Amid recent protests in Gilgit-Baltistan against crackdown by the Pakistani security forces, Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal has said that those protesting against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be charged under anti-terrorism laws.
Quoting the minister, Gilgit Baltistan National Congress Director Senge Hasnan Sering tweeted, "Those protesting in #GilgitBaltistan against China led #CPEC will be charged under anti-terrorism laws: Minister Dr Iqbal."
The people of Gilgit-Baltistan believe that CPEC will exploit its water resources which would only benefit Pakistan. The locals are also worried about the increasing Chinese footprint in the region.
The leadership of Gilgit-Baltistan has been objecting to the controversial corridor for months.
The Gilgit-Baltistan based Awami Action Committee (AAC) had earlier called for an indefinite shutdown across the region, saying they will not be holding down their protest unless and until Pakistan withdraws its security forces and also rollbacks the CPEC.
AAC, an alliance of around 23 religious, nationalist and political groups, also demanded a complete withdrawal of the Pakistani forces from its soil.
The alliance is also against the lack of share for Gilgit-Baltistan in the CPEC.
The strike call came days after a powerful senate committee, headed by Senator Taj Haider, visited the region to review the CPEC projects.
The committee members, who met several delegations during their three-day stay in Gilgit-Baltistan, confirmed that the region had no share in the CPEC.
Last week, the Pakistani Army arrested more than 500 young men in Gilgit-Baltistan who had come on to the streets protesting against them and asking them to vacate the occupation of the region.
So far, hundreds, including Gilgit's top political activist Baba Jan, has been arrested.
Baba Jan was arrested under Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Act for raising his voice for displaced people of the Hunza Valley during a climate disaster in January 2010 and protesting against corruption and against the violent repression that had been unleashed against the victims demonstrating in August 2011.
Meanwhile, Iqbal while addressing the inauguration ceremony of two new blocks in University of Balochistan earlier on Tuesday said that CPEC will be complete till 2030 and all four provinces will get benefits from its positive impacts.
Due to delays in the development of CPEC, the authorities in Beijing had last month suggested Islamabad to formally rope in the Pakistan Army to ensure smooth execution of the project.
Security official privy to the development said the Chinese were "unhappy with the overall management of the project, particularly the involvement of various ministries", which were causing unnecessary delays.
They envisioned the creation of a separate ministry or authority to deal exclusively with the CPEC.
The project is currently being overseen by a special section set up at the Prime Minister's Office - with Iqbal's Ministry of Planning and Development serving as the focal ministry.
The army has already created a special division to provide security cover to the CPEC-related projects.
Earlier in January this year, China had openly expressed its concern over the lack of consensus on the CPEC across the political spectrum and the Chinese embassy in Islamabad had urged political leaders to "address their differences in order to create favourable conditions" for the completion of the project.
In the latest, the members of Corridor Front have said that Pakistan has dodged the Chinese Government regarding the CPEC and insisted the "peaceful completion" of the $46 billion mega project was only possible through its original route, reports The Express Tribune.
For India, given the political synergy between Beijing and Islamabad, the CPEC will be a disguised political disturbance.
The CPEC actually refers to various major infrastructure works currently underway in Pakistan, intended to link China's Xinjiang province to Gwadar deep sea port close to Islamabad's border with Iran.
Apart from infrastructure, it seeks to widen and deepen economic ties with its "all-weather friend" China. The Chinese firms will invest just under $46 billion in the project over six years.
However, reports also suggest that several projects have plagued the country due to stalled development, poor infrastructure and lost investment.