Beijing demands ‘thorough investigation’ after fatal attack on 5 Chinese nationals in KP’s Bisham

Published March 26, 2024
This photo shows the site of an attack on a vehicle carrying Chinese nationals in Shangla. — Photo provided by author
This photo shows the site of an attack on a vehicle carrying Chinese nationals in Shangla. — Photo provided by author
This photo shows the site of an attack on a vehicle carrying Chinese nationals in Shangla. — DawnNewsTV
This photo shows the site of an attack on a vehicle carrying Chinese nationals in Shangla. — DawnNewsTV

China has demanded a “thorough investigation” after five of its nationals and one Pakistani were killed in an attack on a convoy in Bisham tehsil of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Shangla, according to the regional police chief and a station house officer (SHO).

Reuters quoted Mohammad Ali Gandapur, the regional police chief, as saying that a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers which was on its way from Islamabad to their camp in Dasu.

“Five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in the attack,” Gandapur said.

The provincial police had reached the spot and launched relief operations. The rest of the people in the convoy have been protected, Gandapur said.

Bisham SHO Bakht Zahir, while talking to Dawn.com, also confirmed that the incident claimed six lives, of which five were Chinese engineers and one was a Pakistani.

He said it was a “suicide blast” and the authorities concerned were collecting evidence. Security arrangements were tightened at the spot and the bodies were being shifted to a hospital, he further said.

“We will investigate from where and how the vehicle of a suicide bomber came and how it happened,” the SHO said.

Rescue 1122 station head Sheraz Khan said that the bodies were being shifted to the Bisham Tehsil Headquarters Hospital.

The rescue official said that after the blast, the vehicle with the Chinese passengers fell into a gorge and caught fire. A rescue team then reached the spot and put out the fire, he added.

Dr Rehmat Ali, a spokesperson at the Dasu project, told Dawn.com that the Chinese nationals were identified as four men and a woman, adding that their bodies were being taken to Islamabad.

China’s embassy demanded investigations into the attack.

“The Chinese embassy and consulates in Pakistan have immediately launched emergency work, demanding that the Pakistani side conduct a thorough investigation into the attack, severely punish the perpetrators and take practical and effective measures to protect the safety of Chinese citizens,” the embassy said in a statement.

In July 2021, 13 people, including nine Chinese nationals, were killed 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.

Although the Foreign Office had initially termed the incident an accident, the government later said traces of explosives had been found, with the information minister at the time saying “terrorism could not be ruled out”.

In November 2022, an anti-terrorism court in Hazara awarded the death sentence to two men after convicting them for planning the attack.

Recent terrorist incidents dastardly acts targeting internal security: ISPR

A statement from the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that the Bisham incident and other recent terrorist incidents in Turbat and Gwadar were “dastardly acts aimed at destabilising the internal security situation”.

“The whole nation stands in solidarity with our Chinese brothers and unequivocally condemns this cowardly act.

“Strategic projects and sensitive sites vital for Pakistan’s economic progress and the well-being of its people are being targeted as a conscious effort to retard our progress and sow discord between Pakistan and its strategic allies and partners, most notably China.

“Certain foreign elements are complicit in aiding and abetting terrorism in Pakistan, driven by their vested interests. Despite the veneer of innocence, these elements are being continuously exposed as sponsors of terror,” the ISPR said.

It added that such “heinous acts of violence” against innocent civilians, foreigners and the armed forces would not deter the resolve of the Pakistani people, security forces and the country’s partners to “root out the menace [of] terrorism from our country”.

“Pakistan, as the frontline state against terror, remains perhaps the only nation directly confronting the international terrorist enterprise with absolute steadfastness and full resolve of the state.

“With the unwavering support of the resilient nation and our iron-clad ally China, we will ensure that all those involved in aiding terrorism, directly or indirectly, are held accountable and find their due comeuppance. Together we will prevail over adversity and evil,” the ISPR concluded.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office (FO) also said Pakistan strongly condemned the heinous act of terrorism and said the country would take “all necessary measures to bring the terrorists and their facilitators to justice”.

It added that “such dastardly acts cannot dent the resolve of Pakistani nation to fight against the scourge of terrorism.”

The FO said the attack was orchestrated by the “enemies of Pakistan-China friendship”, reiterating that the government would “resolutely act against all such forces and defeat them”.

“The people and government of Pakistan stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Chinese friends in this difficult time and extend sincere condolences to the families of the Chinese nationals killed in the attack.

“Pakistan and China are close friends and iron brothers. The life and safety of Chinese nationals in Pakistan is of paramount importance. Pakistan will continue to work with our Chinese brothers in ensuring the safety and security of Chinese nationals, projects and institutions in Pakistan,” the FO concluded.

Condemnations

President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the attack and expressed “deep grief” over the deaths of the Chinese nationals.

In a statement issued by the Presidency, he conveyed his condolences to the families of the Chinese nationals and the neighbouring government.

“Anti-Pakistan elements will never succeed in damaging Pak-China friendship,” President Zardari asserted.

Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi also condemned the “suicide attack”, expressing “heartfelt condolences” to the bereaved families.

In a statement, he said, “We stand with the Chinese government and the families of the citizens killed in this hour of grief.

“Enemies have targeted the citizens of Pakistan’s extremely trusted friendly country. This was not an attack on Chinese citizens but also on Pakistan,” the minister added.

“The enemy will be given a strong response to this attack,” Naqvi vowed.

Condemning the attack, Balochistan Chief Minister Sarfraz Bugti said terrorists wanted to “damage the fraternal relations of Pakistan and China through their heinous actions, which we won’t allow to happen”.

“Pakistan will do everything possible to deal with the masterminds and the enablers of this act with iron hands,” he said in a post on X.

National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Deputy Speaker Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah also condemned the incident and expressed their grief on it.

In a statement issued by the NA secretariat, Sadiq said, “Making Chinese nationals a target of terrorism is a heinous plot. Terrorists are targeting innocent citizens for their nefarious aims.”

Stating that China was Pakistan’s “loyal and trusted friend”, the NA speaker asserted that the attack on Chinese nationals was “intolerable”.

Sadiq and Shah said that the Parliament and the public expressed their solidarity with the bereaved families. “Law enforcement agencies should bring the inciteful elements involved in this terrorism to justice,” the statement quoted them as saying.

Privatisation Minister Abdul Aleem Khan said the attack was “incredibly upsetting and condemnable”.

In a post on X, he said, “The enemy is targeting Pak-China friendship and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under a well-thought conspiracy but the nation, along with the Pakistan Army, will thwart all evil plots.”

Former caretaker premier Anwaarul Haq Kakar conveyed his “heartfelt condolences” to the victims’ families.

“We will spare no effort in bringing the perpetrators to justice. Together, we will overcome this challenge and uphold our strong bonds of friendship and cooperation,” he said in a post on X.

Former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari condemned the attack and expressed his grief on the deaths of Chinese nationals.

In a statement posted on X, he said that the planners and the facilitators of the terror incident should be punished severely.

Extending his condolences to the Chinese government and praying for the speedy recovery of the injured, he said, “The miscreants of the Bisham incident cannot escape punishment.”


Additional reporting by Tahir Khan and additional input from Reuters.

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