Efforts intensified for resumption of work on Dasu dam project

Published July 24, 2021
the coffin of a Chinese worker who died in the bus blast being brought to the Islamabad International Airport on Friday. — White Star
the coffin of a Chinese worker who died in the bus blast being brought to the Islamabad International Airport on Friday. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: Amid intensified efforts by Pakistan to get the work restarted on the Dasu hydropower project, Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairman retired Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain called on Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong here on Friday and discussed the matters relating to construction of the dam.

“The matters relating to construction of Dasu hydropower project in the context of July 14 incident were discussed in detail,” said an official announcement released after the meeting held on the day Pakistan sent the bodies of nine engineers to China and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi arrived in Beijing on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The Chinese ambassador and the Wapda chairman, according to the handout, expressed their resolve to restart construction activities on the project soon.

The Wapda chairman also had a meeting with the vice president and chief executive officer of China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) and discussed with them matters pertaining to ensuring a safe and more secure environment in the project area.

It is pertinent to mention that in the wake of the Dasu incident, the civil administration, Wapda and CGGC had decided with mutual consultation to suspend construction work on the project for a few days so that the matter could be reorganised and construction resumed in a more secure atmosphere.

Bodies of nine engineers died in July 14 blast sent to China

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

A team of the Chinese investigators had arrived in Pakistan soon after the incident and completed its initial task after visiting the construction site in the Kohistan area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where it interviewed a number of workers and other staff members of the project. The Chinese investigators had reportedly questioned both Pakistani and fellow countrymen during their visit to the Barseen camp.

Besides the Chinese investigators, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of police is also carrying out the probe and is about to conclude its findings. A source privy to the investigation said the explosive used in the bus blast 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 had at a news conference last week hinted that the Dasu incident might be an attempt to sabotage the projects being carried out in the country under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as it happened just two days before the scheduled CPEC Joint Coordination Committee’s meeting, which was postponed following the incident.

The minister had 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.

He said 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 bodies of nine Chinese engineers were sent to China from the new Islamabad International Airport on Friday. The wooden coffins of the Chinese engineers were moved to the airport’s cargo terminal amid tight security and eventually carried to China on Air China flight (CA-42). Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid and the Chinese ambassador were present at the airport on the occasion.

In a related development, Interior Minister Rashid inaugurated a special immigration counter for Chinese nationals at the Islamabad airport.

The counter has been set up by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for fastest immigration of the travelers from China, particularly those holding CPEC visas.

Mohammad Asghar in Rawalpindi also contributed to this story

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2021

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