Why Belt and Road Projects in Pakistan Are Being Targeted?

As the security environment in China's neighbourhood is rapidly deteriorating, alternative strategies are now needed to protect economic projects.
On the one hand, Islamabad is seeking Beijing's support to sustain Belt and Road investments in the country, while on the other hand it is struggling to ensure the security of Chinese personnel working on these projects.
The escalation of violence from transnational militant groups based in Afghanistan and Pakistan is also hampering Pakistan's plans to support and develop CPEC.


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Pakistan Army Spokesman Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry said on 7 May 2024 that Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an offshoot of the Afghan Taliban, was behind the recent attacks targeting Chinese projects.[1] On 26 March 2024, following the recent suicide attack that killed five Chinese engineers, the activities of terrorist organisations in Pakistan became a topic of discussion again. 

In November 2023, the TTP had threatened to target China’s Belt and Road Projects in the country if the government did not lift the 5 per cent tax.[2] Especially after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in July 2021, regional states, especially China, Pakistan, Russia and Central Asian countries, have started to experience significant difficulties in the fight against the ‘three evils’ (terrorism, separatism and extremism).

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), one of the most ambitious projects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative with an estimated value of 65 billion dollars, has been one of the main targets of these organisations. Although it has happened before, a series of terrorist attacks against Chinese labourers working on the project continue to take place.

The most prominent of these organisations is the TTP. In the summer of 2021, after the Taliban took control of the region, the Pakistani government launched an intensive fight against the TTP, the Pakistani branch of the Taliban. In response, the organisation killed nine Chinese workers near the construction of the Dasu hydroelectric dam in Pakistan’s Besham district. A few days before this attack, the Pakistan Air Force had bombed a TTP group in Afghanistan.[3] After all, while Pakistan’s fight against terrorist organisations continues, China’s economic projects are also under attack.

On the one hand, Islamabad is seeking Beijing’s support to sustain its Belt and Road investments in the country, while on the other hand, it is struggling to ensure the security of Chinese personnel working on these projects. The fact that these terrorist attacks occur simultaneously or in a coordinated manner leads to suspicions that there may be the influence of foreign powers. Indeed, simultaneously with the attack on the Chinese convoy on 26 March 2024, the Balochistan Liberation Army, a separatist movement operating in the southwestern part of Pakistan, attacked Chinese investments in the port city of Gwadar, another pillar of CPEC.[4] The increasing targeting of Belt and Road investments in port cities such as Karachi and Gwadar by the Baluch organisation in recent years has also led to trust issues in Islamabad-Beijing relations. 

The escalation of violence from transnational militant groups based in Afghanistan and Pakistan is also hampering Pakistan’s plans to support and develop CPEC. Therefore, the recent terrorist attacks have also shifted the focus of bilateral relations away from economic projects and towards the security sector. In this context, Beijing is currently urging Islamabad to address its security concerns and prioritise the security of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects in Pakistan.

China’s concerns are further fuelled by the deterioration of Pakistan’s relations with both Afghanistan and Iran. It can be said that regional security and stability cannot be ensured as long as Baloch organisations continue to attack both Iranian and Pakistani security forces, as well as Chinese citizens. A similar situation continues on the Afghanistan-Pakistan line. In addition to the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), the regional branch of DAESH, there has been an increase in attacks by the TTP and other fundamentalist organisations against Pakistani security forces and Chinese citizens. Pakistan’s air strikes in Afghanistan to prevent this often result in clashes with Afghan border guards or retaliation by the targeted terrorist organisations. 

As the security environment in China’s neighbourhood is rapidly deteriorating, alternative strategies are now needed to protect economic projects. In general, the continuous targeting of the Belt and Road Projects along the Afghanistan-Pakistan and even Iran route leads China to develop new strategies and solutions for regional security. In this context, discussions on the establishment of a legal presence of Chinese private security companies in Pakistan are still ongoing. This is because the number of Chinese security companies operating abroad is increasing due to such terrorist attacks.

For the last two years, China has been requesting to establish a security company in Pakistan to protect its economic investments and its citizens working in these projects. However, Pakistan does not accept this request.[5] If the security environment in the country does not change and economic projects continue to be targeted, Pakistan may have to seriously consider China’s demands at some point. Even if the perpetrators of these attacks are found, it is very difficult to prove who is behind these organisations. As a matter of fact, Beijing believes that Islamabad will investigate, identify and punish the perpetrators of such attacks and the forces behind them. As long as this goodwill and mutual understanding continues, China intends to continue its projects in Pakistan. However, since terrorist attacks in the country continue and have not been prevented, it can be argued that China will not accept Pakistan’s new investment proposals, at least for the time being.[6]

[1] “Pakistan Says Taliban Offshoot Behind Attacks on China Interests”, Bloomberg,, (Date of Accesion: 07.05.2024).

[2] “Pakistani Taliban Demand Belt and Road Project Tax – Telegraph”, Asia Financial,, (Date of Accesion: 07.05.2024).

[3] “From Pakistan to Afghanistan, China grappling with rising terrorist threats”, Think China,, (Date of Accesion: 07.05.2024).

[4] Ibid.

[5] “China disappoints with Pakistan’s refusal for opening security company in country”, The Print,, (Date of Accesion: 07.05.2024).

[6] “China spurned Pakistan’s proposals for new Belt and Road projects”, Nikkie Asia,, (Date of Accesion: 07.05.2024).

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer graduated from Sakarya University, Department of International Relations in 2014. In the same year, he started his master's degree at Gazi University, Department of Middle Eastern and African Studies. In 2016, Tamer completed his master's degree with his thesis titled "Iran's Iraq Policy after 1990", started working as a Research Assistant at ANKASAM in 2017 and was accepted to Gazi University International Relations PhD Program in the same year. Tamer, whose areas of specialization are Iran, Sects, Sufism, Mahdism, Identity Politics and Asia-Pacific and who speaks English fluently, completed his PhD education at Gazi University in 2022 with his thesis titled "Identity Construction Process and Mahdism in the Islamic Republic of Iran within the Framework of Social Constructionism Theory and Securitization Approach". He is currently working as an Asia-Pacific Specialist at ANKASAM.

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