At least a dozen people were killed and several injured after some sort of explosion involving a bus transporting Chinese engineers near the Dasu hydropower plant in K-P’s Kohistan district. Pakistani authorities have made conflicting comments on the incident, with political leaders referring to it as a “cowardly attack”, while the Foreign Office made it out to be a car accident caused by a gas leak explosion.
Chinese sources have consistently referred to it as a “bombing” and an attack. China has issued strongly-worded statements warning its citizens to “stay on alert…”. The Chinese Embassy also “requested” Pakistani authorities to “investigate the incident thoroughly”. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian, who spent almost 15 years as a diplomat in Pakistan, said Beijing “asked” Islamabad to “thoroughly get to the bottom of the truth as soon as possible, arrest the perpetrators, severely punish them and earnestly protect the safety of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects in Pakistan”. Despite using the word “asked”, the rest of the language was strong and direct from a diplomatic standpoint, implying that China has confidence that the incident was an attack.
The ‘confusion’ among Pakistani officials, meanwhile, continues with the federal information minister saying that “initial investigations into Dassu incident have now confirmed traces of explosives, [and so] terrorism cannot be ruled out”. Nine of our closest ally’s citizens are dead, and Beijing appears to be blaming an intelligence or security failure on our part. However many times the Foreign Office repeats that “Pakistan attaches great importance to safety and security of Chinese nationals, projects and institutions in Pakistan”, the fact is that they keep getting attacked.
Pakistan needs to step up security around Chinese interests. It is worrying that such an incident has occurred after the higher-profile 2018 attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi. In that instance, Chinese officials took a much more forgiving and appreciative tone, perhaps because no Chinese citizens were killed or injured in it. It appears that ‘diplomatic’ praise was misconstrued as heartfelt. China has made it clear that it will not accept attacks on its citizens. Hope our leaders have got the message.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2021.
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