At least 12 persons, including nine Chinese engineers and two Frontier Corps personnel, died and several others were injured in a bus explosion near the Dasu hydropower plant in the Upper Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Pakistani authorities have made conflicting comments on the incident, with political leaders referring to it as an “attack”, while the Foreign Office made it out to be a car accident caused by a gas leak explosion.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, that preliminary investigation into the incident revealed it was not a consequence of a terrorist attack. However, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said terrorism could not be ruled out from the Dasu bus tragedy in Kohistan.
“Initial investigations into Dassu incident have now confirmed traces of explosives, terrorism cannot be ruled out, PM is personally supervising all developments, in this regard Govt is in close coordination with Chinese embassy we are committed to fight menace of terrorism together,” he wrote on Twitter.
China sends team
Meanwhile, China announced that it was sending a team to Pakistan to deal with the aftermath of the incident. “Today China will send a cross-departmental joint working group to Pakistan to help with relevant work,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a media briefing in Beijing.
“No effort would be spared to find out what happened, conduct in-depth assessment of security risks, and do our utmost to ensure the safety of Chinese personnel”, he added.
Accident or a terrorist attack?
As several terrorist attacks were reported in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in recent years, analyses on whether the bus blast was a terrorist attack or accident remain divided.
In recent years, terrorist groups have targeted Chinese projects in the country, and launched attacks on Chinese tourists, as well as business people, as they know that Pakistan attaches great importance to China-Pakistan ties and aims to use those attacks to sabotage the relations.
China has urged the Pakistani side to find out the truth as soon as possible and release the results of further investigations. Irrespective of whether it was an accident or an attack, the conspiracies being hatched by some regional and global powers against CPEC projects demand extreme vigilance on the part of those assigned with the security of projects and personnel.
The biggest concern is the impact of the deteriorating situation in neighboring Afghanistan. As the violence in Afghanistan picks up, and the terror outfits remain active, Pakistan faces considerable challenges in managing the spillover.
There is no doubt the Chinese leadership and people are fully aware of such attempts but it is need of the hour to beef up security for Chinese nationals and CPEC projects.