TTP threatens China BRI Projects
Gwadar Port is the centre of the Beijing’s China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This is part of the so called globe spanning BRI. However the project costing more than USD 50 billion had stalled under Pakistan’s previous government.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who came to power last year, is moving to revive CPEC projects amid an economic crisis punctuated by soaring inflation and dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
Beijing has now made its new investment in Balochistan conditional with security guarantees, and the emerging threat from TTP will be a huge problem.
According to analysts, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) urge to control the country’s south threatens to be a huge problem for restoring multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRO), reported Nikkei Asia.
The Pakistani Taliban, TTP, announced last week that they are building a ‘shadow province’ in the Southwestern province of Balochistan. The region is home to the BRI’s port city of Gwadar and for two decades, it has been a field of low-level separatist insurgency, with Chinese interests targeted for attacks.
TTP has been on a drive to establish its ‘Kalat-Makran’ province. For that, the banned outfit will try to build a parallel government in that region and cover over 40 percent of Balochistan’s area, including a 760-km coastline, as per Nikkei Asia.
A month ago, TTP group attacked a production facility for natural gas and oil in Northwest Pakistan which killed half a dozen police and security guards. The banned group is popular for repeated attacks in the country but they do not formally rule any territory.
Last year, they established another shadow province in the North of Balochistan. Moreover, mostly Pashtuns, an ethnic group that accounts for the bulk of the TTP’s members and senior leadership, occupy that region, according to Nikkei Asia.
A counterterrorism expert at Australia’s Macquarie University, Khuram Iqbal, said, “The government “is making concerted efforts to revitalize CPEC as a means to revive the economy of Pakistan. The new shadow province of TTP will hurt these plans.”
Abdul Basit, another research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore said that the new shadow province may be an attempt to mimic the Taliban’s largely successful drive to run a parallel government in Afghanistan before it retook control of the country in 2021, as per Nikkei Asia.
“TTP is diversifying its network for strategic gains by establishing a new shadow province in Balochistan,” he added.
According to Analysts, this region also covers a 400 km border with Iran, and intensified attacks could scuttle Pakistan’s plans to boost crucial energy imports from its neighbour.
However, the biggest concern could be the threat to the new Chinese investment. For a year now, regional separatist groups have attacked Chinese citizens and business interests.
Moreover, it is still not clear how the banned outfit TTP will coexist with left-wing Baloch separatist militants in the newly established shadow province. But, both have a common enemy in the form of Pakistan’s federal government, while the separatists also have a history of coexisting with the Islamic State group, analyst Baloch said, according to Nikkei Asia.
He further added, “If Baloch separatists can coexist with Islamic State, then they can also do the same with TTP.”
Any collaboration between the militant groups in future attacks can also tighten the Pakistani government’s counterterrorism efforts.
Fakhar Kakakhel, an independent analyst specializing in militancy in Pakistan said, “Pakistan not only needs the support of China but also of other regional power players to contain the security threats emerging from TTP’s new shadow province.”