Security fears over the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) rose over the weekend after 10 workers were fatally shot in southwestern Pakistan while working on link roads.
The attack on the Pakistani labourers happened on Saturday, 13 May around 20km from the port city of Gwadar in Balochistan province, which forms the southern hub of CPEC, a road, rail and pipeline link being built from western China to Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
"All the labourers were shot at close range," senior levies official Muhammad Zareef told Reuters, adding that the shooters had travelled on a motorcycle.
The levies are a paramilitary force overseeing security in Balochistan where police jurisdiction is limited.
Nadeem Javaid, who advises Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government on the CPEC program, told Reuters earlier in the week that the corridor should be operational from June next year, and that Pakistan expects up to 4% of global trade to pass through it by 2020.
But Balochistan presents serious security challenges, as separatist militants in the province have waged a decades-long campaign against the central government for a greater share of the gas-rich region’s resources.
GCR reported last year that militants trying to disrupt CPEC have killed 44 workers since 2014, all of them Pakistani.
Last year it emerged that a special force of 15,000 Pakistani troops had been assembled to guard CPEC projects being carried out by an estimated 13,000 Chinese in Pakistan.
The men killed on Saturday had been working for the provincial government at two separate construction sites three kilometres apart along the same road, Reuters reported.
Two workers wounded in the shootings were taken to hospital where one of them died from his injuries.
The road is part of a network of connecting roads linking the corridor to outlying areas.
No group has admitted responsibility for the shootings.
Image: The attack happened around 20km from the port city of Gwadar in Balochistan province, shown here, CPEC’s southern hub (Madihasalam/Creative Commons)