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China joins probe into Bisham suicide attack on its nationals

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ISLAMABAD: Chinese investigators arrived in Pakistan on Friday to join a probe into Tuesday’s suicide attack in Bisham which claimed the lives of six people, including five Chinese nationals, according to the interior ministry.

The five Chinese engineers — and their Pakistani driver — were killed in the suicide bombing on Tuesday while travelling between Islamabad and a hydroelectric dam construction site in Dasu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The bus was attacked in the Bisham city of KP’s Shangla district.

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.

Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi met a Chinese team of investigators at Beijing’s embassy in Islamabad today and briefed them on the investigation so far, Reuters quoted a ministry statement as saying.

According to state-run Radio Pakistan, Naqvi assured the special investigation team that had come from China that the real culprits of the attack would be brought to justice.

Measures pertaining to the protection of Chinese nationals and overall security were also discussed on the occasion. The interior minister also met with the Chinese ambassador and updated him on the probe into the incident.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said China’s inter-departmental working group carried out comprehensive emergency response work with the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan and the relevant enterprises.

He said the head of the working group, Director Bai Tian of the Department of Foreign Security Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met with Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, Foreign Secretary Syrus Qazi, Naqvi and other officials.

Director Bai Tian asked Pakistan to “thoroughly investigate the incident as soon as possible, properly handle the aftermath, effectively strengthen security measures, completely eliminate security risks, and make every effort to ensure the absolute safety of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects in Pakistan”, Jian added.

“Pakistan said that it has fully carried out investigation and follow-up work on the incident, and taken all measures to further strengthen the security protection of Chinese personnel, projects and institutions,” he further said.

The spokesperson said that the working group would also carry out related work during its stay in Pakistan.

On Wednesday, the government had reiterated its resolve to comprehensively combat terrorism by employing all resources available to the state and bring the perpetrators to justice swiftly.

In response to the Chinese government’s demand to promptly investigate the incident and act against those involved, the government had also decided to form a joint investigation team to probe the attack.

A day ago, the Foreign Office had said there was no doubt that the attack was “orchestrated by the enemies of Pak-China friendship”. It had asserted that the incident would not impact the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and other aspects of bilateral cooperation between China and Pakistan.

Army to take all measures for security of Chinese personnel: CJCSC

Meanwhile, a statement from the Chinese embassy said that Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Sahir Shamshad Mirza paid a visit to extend his condolences for the attack.

“On behalf of the Pakistani army, I would like to express my deep condolences to the victims and extend my sincere condolences to their relatives.

“It is Pakistan’s responsibility to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens in Pakistan. We will take all measures to strengthen the security of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects. Any conspiracy to undermine the iron-clad friendship between Pakistan and China will not succeed,” the statement quoted him as saying.

Chinese ambassador in Pakistan Jiang Zaidong thanked the CJCSC and urged Pakistan to “expeditiously advance the follow-up and handling of the incident to ensure that investigations and arrests of criminals are fruitful, counter-terrorism actions are taken, security measures are strengthened, terrorists are effectively punished and China-Pakistan friendship is maintained”.

He said that China attached great importance to bilateral relations with Pakistan and was willing to continue to promote comprehensive strategic cooperation.

Rise in terror attacks

The Bisham attack was part of a series of assaults in a span of a few days specifically targeting Chinese interests, including previous incidents at the Gwadar Port Authority Complex and the Turbat naval base, both of which are integral to CPEC. These consecutive attacks underlined the escalating security challenges facing Chinese projects and personnel in Pakistan.

The subsequent suspension of work on the Tarbela Hydropower Extension project and the advisory from the Chinese embassy to Chinese businesses in Pakistan to “closely follow the local security situation and take extra safety precautions” further prompted fears that the Chinese companies could halt their activities on the pretext of security threat.

Pakistani optimism about CPEC not being affected comes from the assurances received from Beijing after the attack.

“Our two countries are all-weather strategic cooperative partners. Our iron-clad friendship is deeply rooted in the two peoples. No attempt to sabotage China-Pakistan cooperation will ever succeed,” Jian had earlier said in his comments on the Bisham incident.

Jian had further said, “will continue supporting Pakistan’s socioeconomic development and efforts to make lives better for its people, and we remain firm in our commitment to working with Pakistan in various fields and delivering more benefit to the two peoples”.

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.

Pakistan has set up a dedicated force of police and military to ensure security for Chinese activities, officials say. In late 2022, the two allied countries started a joint investigation into the killing of three Chinese teachers in Karachi along with their local driver.