Imran Khan’s China visit

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By Saeed Ahmed Khan

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s claims regarding the success of his Feb 3-6 visit to Beijing found few takers among the public, intellectuals, media, businessmen at home. The visit which included attending Winter Olympics and a brief meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping was long sought by the Imran government for gaining Chinese support and some direly needed financing. However, the visit preceded reports of Chinese President’s reluctance to meet Imran Khan due to halting of CPEC during latter’s tenure.

Pak-China flag

Political commentators and analysts were quick to point out that Imran Khan and his entourage was received at the Beijing Airport by a very junior official of Chinese foreign office, assistant of assistant foreign minister. The Pakistani leader was further humiliated when no one except Pak ambassador came to see him off at the Airport.

Pak Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s claims regarding in depth talks with Chinese leadership as well as 33-point joint statement, issued at the end of the visit failed to generate much hope and enthusiasm. Moreover, the visiting team could not secure the needed financial life line in the form of $3 billion Chinese loan. Against the great hype created by  Imran government for domestic constituency, the visiting delegation could only accomplish some vague MOUs and small commitments of investments.

Making Pakistan’s situation more embarrassing, a series of terror attacks in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces coincided with the visit. The continuing violence has claimed the lives of 50 soldiers and civilians since beginning of this year. Such incidents are sensitive issues for  Beijing and Chinese investors.

Notably, Chinese concerns on slow pace of development in CPEC projects in Pakistan were clear in the joint statement which laid focus on  “ensuring the smooth operation of completed projects and the timely completion of projects under construction.” This concern is likely to persist and continue to reflect in the Chinese thinking when it comes to making investments.

BEIJING: Prime Minister Imran Khan and his members of delegation talking with Chinese President Xi Jinpiang in Beijing on 6th February.

Similarly, very few in Pakistan appeared enthusiastic about Chinese position on the Kashmir or the overall issue. Ordinary public in Pakistan have started getting disillusioned from the issue which has only been kept alive by politicians and military establishment. Increasing number of common citizen now consider it a state’s antic to deflect popular attention from more important issues like unemployment, inflation and law and order.

Chinese acknowledgment of Pak sacrifices in war on terror, which government proudly showcased after the visit was also rejected by commentators in Pak social media. Most of them alleged their government to be always proud of it and wishing to sell out the same in exchange of dollars. A Vlogger named Rizwan Razi said that Pakistan has got only one item to sell which is its services for fighting terrorism and these services can be availed by China in Xinjiang province.

Now, the US has stopped giving dollars. Referring to situation in Xinjiang province, another vlogger Imran Shafqat commented that the West always asks Pakistan as to why its Islam and jihad come to a halt when the issue of Xinjiang (Uyghurs) Muslims arises.

The business community appeared equally gloomy. A former President of the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), speaking on condition of anonymity to Dawn newspaper (February 7, 2022), shared his anxieties over the resurgence of increasingly lethal ‘nationalist’ outfits in Balochistan who see the CPEC as intrusive and exploitative. Likewise, Ehsan Malik, CEO of the Pakistan Business Council cautioned about the type of investment coming from China. Pakistan’s business community largely fears that further investment from China in the present form will only undermine the existing local and foreign investments.