Chinese Vice Premier Lands In Islamabad To Mark Decade Of CPEC

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Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng landed in Islamabad on Sunday on a three-day visit to mark the tenth anniversary of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The vice premier will reportedly attend a planned ceremony as the chief guest to celebrate the decade since the two countries signed the project.

Federal Ministers Rana Sanaullah and Ahsan Iqbal received Lifeng at the Islamabad Airport. The Pakistani Foreign Office said in a media statement the Chinese dignitary will be in Pakistan from Sunday to Tuesday. He will also meet with Pakistani Premier Shehbaz Sharif and President Arif Alvi during the visit.

The Foreign Office acknowledged Lifeng’s “prominent role” in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, of which CPEC is a flagship project. The FO said that as the Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission from 2017 to 2023, Lifeng was “instrumental in planning and execution of multiple CPEC projects in Pakistan.”

The Chinese dignitary’s visit to Pakistan is going to be a highly televised event. The government has reportedly made special arrangements for his stay in Pakistan and has planned a ceremony to mark the decade since the signing of the CPEC. The district magistrate of Islamabad, where Lifeng is staying, has also announced that schools, colleges, universities, companies, markets, shops, and all commercial banks will be closed on July 31 and August 1.

The CPEC, a collection of infrastructure projects under construction mainly in Balochistan, has been mired in controversy since its inception in 2013. Baloch nationalists and “pro-independence” groups have vehemently opposed the initiative, labeling it as an “imperialist” project to exploit the natural resources of Balochistan. They argue that China and Pakistan will reap the benefits of the project while the people of Balochistan would barely receive a pittance.

Baloch armed groups have launched multiple attacks targeting Chinese nationals associated with the CPEC. The Balochistan Liberation Army’s Majeed Brigade has carried out multiple successful and high-profile attacks on CPEC projects and Chinese nationals in Gwadar, Dalbandin, and Karachi. The frequent attacks have reportedly caused fissures in the relationship between Beijing and Islamabad, with the former demanding more security for its citizens which the latter cannot adequately provide.

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