Reports have surfaced that the Chinese are have been suggesting, rather insisting, that the government formally rope in the Pakistan army to ensure the management and smooth execution of the billion-dollar CPEC project. Sources have maintained that the Chinese were “unhappy with the overall management of the project, particularly the involvement of various ministries”, which were causing unnecessary delays. The Ministry of Planning and Development, headed by Mr. Ahsan Iqbal is overseeing the project and has done an appreciable job so far of bringing in the concerns of the provincial governments to the table and addressing them. The delays are a part of the democratic process of ensuring that the project is executed while involving all stakeholders and maybe the impatience of the Chinese is slightly unwarranted.

Sun Weidong, the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, even called on Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif in June to reiterate Chinese concerns for the management of the project and the Army’s extended role beyond providing security. Considering that the COAS has played an exemplary role in trying to keep out of civilian affairs over the past three years and does not believe in extending his role in a larger capacity than what is his duty, such demands by the Chinese will most likely be met with an assurance that the government will manage the CPEC in a timely and efficient manner and deliver the project as promised.

The army is already playing an integral role in providing security to the project as it created a special security division for the protection of Chinese engineers, project directors, experts and workers employed for the CPEC. A total of 10,000 troops have been dedicated to this purpose out of which 5,000 will be from the special services group of the Pakistan Army who are specially trained for counter-terrorism and security. To expect the army to extend its resources to manage the entire project is perhaps asking too much of it when the civilian government is clearly very willing to priorities the project and is very committed to ensure its successful completion.

The idea of creating a separate ‘CPEC Development Authority’ to provide all relevant stakeholders, including provincial governments and the army, a formal forum to make decisions regarding the project has been in the cards since the Chinese have voiced these concerns. As much as Pakistan is grateful for the assistance of its ally in making this idea of regional connectivity a reality, it has to be allowed to take the decisions regarding internal matters and how the project should be executed.