Pakistan: Fuel Truck Wrecks Then Explodes: At Least 135 Dead

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Karachi (CNN) A devastating accident involving an exploding oil tanker has left at least 135 people dead in eastern Pakistan, according to the country’s Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority.

Smoke billowed from the truck which fell off the road Sunday as it traveled through the city of Bahawalpur, Mohammad Akhtar, a police official, told CNN.
According to Akhtar, the explosion came as villagers began to gather around the truck in an attempt to collect oil in containers.
Oil tanker truck explosion
The blast has left at least 130 people injured and a state of emergency has been declared in the city, Punjab government spokesman Salman Sufi said.
Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital said it was treating 40 of the injured, all of whom have suffered 70% burns.

Pakistani paramedics bring a burns victim injured after an oil tanker caught fire.

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of Pakistan’s military, said a total of 51 people with serious burns and in critical condition have been transported by army helicopters to the city of Multan.
It added that the road had been reopened and that traffic had begun to flow again.

‘Deep grief’

In the immediate aftermath of the accident, Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif “expressed deep grief over the heavy loss of life.”
“The Prime Minister has directed provincial government to provide full medical assistance to the injured with burns,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s office said. “The Prime Minister has expressed sympathies with the bereaved families and prayed for the departed souls.”
Chief Minister of Punjab Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has said an inquiry would be held into the incident.
Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, tweeted that the blaze was “a national tragedy of epic proportions.”
The politician and former cricketer said he had asked local leadership to assess what assistance could be provided to the injured and victims’ families.
The US Embassy in Islamabad tweeted its condolences. “We are so saddened to hear of the terrible oil tanker accident in #Bahawalpur. Our deep condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims,” it said.

Dozens Of People Killed In A Bloody Day Of Attacks Across Pakistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

Dozens Of People Killed In A Bloody Day Of Attacks Across Pakistan

Pakistani security officials inspect the site of an explosion in Quetta on Friday. All told, dozens of people were killed Friday in several cities across Pakistan.

Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan was hit with a spate of violence in several cities Friday, leaving the country to cope with the deaths of dozens of people and scores more injured. In twin bombings at a market in Parachinar, a car bombing in Quetta and a shooting in Karachi, more than 80 people were killed in the bloodshed.

“Enemy trying to mar festive mood of nation through such cowardly acts,” Pakistan’s chief of army staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa, said in a statement quoted by a military spokesman. “Shall fail against the resilience of Pakistan.”

The deadliest of Friday’s attacks came during rush hour in the town of Parachinar, where local authorities say 67 people were killed and scores more were injured. Turi market had been packed with residents preparing for their iftar meals to break the Ramadan fast at day’s end.

“The first blast took place at around 5pm in Turi Market, located on the edge of the recently-designated Red Zone, said a senior administration official,” Pakistani news outlet The Express Tribune reports. “The second explosion occurred when rescuers and bystanders rushed to help the survivors of the first blast.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the two explosions, though the BBC reports that some believe Shiite Muslims were specifically targeted.

However, the British news service says two separate extremist groups — the Islamic State and a Taliban offshoot known as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar — claimed responsibility for an attack earlier that day in the city of Quetta. The bombing in Quetta occurred near a local police official’s office, and The New York Times reports that seven police officers were among the 13 people killed.

The paper, citing local officials, says at least 19 people were injured in the blast.

Elsewhere in the country, in the port city of Karachi, gunmen opened fire on police, killing at least four officers before fleeing the scene.

Pakistan Expels South Korean Man For Preaching The Gospel Of God

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

Pakistan officials say a South Korean national who it accused of using a business visa to preach the Gospel inside the Islamic republic has been expelled from the country.

(Photo: Reuters)

The news comes after two Chinese nationals believed to be associated with the South Korean were killed last month by Islamic militants affiliated with the Islamic State terror group.

“Investigations have revealed that the South Korean national went to Pakistan on a business visa, set up an Urdu academy in Quetta and got involved in illegal preaching activities,” a Ministry of Interior official told ucanews.com this week. “We have revoked his visa and asked him to leave the country.”

According to World Watch Monitor, the South Korean national is Juan Won-seo. Pakistani officials told ucanews.com that 24-year-old Lee Zingyang and 26-year-old Meng Lisi, who were abducted and killed last month, were preaching Christianity under Won-seo’s guidance.

(Photo: [email protected])Lee Zingyang and Meng Lisi of China were killed by Islamic militants affiliated with the Islamic State terror group in Pakistan in May 2017.

However, the Hindustan Times reports that South Korea has rejected Pakistan’s claims that Lee and Meng, who were in the country on the premise that they were Mandarin teachers learning Urdu, were preaching Christianity. A South Korean official told the news outlet on June 14 that there is no evidence from Pakistan to backup the claim that they were proselytizing under the leadership of the South Korean.

World Watch Monitor notes that Lee and Meng were only two of a dozen Chinese nationals in Pakistan for Urdu classes but Chinese media has claimed that the school is “merely a front for conducting religious activities.”

According to World Watch Monitor, a Chinese student interviewed by a Chinese government-sanctioned English news outlet claimed that South Koreans recruit Chinese “teenagers to conduct missionary activities in Muslim countries.”

“Compared to Chinese, more South Koreans have been killed abroad due to risky missionary activities in conservative Islamic regions,” the student was quoted as saying. “Some Chinese voluntarily join in the dangerous missionary activities in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq after being converted by South Koreans.”

However, critics have warned that China’s placing the blame on South Korean missionaries is an attempt to “mislead the Chinese people.”

“Most Chinese Christians have become Christian through Chinese evangelists. It has been very difficult for foreign citizens to proselytise in China. China does not have a visa category for religious clergy or missionaries,” Yang Fenggang, the director of the Centre on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University in Indiana told the Hindustan Times. “Some foreign students, professionals and business people may do evangelistic work within China, but evangelistic activities are restricted.”

Carsten Vala, an associate professor of political science at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland, told the Hindustan Times that Chinese nationals have also been “eager to go abroad as missionaries.”

“At least one Chinese church leader I interviewed reported that his congregation had sent missionaries to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other Arabic-speaking countries,” Vala said.

Both China and Pakistan are listed as two of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians. Open Doors USA’s 2017 World Watch List ranks Pakistan as No. 4 and China as No. 39.

ISIS Murderers 2 Chinese Missionaries In Pakistan For Sharing The Gospel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

ISIS Kills 2 Chinese Missionaries Accused of Violating Visa Rules in Pakistan by Sharing the Gospel

Jun 13, 2017

The Scottish Episcopal Church approves gay marriage
Pakistan’s interior ministry has said the two Chinese nationals who were kidnapped and killed by Islamic State-affiliated militants last month were preachers who allegedly violated their business visa rules.

(Screengrab: JustPaste.It) A masked ISIS militant reads the charges facing the two men tied to a cross, who were later shot in the back of the head for banditry, Mosul, Iraq.

According to Reuters, the terrorist-linked Amaq News Agency announced last Thursday that IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) was responsible for the killing of two Chinese nationals who were abducted last month in the Baluchistan province and were believed to be Mandarin language teachers.

“Islamic State fighters killed two Chinese people they had been holding in Baluchistan province, southwest Pakistan,” Amaq was quoted as announcing in a statement.

On Monday, the Pakistani government identified the two Chinese nationals killed as 24-year-old Lee Zingyang and 26-year-old Meng Lisi. The interior ministry also claimed that both Lee and Meng were in violation of their visa rules because they were preaching instead of learning Urdu.

“Instead of engaging in any business activity, they went to Quetta and under the garb of learning (the) Urdu language from a Korean national … were actually engaged in preaching,” Reuters quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.

The statement didn’t indicate whether the Korean national was from South Korea or North Korea or what the Chinese nationals were preaching.

According to the online news outlet Quartz, The Global Times and Shanghai-based The Paper, the slain Chinese nationals belonged to a 13-member Christian missionary group in China being led by a South Korean national.

Quartz also cited Chinese reports indicating that a local Muslim community complained about the group trying to evangelize to them. Additionally, Quartz reports that a Chinese journalist has said that Chinese foreign ministry officials briefed reporters in a closed-door session and gave them much of the same information that has been reported.

Following the killing of the two Chinese nationals, Pakistan’s interior ministry has decided to “streamline” its visa policy for Chinese nationals, Pakistan’s The Nation quoted a ministry spokesperson as saying.

According to The Nation, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan called for a databank of Chinese nationals present in Pakistan during a meeting.

“This data bank, to be prepared by National Database and Registration Authority, should be shared with all security agencies,” the minister said, reiterating their claim that the deceased Chinese nationals violated the terms of their visas.

The killing of the two Chinese Christians come as IS has attempted in the last year to establish its presence in Pakistan, just like it has in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Afghanistan. IS-linked militants have carried out a number of attacks in Pakistan this year, including a suicide bombing at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan that killed at least 90 and injured over 300 in February.

Last month, IS claimed a bomb attack on a convoy of Senate Deputy Chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri south of Quetta that killed 25 people.

Additionally, this is not the first time that IS has claimed responsibility for the killing Chinese nationals.

In 2015, IS in Syria killed 50-year-old Beijing native Fan Jinghui who was held hostage for months.

Army Grooms Jammu and Kashmir Kids For IIT, General Rawat Has Message

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NDTV)

As Army Grooms Jammu and Kashmir Kids For IIT, General Rawat Has Message

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As Army Grooms Jammu and Kashmir Kids For IIT, General Rawat Has Message

General Bipin Rawat met Jammu and Kashmir students coached by the Army under its ‘Super 40’ initiative.

NEW DELHI:  For young men and women picking up stones in Kashmir, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has a message: Pick up books, not stones.  And he has some inspiring stories to share – that of 35 children from Jammu and Kashmir who prepped for engineering schools under the army’s ‘Super 40’ initiative.
Nine of them have made it to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology this year. The rest have qualified for other engineering schools across India. On Tuesday, the Army Chief came face-to-face with the 35-odd students, a sharp contrast to the ones that the army usually deals with in Jammu and Kashmir.This group had quietly enrolled for coaching under the army’s initiative to give children from the state a better chance to join the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) when their friends were out on the streets..

General Rawat hoped there were more like them in Kashmir.

“They (the youth) should either have a laptop or a book. Whatever time they get they should devote to studies,” General Rawat told the young students according to Press Trust of India, his remarks aimed at the youth back home who have been turning up on the streets in Kashmir, often with stones in their hand, to target security forces.

In recent weeks, the Army Chief has come out strongly in support of army officers using innovative measures to fight what he had called was a proxy war, a “dirty war”.

At one point, he had suggested in an interview that it would have been much simpler if it had people firing weapons at them, instead of flinging stones. “Then I would have been happy. Then I could do what I (want to do),” he told Press Trust of India last month in an interview that echoed the predicament of the army officers in dealing with youngsters.

On Tuesday, General Rawat also told the young students born well after militancy peaked in the 1990s that he had served in the state in 1981-82 when the “situation was good”. The situation started deteriorating during his second posting between 1991 and 1993, the Army Chief said, noting that he also had stints in J-K from 2006-2008 and then from 2010-12.

“Generations have been destroyed due to this. The fear that has set in the mind of people of Kashmir and the youth… (that) a militant or the security forces will come… So you have militants on one side and security forces on the other. How long will we stay in this atmosphere? We have to put an end to it. We wish that peace is restored there and we carry out our daily work without any problem,” Gen Rawat told the students who had broken all previous records this year.

An army statement said a record 26 boys and two girls from the state had cracked the IIT-JEE Mains Exam 2017 including nine cleared the IIT Advanced Exam. This was the first batch in which five girls from Kashmir valley were coached. A PTI report said the ‘Super 40’ students who did not clear the IIT-JEE Mains exam had made it through the state’s entrance test for engineering.

Pakistan hopes India will support Saarc Summit, says Pak diplomat

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Pakistan hopes India will support Saarc Summit, says Pak diplomat

Pakistan is hopeful that India will attend the Saarc Summit to be held in Islamabad later this year as the two sides need to move beyond their differences.

WORLD Updated: Jun 12, 2017 23:40 IST

Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
India-Pakistan relations
Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay (left) looks on as Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (centre) walks past Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Saarc Summit in Kathmandu in 2014. (Reuters)

Pakistan hopes India will attend the Saarc Summit expected to be held in Islamabad later this year, a top Pakistani diplomat said on Monday, adding the two countries need to move beyond differences.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Shangani Cooperation Organisation (SCO) event in Beijing, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the deputy head of the Pakistani mission, said it is important for both countries to strengthen the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

“We really hope that Saarc, which is our regional organisation to move beyond the differences…that India would be able to come to Pakistan for the summit because in the end we are neighbours,” Baloch said.

India pulled out of last year’s Saarch Summit in Pakistan after a string of terror attacks blamed on Pakistan-based militants, leading to a pullout by Bangladesh, Afghanistan, the Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The summit was subsequently cancelled.

It’s still not clear whether the summit will be held at the end of this year either, given India’s position on Pakistan’s involvement in cross-border terror.

Baloch, however, indicated that Islamabad is working to holding the summit.

She played down speculation that the inclusion of India and Pakistan in the SCO would lead to disruptions in the Beijing-led security bloc’s agenda.

“It is an important organisation for Pakistan and it is an important organisation for India. This is not an organisation to settle disputes. This is an organisation to work for the region and for common challenges and work for common development,” she said.

Pakistan, she said, hoped the inclusion of the two countries will contribute to our “region’s development and more understanding between all parties in the SCO”.

Talking about possible cooperation within the SCO framework, Baloch said: “Of course, when you work together (in the same organisation), you are in the same organisation, you have opportunities to resolve many of the issues.

“With the increase of the membership with the inclusion of Pakistan and India, we have made this organisation more inclusive and we will be able to work together to fight common challenges.”

Speaking earlier, secretary general Rashid Alimov said the SCO’s convention on “countering extremism has become the collective response of the SCO member-states to the growing threat of this dangerous phenomenon for humanity”.

He added, “The convention is aimed at improving the mechanism for countering extremism in the SCO area (and) developing the provisions of the SCO Development Strategy until 2025.”

Senior Journalist Murdered By Hit And Run Cowards In Haripur Pakistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTAN NEWS PAPER ‘DAWN’)

A senior journalist of a local newspaper has been killed by unknown assailants in the Haripur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Sunday, police told Dawn.

Baksheesh Allai ─ the bureau chief of The K2 Times ─ was on his way home when motorcyclists intercepted him on a main road and showered him with bullets, successfully fleeing the scene after the attack.

“We see this murder of a local journalist as an act of a high profile target killing and the assailants will soon be arrested,” Shahzad Nadeem Bukhari, the district police officer of Haripur, told reporters.

Mohammad Arshad, the brother of the slain journalist, has filed an FIR against unknown assailants, stating that Baksheesh Allai and his entire family had no enmities.

The local journalists​’ fraternity placed the body of the victim at the Panian square at GT Road and blocked it to all sorts of traffic for many hours demanding the killers’ arrest.

Shahid Chaudhry, the president of the Abbottabad Press Club and ex-member of the executive body of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, led the protest.

Bukhari held talks with protesting journalists and convinced them to end the protest.

“I assure you that we will arrest his [Allai’s] killers without wasting any time as we are considering this is a high profile case of target killing,” said Bukhari.

Chaudhry asserted that the journalists’ fraternity across the Hazara region would observe protests and take out rallies to condemn the cold-blooded murder of their colleague on Monday.

Why Korean Missionaries Wish They Were Still Imprisoned by the Taliban

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

CPCHURCH & MINISTRIES

Francis Chan Explains Why Korean Missionaries Wish They Were Still Imprisoned by the Taliban

Jun 4, 2017 | 5:07 PM

New York Times best-selling author and popular Christian Pastor Francis Chan was a featured speaker at an annual Christian persecution conference on Saturday, and shared details of a conversation he had with a Korean missionary imprisoned and nearly executed by the Taliban in 2007.
(PHOTO: PULSE) Francis Chan addresses thousands of Christians gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.c. for Together 2016 on July 16, 2016.

Chan, who is the author of the popular 2009 book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God and is the co-founder and former teaching pastor at the Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California, spoke for about a half hour at International Christian Concern’s The Bridge 2017 conference, which this year was hosted at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

Chan, who is also the founder and chancellor of Eternity Bible College in Simi Valley, referenced Revelation 5:8 to speak about the importance of learning “obedience through suffering,” a concept that many Christians in the West may not be able to grasp by living their lives in comfort.

He also touched on how Christians are to obey the command given in Hebrews 13:3 — “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

“I believe that to remember [the persecuted] well means we care and we try to ease their pain and suffering,” Chan said. “But I think also to remember them well means we enter into their suffering and maybe some of us sacrifice our civilian affairs because we know we are living way too comfortably right now.”

Chan wondered if Christians who have never faced true suffering for their faith could be missing out on an opportunity to have an even deeper intimacy in their fellowship with Christ.

Chan then shared a conversation he had with one of the 23 Korean missionaries captured and held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2007. Chan explained that when he visited Seoul for the first time, he had dinner with the missionary who detailed the the willingness he and some of his colleagues had to suffer for and with Christ.

Chan did not name the missionary or explain when it was the dinner took place.

“He talked about how they got into this argument because they found out that they were going to be killed one at a time. This man I was having dinner with was saying to this other guy, ‘Look, I know they are going to kill us one at a time. I die first,'” Chan recalled. “The other man said, ‘No, I die first.’ [The first] guy is going, ‘No, I am your elder. I die first.’ Then, the other man says, ‘No, you have not been ordained as a pastor. I am an ordained minister. I die first.’ That man was the first one that was executed.”

Two male hostages were executed before a deal was reached for the group’s release by the South Korean government. One of the martyrs was 42-year-old Pastor Bae Hyeong-gyu and the other was 29-year-old Shim Seong-min.

Chan explained that the missionary he spoke with also told him that some of the 16 female missionaries imprisoned with him and the other six male missionaries have told him since they returned to Seoul that they wish they were still captives of the Islamic extremist group.

Chan quoted the missionary as telling him: “‘These women that were in these camps with us, they come to me and they say, ‘Pastor, don’t you wish we were still imprisoned by the Taliban?'”

“They tell me, ‘When I was surrounded by these soldiers, I felt the presence of Jesus in there with me. Now that we are back in Seoul, I am trying to experience that intimacy with Him but I can’t. I fast and I pray and I don’t feel it. I would rather be back there because of the intimacy I had with him.'”

Chan then suggested that the presence of Jesus that these Christian missionaries felt while they faced the threat of execution is probably similar to what certain martyrs in the Bible experienced before they were killed.

“How great is Jesus if there is nothing better on this Earth than that intimacy and sharing the suffering. … It totally makes sense to me biblically,” Chan explained. “That’s why Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into this pit of fire and suddenly, the king is like, ‘Wait, why are there four people in there? Who is that fourth one?'”

“That’s why Stephen, when he is about to be stoned to death, goes, ‘I can see Him,'” Chan continued. “Is there a special fellowship that we share in that suffering that we will miss out on because we just think comfort is everything and we just want to pull everyone into our comfort and into our civilian affairs rather than joining in their suffering and losing our life so that we can actually find something so much better?”

Chan then concluded by citing Revelation 2:10.

“Be faithful, even until death,” Chan said. “That is a beautiful thing in the eyes of the Lord.”

“I don’t know about you, but the Lord is working my heart. I know what it looks like here in America, but I don’t think I want to end so comfortably,” he added. “I am scared of suffering but I think I am more scared of comfort. I want to join the Apostle Paul. I want to join Jesus. It doesn’t make sense to the world but it makes sense in the world if there is a resurrection today.

Afghanistan cancels friendly T20s against Pakistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ESPN)

Afghanistan cancels friendly T20s against Pakistan

The ACB did not offer any official reason for cancelling the T20s AFP

The short-lived détente between the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) and the PCB is seemingly over, barely a week after it had begun. In the wake of a bomb blast in Kabul on Wednesday that killed over 80 people, the ACB has cancelled the friendly T20 matches it had scheduled with Pakistan, to be played in July and August in Kabul and Lahore.

No official reason has been provided by the ACB but the board tweeted:

@ACBofficials cancells friendly matches including initially agreed terms of mutual cricketing relationship with @TheRealPCB

 

The two boards had come to an agreement last week to revive broken ties by playing two friendly matches in each country. As part of the agreement, the PCB was also to provide Afghanistan with venues for training and conditioning camps, and the possibility of reciprocal tours between the youth and senior teams.

A similar deal between the boards was also struck in 2013, when Afghanistan cricketers were given access to the National Cricket Academy in Lahore. Eventually, however, the ACB took to using facilities in Greater Noida in India to train players for tournaments.

Last Saturday Atif Mashal, the ACB chairman, met his PCB counterpart Shaharyar Khan in Lahore and after the meeting stressed that both boards were eager to renew ties. In it he hinted at the complex geo-political scenario that inevitably has an impact on cricket relations.

“We want this relationship and rebuilt this relationship with mutual respect and mutual understanding,” Mashal had said. “Relations with Pakistan doesn’t mean we don’t have relations with India. We’re always thinking of balancing the relations between Pakistan and India.

“India is also a strategic partner, a friend, and they also support Afghanistan cricket. Pakistan did a great job in the development of Afghanistan cricket and we value both nations.

“We know there is tension in the border but it’s my job to keep this interaction between two cricketing nations going and to help governments start something positive. We are trying our best to keep sports, especially cricket, away from politics as well as looking for our national interests.”

The PCB was set to write a letter to the Pakistan government seeking permission to play in Kabul. And a number of Pakistan players – including Umar Akmal, Sohail Tanvir and Kamran Akmal – were part of the auction for the Shpageeza T20 League, Afghanistan’s six-team franchise-based tournament.

But ESPNcricinfo understands that Pakistani participation in the T20 league may now be in jeopardy.

CPEC route through Kashmir could create tension with India: UN report

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

CPEC route through Kashmir could create tension with India: UN report

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s route through Kashmir could fuel geo-political tension with India and more political instability, a UN panel has warned in a report.

WORLD Updated: May 25, 2017 00:29 IST

Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

China has said the CPEC is an economic initiative that is “not relevant to disputes over territorial sovereignty”.(Reuters File)

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s route through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir could create tensions with India and lead to “further political instability” in the region, a UN body has warned in a new report.The report on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, released on Tuesday by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific (ESCAP), the UN’s regional development arm, said President Xi Jinping’s ambitious project has the potential to position the region as an epicentre for growth and trade.

However, the report prepared at the request of the Chinese government flagged concerns about social and environmental safeguards and the route of the CPEC passing through Kashmir.

“The dispute over Kashmir is also of concern, since the crossing of the (CPEC) in the region might create geo-political tension with India and ignite further political instability,” the 94-page report said.

India has repeatedly voiced its objections to the route of the CPEC passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). New Delhi did not send a representative to the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing last week because of these concerns.

Read more

China has said the CPEC is an economic initiative that is “not relevant to disputes over territorial sovereignty”. Beijing has also said the project does not affect its position on the Kashmir issue, which should be addressed through negotiations between India and Pakistan.

The ESCAP report also referred to the political instability in Afghanistan and said this could “limit the potential benefits of transit corridors to population centres near Kabul or Kandahar, as those routes traverse southern and eastern Afghanistan where the Taliban are most active”.

It was more critical about the implications of the CPEC for Balochistan, Pakistan’s resource-rich province that has been troubled by a long-running insurgency. It referred to the impact of migrants on the ethnic Baloch, who have been demanding a greater say in the use of the province’s abundant natural resources, including gas and minerals.

The CPEC, the report said, “could lead to widespread displacement of local communities”.

“In Balochistan, there are concerns that migrants from other regions of Pakistan will render ethnic Baloch a minority in the province…In addition, Hazaras are another minority of concern. If the benefits of the proposed (CPEC) are reaped by large conglomerates, linked to Chinese or purely Punjabi interests, the identity and culture of the local population could be further marginalized,” the report said.

Read more

There were also concerns that the CPEC would pass through an “already narrow strip of cultivable land” in mountainous western Pakistan, “destroying farmland and orchards”.

“The resulting resettlements would reduce local population into an ‘economically subservient minority’. Marginalisation of local population groups could re-ignite separatist movements and toughen military response from the Government,” the report said.

ESCAP’s executive secretary Shamshad Akhtar, a former chief of the State Bank of Pakistan, was silent on the concerns related to Kashmir in her foreword to the report but said the “success of an initiative of this scale and ambition will depend on intelligent implementation built on strong analysis”.

“For it to be inclusive, the BRI should be informed by broad consultation of affected communities, including on health, employment and land rights issues,” she wrote.

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