A provincial politician in Pakistan has linked a deadly explosion at a polio clinic in Quetta to grievances over the planned $46bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
It is a conflict zone and hostile agencies have been carrying out sabotage acts after China-Pak Economic Corridor and other mega projects were announced in the region– Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, Balochistan’s home minister
At least 15 people, 14 of them police, are thought to have died today in a suspected suicide bombing outside a polio vaccination clinic in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province.
The relatively undeveloped province has for decades been riven by an armed separatist insurgency by Balochi nationalists, and more recently by Islamist terror groups.
Health workers on polio vaccination campaigns in Pakistan routinely operate under armed guard because they are targeted by Islamist militants, who view polio vaccination as a Western conspiracy to sterilise Muslim children.
Confirming the incident earlier today, Balochistan’s home minister, Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, linked the attack to the $46bn CPEC.
"It is a conflict zone and hostile agencies have been carrying out sabotage acts after China-Pak Economic Corridor and other mega projects were announced in the region," he told local media.
The CPEC mega-scheme is planned as a 3,000-km network of railways, motorways, oil and gas pipelines, fibre optic cables and a string of power stations running from northwest China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region through Pakistan to the Balochistan town of Gwadar, a strategic port on the Arabian Sea.
One of Pakistan’s poorest regions, Balochistan is rich in minerals and natural gas, but analysts have described how Balochi people resent the central government of Pakistan for siphoning wealth away from the restive region, and how they worry that they will miss out on the benefits of economic development brought by CPEC.
Similar concerns over CPEC have been raised by politicians in the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, prompting the Chinese embassy in Pakistan to call on parties to "strengthen communication and coordination" on CPEC.
Photograph: A Pakistani paramilitary soldier guards the site of a bomb blast near a polio vaccination centre in Quetta on 13 January. At least 15 people were killed (Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images)