‘Traces of explosives’ found in Dasu bus tragedy probe 

Terrorism cannot be ruled out, says Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry


Our Correspondent July 15, 2021
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry addressing a press conference at the PID in Islamabad on March 16, 2021. SCREENGRAB

KARACHI:

The federal information minister has sought to demystify ambiguity around a deadly bus tragedy involving Chinese engineers a day after a frenzied media guessing game on the possible causes of the fatal cash.

At least 13 people – nine Chinese nationals and four Pakistanis – were killed and more than two dozen others wounded Wednesday morning when a shuttle bus they were travelling in plunged into a deep ravine after an explosion on board.

The bus was ferrying the Chinese and Pakistani workers to an under-construction tunnel site of the Dasu Hydropower Project in the remote Kohistan district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

“Initial investigations into the Dasu incident have now confirmed traces of explosives. Terrorism cannot be ruled out,” Fawad Chaudhry wrote on his verified Twitter handle on Thursday.

“PM [Imran Khan] is personally supervising all developments. The government is in close coordination with the Chinese Embassy in this regard. We are committed to fighting the menace of terrorism together,” he added.

Witnesses said the bus was part of a convoy of three vehicles which was transporting the Chinese workers from Barseen camp, some eight kilometres away from Dasu, to the construction site.

“The blast tossed the bus into the ravine, while the two other vehicles remained unscathed,” said one witnesses.

Soon after the tragedy, the foreign ministry sought to portray it as an accident. “This morning a bus carrying Chinese workers … plunged into a ravine after a mechanical failure resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.

Interestingly, hours before Fawad’s tweet, the Chinese foreign ministry quoted Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi as saying that the bus tragedy was an accident and not a terrorist attack.

“Preliminary investigation shows that it’s an accident and no background of terrorist attacks has been found,” Qureshi told Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on Wednesday.

“China is Pakistan's most important friend and most reliable partner, and China's loss is Pakistan's loss,” he added according to a statement published on the official website of China’s foreign ministry

Qureshi promised that Pakistan would “thoroughly investigate the truth of the incident, lose no time in sharing the progress of the investigation with China”.

China has said it will send a team to Pakistan to help investigate the bus blast. “A joint working group will set out today to help with relevant work,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing on Thursday. “China would cooperate closely with Pakistan in the investigation.”

In the Dushanbe meeting, the Chinese foreign minister said his country hoped that Pakistan could quickly find out the cause of the deadly tragedy and prevent similar incidents from happening again.

“If it is a terrorist attack, the criminals must be immediately arrested and severely punished,” the Chinese foreign ministry quoted Wang as saying. “Lessons should be learned from the incident, and the security measures for China-Pakistan cooperation projects should be further strengthened to ensure the safe and smooth operation of all projects.”

In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad reminded “Chinese citizens, enterprises, and projects in Pakistan to stay on alert, pay close attention to the local security situation, strengthen security protection, take strict precautions, and stop going out unless necessary”.

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