Islamabad: At least 12 people, nine of them Chinese nationals and two Pakistani soldiers, were killed and several others injured in a blast on a bus carrying 41 workers to a hydroelectric project on the Indus in a remote Kohistan region of northern Pakistan last week. Beijing said it was a bomb attack but Islamabad said the blast was due to vehicle failure. The explosion occurred when Chinese workers and accompanying Pakistani staff were headed to their work place for an ongoing hydroelectric project in Dasu area of Kohistan district in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
China’s embassy in Pakistan confirmed that nine of its nationals died. It termed the explosion a bomb attack but did not give more details. An embassy statement said: “Recently, personnel of a project of our company in Pakistan have been attacked... The Chinese embassy in Pakistan urgently reminds Chinese citizens, enterprises and projects in Pakistan to pay close attention to the local security situation, strengthen the safety of project personnel, take strict precautions, and do not go out unless necessary.” Condemning the attack, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged Pakistan to “severely punish the perpetrators” and “earnestly protect the safety of Chinese nationals, organisations and projects” in the country.
Initially, there were conflicting reports with some officials saying that the bomb was planted in the bus while others describing it as a roadside explosion. However, the Pakistan foreign office contradicted reports of an attack, saying that the bus “plunged into a ravine after a mechanical failure resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast”. The FO put the death toll at 12, including nine Chinese nationals.
The Dasu hydroelectric project is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. “This is clearly an act of terrorism that has been carefully planned and was supported by information,” said an editorial in Global Times, a Chinese tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, calling it the most serious attack on Chinese nationals in recent years.