Over 39,000 Chinese nationals have visited Pakistan in the last five years since the start of groundwork on the flagship multi-billion dollar project of ‘One Belt and One Road Iinitiative’ — the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
During this period, more than 92,204 visas were issued by the government of Pakistan to foreign nationals in an effort to expand foreign investment, business opportunities and tourism in the country.
Official data exclusively accessed by Geo News shows that the over 120 Pakistani missions abroad issued 29,622 visas to foreign nationals in 2013, 10,267 visas in 2014, 22,932 visas in 2015, 13,456 visas in 2016 and over 15,927 foreign nationals visited Pakistan in 2017.
As many as 7,859 Chinese were issued visas in 2013, the starting period for CPEC projects shortly after the incumbent government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) came into power.
Following this development, Pakistani missions in China issued 69 visas in 2014, 13,268 visas in 2015 and 6,268 visas in 2016. Further, informed officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimated 12,287 visas were issued to Chinese nationals last year.
Officials further told Geo News, around 27,596 visa extensions were also granted to Chinese on the recommendations of the ministries of interior, foreign affairs, water and power and planning and development, a 34 percent increase as compared to 2015-16, the officials added.
This frequent flow of foreign nationals encouraged foreign direct investment (FDI) which jumped 163 percent to $222.6 million in July 2017 on a year-on-year basis, revealed official data collected from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). The main contributor to this foreign net inflows has been China, which is investing around 60 billion dollars under the CPEC initiative.
Pakistan received $2.4 billion in 2016-17, the highest since the PML-N government took charge of the state’s economic affairs while FDI remained at $1.45 billion in the previous regime of Pakistan Peoples Party.
The government under its Prime Minister Youth Programme also trained over 110,000 youth, majority of whom will be associated with CPEC projects in the coming years, according to authorities.
Further, the government has also deputed an estimated 37,000 security personnel to guard Chinese workers engaged in some 22 projects directly associated with the CPEC and 214 other small and mega projects in the country.
For this purpose, the government has deployed 15,780 military personnel trained under the umbrella of the Special Security Division (SSD) and the Maritime Security Force (MSF).
More security personnel will be deployed Balochistan in the form of a few wings (450 personnel) of the MSF for Coastal area, six wings (6,700 personnel) of the Frontier Corps, 3,210 police constables and 1,320 Levies personnel to guard all routes. Over 4,200 policemen, 1,290 Rangers, 5,500 private security guards and 740 Askari Guards will protect various projects linked to the economic corridor in Punjab.
Official data further revealed that Pakistan issued visas to 1,505 Australian nationals in 2013 and 549 visas to Germans in 201. In 2017, 575 visas were issued to German nationals.
The Pakistani Embassy in New Delhi also issued over a thousand visas to Indian nationals in 2013 and 584 Indians were granted Pakistani visas in 2015. As many as 786 Iranians were issued visas in 2013 and 945 visas were issued by Pakistani missions in Iran in 2016.
More than 3,000 nationals of the Philippines were issued visas by Pakistani authorities in three years—2013, 2015 and 2016. In addition to this, over 1, 027 Turkish also arrived in Pakistan in 2013 and 631 Turkish nationals were granted visas in 2015.
Similarly, more than 8,200 British nationals also arrived in Pakistan i.e. 1, 407 visas were issued to UK nationals in 2013, 2,206 in 2014, 2,280 in 2015 and 2,172 in 2017.
Pakistani missions in the United States of America also issued 2,189 visas to US nationals in 2013, 2,076 in 2015 and 1,883 visas were issued in 2016.
About 441 French nationals also arrived in Pakistan in 2016. The documents further revealed that some 16,000 Afghans were also issued visas by Pakistani authorities in three years i.e. 1,385 visas in 2013, 3,114 in 2014 and over 8994 in 2017.