PESHAWAR, Oct 16: The state-run Chinese firm building Gomal Zam dam has stopped work on the dam after the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers and death of one of them in a commando operation on Thursday.

"The Chinese have stopped work," Brig (retd) Mushtaq, Wapda's General Manager Projects (North) told Dawn by phone from Lahore.

"They are mentally disturbed and therefore, we can's push them to resume the work. Let them relax and get out of this trauma," he said.

One official said that the Chinese firm Sino Hydro Corporation had been instructed by Beijing to stop work pending reassessment of security situation in the area.

A team of Sino Hydro was due in Pakistan on Saturday to meet with Wapda and government officials and discuss and re-evaluate their security arrangements.

But Brig Mushtaq was optimistic that the Chinese would resume work on the project as soon as possible.

Approved in 1963, the project provides for a water storage capacity of 1.14 million acre feet (MAF) with 17.4 megawatt electricity generation potential.

Gomal Zam dam is being built on Gomal river in the volatile South Waziristan region where security forces are battling foreign militants and their local tribal sympathizers for the last two years or so.

Government officials in Peshawar acknowledge the Oct 9 kidnapping incident and death of one of the two Chinese engineers could further delay the completion of the project.

Despite repeated warnings by security agencies, requests by the Chinese government and an earlier failed attempt to kidnap Chinese engineers, the NWFP government had failed to take appropriate measures to ensure the security of Chinese working on the dam, interviews with officials revealed.

Dawn has learnt that following a request by the Chinese embassy in Islamabad that it feared a possible attack on its mission, the federal government had asked the provincial government in early July to strengthen security.

In a letter addressed to the NWFP Home Department and Fata Secretariat, the letter referred to the expressed apprehensions by the Chinese embassy asked that appropriate security measures needed to be taken to ensure safety of the more than a hundred Chinese working on different projects in Besham in Kohistan, Malakand and Gomal Zam dam.

The letter contained an annexture detailing the antecedents of the Chinese workers working in different parts of the NWFP called for applying immediate security measures.

On Sept 25, two Chinese engineers had narrowly survived a possible attempt to kidnap them while travelling in Tank of Frontier region, pretty close to where another group of two Chinese engineers were later kidnapped from the adjoining tribal area on Oct 9.

The workers were part of a larger group of eighty-six Chinese working on the mega water sector project in the country after Tarbela and Mangla dams.

On Sept 29, another letter went out to the NWFP Home Department and the Governor's Secretariat reminding the government of the Chinese apprehensions and the need for extra security to ensure the safety of Chinese working in the NWFP.

On Oct 9, two Chinese engineers were kidnapped by militants from the adjoining tribal area and held them in captivity for six days.

The two Chinese at that time were being escorted by only a police constable, who too, was held hostage. Their four tribal escorts or Badragas, as they are called in local parlance were briefly held hostage and later freed.

One of the Chinese hostages, 40-year-old surveyor, Mr Wang Peng, was killed and his Chinese counterpart, Mr Wang Ende was rescued unharmed in a dramatic commando operation in tribal region.

Government officials agree that it was security lapse which resulted in the kidnapping and subsequent death of one Chinese engineers.

The Oct 9 kidnapping has triggered a debate over the jurisdiction between Home Department and the Governor's Secretariat, each trying to shift the responsibility on the other until after the vehicle the Chinese were travelling in was found abandoned inside South Waziristan tribal region.

The Home Secretary of the NWFP, Abdul Karim Kasuria on his part said he had already asked the police department to double up security measures for the Chinese but that the police had informed him of the shortage of police personnel.

He said that the police had asked Frontier Constabulary and that they had been provided with the paramilitary force. "It is their responsibility to provide security and we have written to them about it," he said.

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