ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has refuted a report appeared in a foreign news outlet claiming that China’s Wuhan lab is conducting covert operations in the country to expand potential bio-warfare capabilities.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui termed the report of Australian news outlet Klaxon “politically motivated and fake story composed of distortion of facts and fabrications that quote anonymous sources”.

Ms Farooqui said there was nothing secret about the Bio-Safety Level-3 (BSL-3) Laboratory of Pakistan referred to in the report. She said Pakistan had been sharing information about the facility with the States Parties to the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BTWC) in its submission of confidence-building measures.

According to the FO spokesperson, the facility is meant for diagnostic and protective system improvement by research and development on emerging health threats, surveillance and disease outbreak investigation.

Terms it a fake story ‘composed of distortion of facts’

“Pakistan strictly abides by its BTWC obligations and has been one of the most vocal supporters for a strong verification mechanism to ensure full compliance by the States Parties to the Convention,” she said.

“The attempt to cast aspersions about the facility is particularly absurd against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the need for better preparedness in the areas of disease surveillance and control and international collaborations in that regard, consistent with Article X of BTWC,” she added.

The Klaxon report while quoting multiple intelligence sources alleged that Pakistan and China had entered a secret three-year deal to expand potential bio-warfare capabilities, including running several research projects related to the deadly agent anthrax.

“In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak on Chinese soil, China’s now infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology has signed the covert deal with Pakistan military’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation (Desto) to collaborate research in emerging infectious diseases and advance studies on the biological control of transmitted diseases,” the report claimed.

Quoting “highly credible intelligence sources”, the report said the programme was being entirely funded by China and was formally titled the “Collaboration for Emerging Infectious Diseases and Studies on Biological Control of Vector Transmitting Diseases”. It claimed the Wuhan Institute of Virology had “lent all financial, material and scientific support for the project”.

The Klaxon news report claims that the secret project was detached from supervision of civilian universities or government health departments in Pakistan and was structured so as to allow “unspecified” future operations.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2020

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