food claim hundreds of thousands of lives.
Years of support for the religionists in order to maintain power have led to the country becoming more and more Islamized. However, it should not be forgotten that this began as early as 1979: At that time, American and Saudi dollars were used to finance nearly 30.000 Islamic schools to breed religious fanatics who will wage jihad against the "incredible" Soviet soldiers could be sent to Afghanistan – the foundation stone for the involuntary creation of the Taliban and al-Qaida.
If more stones get rolling, there could be a rude awakening from the Silk Straw dream in Pakistan. Photo: Gilbert Kolonko
Beijing never had anything even remotely like this in mind – at the most, Pakistani politicians and generals can be accused of colonial behavior. Beijing is acting in Pakistan by purely economic means in order to gain strategic advantages, of course. However, the problems in Pakistan are too gross and deep-rooted for economic refinements alone to lead to success. If Beijing finally starts to work out a plan for the Chinese to win the hearts of the Pakistani people and help them get better in all areas as quickly as possible, China could do great things in the region. But that would first cost a lot of its own money, not just loans.
China is also the only player that can be trusted to mediate successfully in the conflict between Delhi and Islamabad.
The latest attack by Chinese workers on their Pakistani employers was not the first. The fact that the police officers hardly fought back had more to do with the fact that they feared being punished by their superiors – in the current case in Punjab, no Chinese workers were arrested, but 9 police officers were suspended. The right to hospitality is a high value in Pakistani culture, which includes forgiving the guest for mistakes. But China should not consider this a permanent state of affairs. Pakistan is a harsh, hard country, with predominantly humble people who are used to suffering. So far it is "only" Extremists and resisters who target the Chinese. But if large segments of the population turn against the Chinese guests, Beijing will quickly be in deep trouble in Pakistan – and it will be really expensive.