Chinese team wraps up probe into Dasu tragedy

Published July 19, 2021
Rescue workers and onlookers gather around a bus after it plunged into a ravine in Dasu on July 14. — AFP/File
Rescue workers and onlookers gather around a bus after it plunged into a ravine in Dasu on July 14. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD/MANSEHRA: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday visited the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Rawalpindi to inquire after the health of the Chinese workers who were injured in last week’s Dasu bus blast as the Chinese investigation team completed its initial task at the site.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong accompanied the foreign minister during the visit to the hospital, according to a handout issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

Meanwhile, the Chinese investigators’ team that had been in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Upper Kohistan area for the past couple of days to probe the Dasu incident returned to Islamabad on Sunday after completing its initial task at the site, a source privy to the development told Dawn.

FM visits injured workers, assures them of full support, proper medical care

On July 14, nine Chinese nationals and four locals were killed and 28 others sustained injuries when a coach carrying them to an under-construction tunnel site of the 4,300-megawatt Dasu hydropower project fell into a ravine in the Upper Kohistan area after an explosion.

During his visit to the military hospital, the foreign minister wished the Chinese nationals, who were under treatment there, a speedy recovery and assured them of full support and medical care.

On the occasion, the Chinese ambassador said China and Pakistan would continue to cooperate more closely to face such challenges together.

CMH Commandant Major General Muhammad Aleem apprised the visiting dignitaries about medical care being provided to the injured Chinese workers.

A high-ranking official attached with the Pakistani side of the blast probe confirmed to Dawn that the Chinese investigators returned to Islamabad on Sunday.

“Though army investigation agencies are extending technical assistance in the ongoing Dasu bus explosion investigation, the entire probe is the prime responsibility of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD),” said the official.

He said the CTD would shortly conclude its investigation and submit a comprehensive report to the government on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was personally monitoring the progress and taking keen interest in the outcome of the investigations.

About the reports of a missing Chinese national, the official said he had been rushed to the Barseen camp after the tragedy and he was currently under treatment. Besides Rawalpindi CMH, some of the injured are receiving medical treatment in Abbottabad.

The official said the Chinese team members were satisfied with the ongoing investigations by the CTD.

“The hostile agencies want to sabotage mega development projects in progress under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiatives in the country by making false claims. The factual position is contrary to it, as the Chinese investigators are completely satisfied with the investigation being carried out by the CTD,” he said.

The Pakistani official also strictly ruled out the involvement of the militants based in Darail and Tangir, the boundary area between Upper Kohistan and Gilgit-Baltistan. He said that all the militants, whose video had been posted on social media last month pledging to their cause, had already been rounded up even weeks before the Dasu bus incident.

The Chinese investigators had reportedly questioned both Pakistani and its own nationals during their visit to the Barseen camp.

The source privy to the investigation said the explosive that was used in the bus explosion was a ‘homemade device’, without ball bearings and shrapnel, as the impact of the blast changed the bus direction due to which it plunged into the ravine.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid told a presser in Islamabad on Saturday that a 15-member team of Chinese investigators had joined the ongoing investigations into the Dasu bus explosion.

The minister had stated that the investigations were at an advanced stage and the culprits would be taken to task soon.

Hinting that the incident was an attempt to sabotage the CPEC projects, the minister said it happened just two days before the scheduled CPEC Joint Coordination Committee’s meeting, which was postponed following the incident.

Mr Ahmed said a similar attempt to damage Pakistan-China ties had been foiled in April, referring to the blast at Quetta’s Serena Hotel where the Chinese ambassador had come.

“They were successful in their scheme in Dasu, but this success is temporary, because our relations with China are higher than the Himalayas,” he remarked.

He said that the Chinese interior ministry and other relevant authorities were taken on board and being updated on the progress on a regular basis.

“We completely reassure the Chinese government that these culprits, hidden hands and enemies of CPEC and China-Pakistan friendship will never be forgiven at any cost”, the minister had said, adding that the prime minister had instructed Foreign Minister Qureshi to visit China while the interior ministry had directed security agencies to make foolproof arrangements for the protection of Chinese nationals in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) in a statement issued on Sunday expressed the hope that the Chinese company would soon resume construction work at the sites of Dasu hydropower project.

“The Chinese construction company (CGGC) through its notice issued has declared its earlier notice null and void about contract termination of employment of Pakistani labour working with it on Dasu Hydropower Project. Thereafter, construction work on Dasu Hydropower Project will now be resumed very soon,” believed a spokesperson for Wapda according to a press release.

Earlier, the civil administration, Wapda and the Chinese construction company executing the Dasu hydropower project decided with mutual consultation to suspend work on the project for a few days so that construction work could be resumed in a more secure atmosphere.

“Since then, Wapda is in close coordination with the CGGC high-ups and it is expected that the CGGC will restart construction activities on the project in a few days,” the spokesperson said.

Khalid Hasnain in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2021

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