Islamabad, Pakistan — At least nine Chinese construction workers and four Pakistanis were killed when an explosion blew a bus off the road in northern Pakistan.
Officials from both countries gave conflicting first explanations about the cause of the explosion on Wednesday, Beijing called it an attack, and Islamabad said it was the result of a mechanical failure.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged Pakistan to severely punish perpetrators and keep Chinese personnel, institutions and projects safe.
In a statement, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called it an accident and said the bus plunged into the canyon after a gas leak caused an explosion. The ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on discrepancies between accounts.
The safety of thousands of Chinese workers in Pakistan is a very sensitive issue. Chinese construction sites, symbols and civilians are being attacked by local Pakistani militants.
Islamabad and Beijing are close allies, Beijing Billions of dollars construction program In Pakistan, it is a showcase of the Global Infrastructure Initiative. The bus was taking workers to Das Dam, which is under construction in northern Pakistan, during the blast on Wednesday.
“If this is a one-off event, it is unlikely to upset China’s plans in Pakistan, but there is little doubt that Beijing will pay more attention to the security situation of the project as a result.” And a book on the relationship between China and Pakistan. “The ability of Pakistan’s security services to provide effective protection for projects and personnel remains an essential prerequisite.”
Pakistan has launched a new dedicated unit of its army (more than 10,000 soldiers) to protect the Chinese. In addition, thousands of paramilitary and police personnel also protect projects and personnel.
The incident took place a few days before a major meeting of Chinese and Pakistani officials to discuss future projects under what is known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Approximately one-third of the $ 60 billion worth of promised infrastructure projects have been completed, but much of the rest is at a loss, largely due to lack of financial resources for Pakistan to pay more. I am. Instead, Pakistan is trying to seduce China’s private sector to set up a factory there. In many cases, companies are more wary of security threats than the state-owned companies that built the infrastructure.
Some Pakistani officials personally stated that the explosion was a bombing, and one official said the bomb had been planted on the bus. Local officials in the blast area also said compressed natural gas was not available for use as fuel by vehicles. In mountainous areas, oil and diesel vehicles are commonly used because they are suitable for mountain roads, local officials said.
There was no claim of immediate liability. In the past, the Chinese have been particularly targeted in Pakistan by separatist forces from the southwestern part of Balochistan, located on the other side of the country from the bombing site. Separatists, a secular movement, claim that China is using the resources of its state.
Jihadist groups have also become more active in recent months after Pakistan’s security efforts have reduced attacks in recent years. Islamabad states that armed groups have evacuated across the Afghan border, but Kabul has denied the charges.
Bombing by jihadist groups in April Barely missed the Chinese ambassador When he was visiting Balochistan.
China is Pakistan’s most important security and economic partner, providing everything from military technology to the construction of domestic nuclear power plants. Islamabad has also been an ally of the United States for decades, but its relationship has seen far greater ups and downs.
Raphael Pantucci, a senior researcher at S. Raphael Tonam’s Graduate School of International Studies in Singapore, said Washington’s relationship with Pakistan would be downgraded with the withdrawal of US troops from neighboring Afghanistan.
“Pakistan needs international partners. Keeping China happy will become increasingly important to them,” said Pantucci.
Earlier this month, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan praised China’s political system and the Chinese Communist Party’s 100th anniversary. He said China “achieved better without democracy.” He also said he accepted the denial of Muslim human rights abuses in the northwestern part of Beijing’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
— Josh Chin contributed to this article.
Write to Saeed Shah at [email protected]
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