KARACHI: Militants – trying to disrupt China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s (CPEC) construction – have killed 44 workers since 2014, an official said on Thursday. The rising toll is likely to reinforce Beijing’s concerns about the security of CPEC – a $46 billion network of roads, railways and energy pipelines linking China to Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast – which passes through the already agitated Balochistan. According to the project’s officials, strong security measures have greatly developed the condition of the resource-rich province – where ethnic separatists, also opposing the project, have been batting the government for years. Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) – a construction company – Spokesman Colonel Zafar Iqbal said that all the murdered workers were Pakistani nationals who were either victim to roadside bombs or the attacks on the construction sites. “The latest figure show 44 deaths and over 100 wounded since 2014,” Iqbal told Reuters. While indicating that the toll had accelerated in the current year, he said that in November 2015, the official figure was 25 killed. The project is part of a Chinese plan to build land, sea and air routes across Asia to boost trade and conquer new overseas markets. Chinese officials have appealed for improved security in Balochistan and other regions where the projects are planned or are under way. Pakistan – in an attempt to address the Chinese’ concerns – last year created an army division to focus specifically on protecting CPEC projects and the Chinese workers. It believed to number more than 10,000 troops, the spokesman said. FWO – which is owned by the Pakistan Army – has been awarded the bulk of road-building contracts in Balochistan and other volatile areas in the country. Officials conceded to the region’s security problems but said that the work was progressing ahead of schedule. About $4.5 billion of the project’s investment was for road infrastructure while two-thirds of the total $46 billion investment was funnelled toward energy projects. Officials expect the CPEC projects to significantly boost the country’s economic growth above the current 5% a year. The overall security in Pakistan had improved over the past few years but militant groups were still staging major attacks from time to time. Last month, militants killed 74 people in a hospital bombing in Quetta – the provincial capital.