In an article captioned “China’s Discreet Activities in Pakistan’s Northern Borderlands”, the author, Mr Selig S. Harrison, made some assertions about the presence of Chinese troops in Pakistan’s Northern Areas. Similar reports have appeared in the Indian media. Spearhead Research carried out an overt survey of the area and the results were contrary to what has been alleged. The factual situation seen on the ground and the facts about the presence and involvement of Chinese in various infrastructure activities in Gilgit-Baltistan area of Pakistan are indicated below.
- China Roads & Buildings Corporation (CRBC) has been working on rehabilitation of KKH (Karakoram Highway) since 2009 with varying strength of Chinese workers and engineers. Presently, about 637 Chinese Engineers and workers are living in about seventy makeshifts camps stretching from Khunjrab to Raikot Bridge.The project is being supervised by NHA (Pakistan’s National Highway Authority) and the Karakuram Security Force (KSF) which is responsible for the protection of Chinese nationals working on the project.
- No Memorandum of Understanding has been signed for the construction of a Railroad between China and Pakistan nor is there any such activity taking place in the area. Some Chinese Engineers are, however, working on Sadapara Dam in Skardu.
- The assertion about the presence of about 7000-11000 Chinese soldiers in the area is incorrect and baseless. The total number of Chinese workers of CRBC, even if they are considered to be PLA soldiers has never exceeded 2000 in 2009. In 2010-11 the highest presence has been 1000-1200 workers.
- There is only one planned tunnel in the project. Its length is 480 meters though there are about 18 passageways or open tunnels in areas threatened by mud and rock slides. These are clearly visible. There are no hidden tunnels or structures.
- The KKH Rehabilitation Project is likely to be completed by the end of 2012. About 22 kilometers of the highway was found to be submerged under water between Sost and Hunza. This was a consequence of the seismic activity and mud slides that led to the formation of a huge lake in the Attabad area. This will take a minimum of 3 to 4 years for completion. It is only after the entire highway has become operational that any plans to link with the Gwadar port on the Baluchistan coast can be considered.
- It was found that the majority of people in Gilgit-Baltistan are quite content and satisfied with the political autonomy granted under the “Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Governance Ordinance 2009”. There is a realization that vested interests may be exploiting the situation to create unrest but there are no signs or indications of any latent or overt revolt. The area remains peaceful and as beautiful as ever.
(This on site report was the result of a collaborative research effort)
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