Pakistan PM Sharif orders joint investigation into terrorist attack on Chinese nationals

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Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday ordered a thorough joint investigation into the deadly terrorist attack on Chinese nationals, as Beijing pressed Islamabad to speed up the hunt for the perpetrators and take effective steps to protect Chinese personnel working in the country. Five Chinese nationals were among six persons killed on Tuesday when an explosives-packed vehicle rammed into their bus in the troubled province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in the second suicide attack on the personnel working on the China-backed hydropower project since 2021.

The Chinese were working on the Dasu hydropower project, which is about 300 km to the north of Islamabad. The 4,320 MW project is being constructed by China Gezhouba with funding from the World Bank. According to Radio Pakistan, Prime Minister Sharif gave the instructions for a joint investigation, while chairing an emergency meeting in Islamabad, a day after the Besham terrorist attack on Chinese nationals working on the Dasu Hydel Power Project. The meeting was attended by the federal ministers, Army Chief General Asim Munir, the chief ministers, the chief secretaries and the Inspectors General of Police of respective provinces.

The participants of the meeting discussed the heinous attack on innocent civilians working on a development project, meant to contribute to the energy and water security of Pakistan. The Prime Minister offered deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the attack and assured them that the “perpetrators of this barbaric act would be brought to justice swiftly.” He 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.

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Sharif appreciated the alacrity with which the security agencies and local people responded to the attack, saving many precious lives which could have been lost. He further said terrorism is a transnational threat that has been instrumentalised by the enemies of Pakistan to stymie Pakistan’s progress and development, adding that acts targeting Pakistan-China friendship aimed at creating mistrust between the two “iron brothers.”

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said, “We asked Pakistan to speed up the hunt for the perpetrators, punish them by law, let justice be done for the victims, and take effective steps to protect the safety and security of Chinese personnel in Pakistan. “Pakistan promised to thoroughly investigate the incident, provide timely updates on the progress of the investigation, strengthen security measures for Chinese personnel, projects and institutions in Pakistan, and ensure the safety of Chinese nationals in Pakistan,” Lin said in response to a question at a ministry briefing.

Meanwhile, the participants at the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sharif expressed resolute commitment to completely rooting out terrorism from the country and expressed serious concerns over sanctuaries available to terrorists across the borders and emphasised the need for a regional approach for countering terrorism. On the occasion, Army chief Gen Munir reiterated the resolve of the armed forces to eliminate the scourge of terrorism afflicting the country. He said 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, he said that the enemies of Pakistan have once again underestimated the resilience and grit of the state and the people of Pakistan. He vowed to “fight terrorism till every terrorist casting an evil eye on Pakistan, its people and their guests, is eliminated.” He further said no stone shall be left unturned to ensure that every foreign citizen, especially the 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 by employing all resources available to the state. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack. Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Federal Information Minister Atta Tarar said that the Pakistani government has decided to investigate the suicide bombing through a joint investigation team.

“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 or any Pakistani citizen – all possible steps will be taken for their protection and no effort will be spared to root out terrorism.” Tarar further said that standard operating procedures (SOPs) were in place for the security of Chinese nationals. The Counter Terrorism Department of KPK Police investigating the suicide blast submitted its initial report to the provincial government on Tuesday.

Thousands of Chinese personnel are working in Pakistan on several projects under the aegis of the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.