ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Monday that investigators had got to the bottom of the last week’s suicide attack targeting a vehicle carrying Chinese nationals in Gwadar district of Balochistan.

Speaking at a press conference here, he said an international conspiracy had been hatched against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), but expressed the confidence that all such nefarious plots would be foiled.

Terming the CPEC the jugular vein of the country’s economy, he said the project would continue as the government was committed to go ahead with it.

About investigations into other incidents involving Chinese people, he said some suspects had been arrested while others were being traced.

Regarding the fallout of the Afghan situation, he said now the importance of CPEC had increased. He said 40 companies operating under CPEC were being provided protection by security forces, but recent events such as the Dasu attack and Quetta’s Serena Hotel blast signalled that “people want to play with the lives of Chinese who are not only friends but well-wishers of Pakistan”.

Rashid says Taliban have assured Islamabad militants won’t be allowed to use Afghan soil against Pakistan

Mr Rashid said that he had assured Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong of complete security to Chinese workers, adding that all of Pakistan’s institutions were working on it.

He said the Afghan Taliban had reassured the government that the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would not be given permission to operate in Afghanistan against Pakistan.

The interior minister said that some TTP members such as Maulvi Faqir Mohammad had been released by the Taliban after their takeover of Kabul on August 15, adding that the government was in “full contact” with the Taliban on the issue.

“The Afghan Taliban have reassured the Pakistan government that Afghanistan’s soil will not be allowed to be used in any case by the TTP,” said Mr Rashid.

He said Pakistan desired peace in Afghanistan.

The interior minister’s comments came two days after the Foreign Office said that Pakistan would ask the incoming government in Afghanistan to act against the TTP.

“Pakistan has been taking up the issue of the use of Afghan soil by the TTP for terrorist activities inside Pakistan with the previous Afghan government and it would continue raising the issue with the incoming government in Kabul as well to ensure that the TTP is not provided any space in Afghanistan to operate against Pakistan,” the FO spokesman had said.

According to a report prepared for the United Nations Security Council in July, the TTP has about 6,000 trained fighters on the Afghan side of the border.

The report had noted that “despite growing distrust, the TTP and the Taliban carry on with relations mainly as before”, adding that the former supported the latter in operations against the Afghan government.

Regarding Pakistan’s efforts to facilitate evacuations of Pakistanis and other people from Afghanistan, Mr Rashid said more than 1,200 people, including Americans, had been evacuated and more than 4,000 visas had been issued in total.

Mr Rashid said that 50 members of the Afghan cricket team had been issued visas as well and one-month visa-on-arrival facilities were being provided to diplomats and officials of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

He said the interior ministry was increasing its capacity to issue more visas if needed.

The interior minister clarified that Pakistan had no connection with the situation at Kabul airport.

“People are expecting us to gather people from different areas and give them entry to Kabul airport, but this is not our responsibility,” Mr Rashid said.

He said that Pakistan had “no reservation” on requests by the European Union and other countries to park their planes in Pakistan for transport and other matters.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2021

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