JIT to be formed to investigate attack on Chinese nationals in Bisham, says info minister

Published March 27, 2024
Information Minister Attaullah Tarar addresses a press conference on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV
Information Minister Attaullah Tarar addresses a press conference on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV

A day after six people, including five Chinese nationals, were killed in a suicide bombing in Bisham, Information Minister Ataullah Tarar said that a joint investigation team (JIT) would be formed to investigate the incident.

On Tuesday, six people, including Chinese nationals working on the Dasu dam project, perished in a suicide bombing in Shangla District’s Bisham when a suicide bomber rammed into the bus transporting the Chinese staff.

The attack prompted China to demand a thorough probe into the deadly blast and security for its citizens. In response, Islamabad announced a swift probe to hold the “perpetrators and accomplices” accountable.

According to police, the bus was travelling from Islamabad to Kohistan when it came under the attack on Karakoram Highway. “It was a suicide attack on the Chinese convoy and an explosive-laden vehicle approaching from Kohistan hit the bus,” Bisham Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Juma Rehman told Dawn. SDPO Rehman said that following the attack, the bus caught fire and fell into the ravine.

“A huge amount of explosives were used in the attack, the force of which threw the bus into the ravine,” he said. The officer said that police cordoned off the area to collect evidence. “We have also collected body parts of the suspected suicide bomber from the site,” SDPO Rehman said.

Soon after the bombing, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif along with his cabinet members visited the Chinese embassy to assure Beijing about security for its citizens and promise a comprehensive probe into the suicide bombing.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad today, Tarar said that PM Shehbaz had chaired a high-level meeting which was attended by Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir. He further said that all provincial chief ministers, police chiefs were also part of the meeting.

He said that during the meeting, the participants recognised the need for a “unified policy” against terrorism.

“And today the nation was given a message of unity […] that we unite when there is an attack on our interests […] we know how to protect ourselves and our friends,” he said.

He said that the meeting lauded the sacrifices of security forces, who saved precious lives from being lost while dealing with the recent attacks in Turbat, Gwadar and Bisham.

He said that a JIT would be formed to probe the incident. He further that the “spirits were high” in the meeting and all the participants were on “one page”.

“This is our clear message — that we will not rest until terrorism is eradicated. The premier expressed this resolve and we want to give the message that be it our Chinese friends, our sensitive installations our any Pakistani citizen — all possible steps will be taken for their protection and no effort will be spared to root out terrorism.”

He further said that Pakistan shared the grief of the Chinese government and the people, and assured that every possible step would be taken to stop them.

Responding to a question, Tarar further said that standard operating procedures (SOPs) were in place for the security of Chinese nationals.

“SOPs are in place for the security of Chinese nationals. They are identified at airports and arrangements are made for their security wherever they go. Wherever there are gaps, we will fill them. The security of all Chinese nationals will be ensured,” he maintained.

Tarar also blamed ex-premier Imran Khan for the resurgence of terrorism in the country. “Who was it who was sympathetic to terrorists? Who was it who failed to convene the National Action Plan’s apex committee? Who was it who was insistent on dialogue?” he asked.

“During Imran’s tenure, the terrorism we eradicated in 2018 has once again reared its head,” the minister lamented. “At that time, Imran was prime minister and he is responsible for his policy. Now, we are reaping what he sowed.”

COAS Munir vows to fight terrorism ‘with all our might’

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, PM Shehbaz chaired an emergency meeting that was attended by the army chief, federal ministers, and the provincial chief ministers, secretaries and police chiefs.

“The prime minister offered deepest condolences to the families of the innocent victims of the attack and assured them that the perpetrators of this barbaric act would be brought to justice swiftly,” the statement said.

He also underscored the enduring bond of brotherhood between the people of Pakistan and China and conveyed that the whole nation was saddened by the loss of Chinese lives.

He also appreciated the response of law enforcement agencies and locals and directed for a “thorough joint investigation to be conducted, utilising all resources of the state”.

“Terrorism is a trans-national threat that has been instrumentalised by the enemies of Pakistan to stymie Pakistan’s progress and development. The acts targeting Pakistan-China friendship are particularly aimed at creating mistrust between the two iron brothers,” he said.

The participants of the meeting also expressed resolute commitment to completely rooting out terrorism from the country. They also expressed “serious concerns” over sanctuaries available to terrorists across the borders and emphasised the need for a regional approach for countering militancy, the statement said.

During the meeting, the COAS reiterated the resolve of the armed forces to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. The statement quoted COAS Munir as saying that the nation had steadfastly fought the war on terror for the last two decades and had defeated the nefarious designs of Pakistan’s adversaries.

Noting the recent surge in terrorist incidents, the COAS remarked that the enemies of Pakistan had once again underestimated the resilience and grit of the state and the people of the country.

“We shall fight terrorism till every terrorist casting an evil eye on Pakistan, its people and their guests, is eliminated. We shall not leave any stone unturned to ensure that every foreign citizen, especially Chinese nationals, contributing to the prosperity of Pakistan, is safe and secure in Pakistan. We shall fight terrorism with all our might, to the very end,” he said.

The meeting concluded with the participants reiterating the resolve to comprehensively combat terrorism employing all resources available to the state, the statement said.

Official says security tightened in Bisham

Separately, Bisham Station House Officer (SHO) Bakht Zahir Khan told Dawn.com that his department had finalised and submitted their report to the Swat Counter Terrorism Department to lodge an FIR against the perpetrators of the attack.

“We have obtained the CCTV footage from the bus and are investigating the matter. It has been confirmed that the silver Toyota Vitz used in the attack, which was laden with around nine kilogrammes of explosives, rammed one of the Chinese buses,” the SHO said.

He added that security has been tightened in sensitive areas of Bisham, particularly around Chinese foreign projects.

Meanwhile, China’s ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong visited a construction cmap of the Dasu project, where he met Chinese nationals and observed a minute of silence to pay condolences to the victims.

Water and Power Development Authority Chairman (rtd) Lt General Sajjad Ghani also accompanied him on the visit.

 China’s ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong offers a moment of silence at Dasu project site in Bisham. — Photo provided by Umar Bacha
China’s ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong offers a moment of silence at Dasu project site in Bisham. — Photo provided by Umar Bacha

Zardari says enemies in region can’t accept strengthening of Pak-China ties

President Asif Ali Zardari also visited the Chinese Embassy today and offered condolences on behalf of the government and people of Pakistan.

According to a press release issued by the President’s secretariat, Zardari strongly condemned yesterday’s terrorist attack, adding that the Pakistani nation shared the grief of the Chinese people.

He stated that the people of Pakistan stood in solidarity with the Chinese people in the hour of grief.

“This incident was orchestrated by the enemies of Pakistan-China friendship,” he said. adding that enemies in the region couldn’t accept Pakistan and China strengthening their bilateral ties.

He assured the Chinese Ambassador that the criminals involved in the “gruesome act would be apprehended and brought to justice”.

Zardari further said that all necessary measures would be taken to ensure the security of the Chinese citizens working on various projects in Pakistan.


Additional reporting by Nadir Guramani

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