Incoming PM pledges to protect China’s Belt and Road investment from day one

Pakistan’s new prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, used his maiden speech at the head of the country’s government on Monday to promise China that its investments in the country would be safe under his watch.

Sharif became prime minister after a dramatic battle over the past month to force a no-confidence vote against his predecessor, Imran Khan, a radical Islamist who called for global blasphemy laws but endorsed the genocide of Muslims in China. Khan tried to dissolve parliament to prevent the vote, but authorities called his decision unconstitutional and let the vote advance on Sunday, forcing him out of office.

Chinese companies capitalized heavily on ties with Pakistan during Khan’s tenure, including investing in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the local Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project. The BRI is a global departmental entrapment plan that China says aims to rebuild the ancient Silk Road, which linked eastern China to western Europe. The territory now known as Pakistan was a critical part of the ancient Silk Road, but the project has battled terrorist attacks by local jihadists, even with Khan’s backing.

Sharif – younger brother of Khan’s predecessor, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – had said before taking office that he wanted to improve the ties with the United States that Khan had damaged by anti-American belligerence, including praising openly Osama bin Laden. Sharif had outraged some in Pakistan when explaining his desire to foster closer relations with America with the idiom, “beggars can’t choose”.

However, after his swearing in, Sharif reportedly focused on diplomacy and doing business with China.

Supporters of newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif celebrate at the party office in Rawalpindi on April 11, 2022. (FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP via Getty)

“There should be no doubt that China and Pakistan are time-tested friends and no one can tear us apart,” Sharif was quoted as saying, according to WIO News in India. “It will last until the day of judgment. I assure you that CPEC will move forward at the speed of Pakistan. Thanks to President Xi Jinping.

By contrast, Sharif only addressed America by acknowledging that under Khan “there were hiccups” in bilateral relations – “some confusion, ups and downs”.

The Chinese state propaganda newspaper world times enthusiastically repeated Sharif’s vow of support for Beijing in its pages on Tuesday.

“Shehbaz Sharif promised to vigorously promote the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in a speech after winning the election on Monday, according to media reports,” the official said. Time say again. “Shehbaz had previously praised CPEC on several occasions, calling it an ambitious plan to transform Pakistan into a major emerging economy so that the country’s less developed regions can enjoy development dividends.”

Chinese government-approved “experts” told the world times that Sharif taking time for CPEC in his first remarks as prime minister “underscored the importance he attached to the relationship” with the Chinese Communist Party.

“Actually, CPEC has had several changes of government since its inception, but it has always been highly valued and promoted by the Pakistani side,” researcher Long Xingchun told the newspaper. Time“which shows that the project reflects mutual benefit and win-win cooperation, and also helps both countries and people in the region.”
Prior to Khan’s ouster, the Chinese government, through its propaganda weapons, echoed Khan’s claims that the United States had staged the vote of no confidence as part of a foreign conspiracy due to his attempts to improve relations with Russia. Khan held up a “foreign conspiracy letter” which he said was a diplomatic cable detailing a US plot to impeach him, which the US government has denied. Chinese media faithfully reproduced the claims.

Laborers read morning newspapers along a road in the Pakistani port city of Karachi April 12, 2022. Pakistani lawmakers elected Shehbaz Sharif as the country’s new prime minister on April 11 after the weekend ousting of Imran Khan, who resigned from his seat in the National Assembly – along with most of his party members – before the vote. (RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP via Getty Images)

“[O]Of course, as Khan mentioned, some outside forces, especially those from the United States, are interfering in the internal affairs of the South Asian nation,” world times alleged last week. “Zhao Gancheng, a researcher at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies (SIIS), told the Global Times that Washington had failed in its attempts to go after Khan, so it is possible that he has now meddled Pakistani policy to overthrow the current government. .”

Despite defending Khan from imagined American intervention, Chinese officials immediately embraced Sharif. the world times speculated Shehbaz Sharif could be “even better” for China than Khan.

“Khan’s potential successor comes from the Sharif family which has long promoted China-Pakistan relations, and the cooperation between the two countries could be even better than under Khan,” he added. Time observed before Sharif was officially sworn in as prime minister.

On Tuesday, the first chance it had to address Sharif’s rise, the foreign ministry warmly welcomed the new prime minister.

“We congratulate Mr. Shahbaz Sharif on his election as Prime Minister of Pakistan. China and Pakistan are all-weather comprehensive strategic cooperation partners with strong and unbreakable relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters. “China looks forward to working with the Pakistani side, continuing the traditional friendship, deepening cooperation in various fields, and jointly building a high-quality China-Pakistan economic corridor to build an even closer China-Pakistan community. with a shared future in the new era.”

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