The Overseas Investment Chamber of Commerce (OICC) has expressed concerns from over 200 foreign investors regarding Pakistan’s worsening security situation in its Annual Security Survey 2024.

The survey, conducted in June 2024, indicates that overall security in Pakistan has deteriorated compared to 2023. According to the OICC, 71% of participants identified security concerns as the primary challenge for conducting business in Pakistan.

In Karachi, security conditions have significantly declined, worsening from 69% last year to 80% this year. OICC members have also expressed alarm over rising street crimes across Sindh.

The situation in Balochistan has further deteriorated, with security conditions worsening from 68% to 75%. This persistent unrest has raised alarms among foreign investors already facing significant challenges in the region.

However, the survey noted slight improvements in security conditions in some cities. In Lahore, security improved from 73% last year to 49% this year. Similarly, Punjab saw an improvement from 63% to 53%, and Peshawar from 68% to 58%.

Foreign investors and companies operating in Pakistan are finding it increasingly difficult to conduct business due to these security concerns. Analysts suggest that despite Pakistan’s assurances, the conditions in Balochistan are not conducive to foreign investment. They argue that without addressing the underlying political issues in the region, the unrest will persist, and Baloch ‘pro-independence’ groups will continue targeting economic projects they view as ‘exploitative.’

It is important to note that on June 21, the Pakistani government announced ‘Operation Azm-e-Istehkam’ to “combat extremism and terrorism.” Approved by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and various stakeholders, the operation aims to integrate efforts to address security threats comprehensively.

In response to the announcement of Operation Azm-e-Istehkam’, the Baloch Raj Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an umbrella organization of Baloch ‘pro-independence’ groups, issued a statement condemning the operation. BRAS spokesperson Baloch Khan described it as an intensification of the ongoing ‘genocide against the Baloch people.’

Baloch Khan claimed that the operation, which, according to the official narrative, aims to stabilize and secure Pakistan, is merely a pretext for escalating military aggression in Balochistan. He asserted that BRAS and its allied organizations are prepared to defend their land and people against any form of military action, promising to defeat the ‘invading’ forces.

He further claimed that the success of Baloch armed groups’ attacks and defensive strategies has thwarted ‘exploitative’ projects like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He alleged that ‘Operation Azm-e-Istehkam’ was launched under Chinese pressure to protect their investments in Balochistan, suggesting that the campaign aims to accelerate the ‘genocide’ to safeguard Chinese economic interests.

The BRAS spokesperson warned that their defensive struggle would escalate, targeting not only the ‘occupying’ forces but also Chinese interests in the region. He reiterated BRAS’s commitment to defending their nation and land against what he described as the ‘aggressive’ and ‘exploitative’ ambitions of both Pakistan and China.

Foreign investors, particularly from China, have been targeted in multiple high-profile attacks by Baloch ‘pro-independence’ groups, especially the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). The BLA’s self-sacrificing unit, the Majeed Brigade, has specifically targeted Chinese investors and engineers in Dalbandin, Gwadar, and Karachi.

Since 2018, there have been several major attacks targeting Chinese nationals and interests in Pakistan. In August 2018, a suicide bombing in Dalbandin targeted a bus carrying Chinese engineers. In November 2018, the Chinese Consulate in Karachi was attacked. In May 2019, there was a siege at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Gwadar where Chinese nationals were reportedly present.

In August 2021, a convoy of Chinese engineers was attacked in Gwadar, and in April 2022, a suicide attack at Karachi University targeted Chinese affiliates of the Confucius Institute. Most recently, in August 2023, an attack in Gwadar killed 13 people, including four Chinese nationals and nine Pakistani military personnel.

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