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Pakistani PM promises better security for Chinese workers

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif meets with Chinese workers at Dasu hydropower plant, April 1, 2024. Five workers of the plant were killed in a suicide attack on March 26.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif meets with Chinese workers at Dasu hydropower plant, April 1, 2024. Five workers of the plant were killed in a suicide attack on March 26.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has promised the “best possible” security for Chinese nationals working in his country as Islamabad repatriated the remains Monday of five workers from China, killed last week in an attack.

On March 26, five Chinese workers and their Pakistani driver died when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into their bus.

The workers were traveling to the Chinese-funded Dasu hydropower project in the remote region of Kohistan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province when they came under attack in Bisham, about 4-hours north of the capital Islamabad.

In a visit to Dasu, Monday, with Jiang Zaidong, Beijing’s ambassador to Islamabad, Sharif met the Chinese workers at the hydropower project and assured them of “fool-proof” security arrangements.

“I will not rest until we have put in place the best possible security measures for your security. Not only in Dasu, [but] all over Pakistan,” Sharif said, adding that, this was his promise to the people of China, and to the Chinese leadership including President Xi Jinping.

After the attack last Tuesday, Pakistan quickly put together a joint investigation team to probe the incident as well as an inquiry committee to examine security measures for Chinese citizens working in the country.

Sharif assured the Chinese nationals that his government “will not waste any time to act on the recommendations of the inquiry committee.”

Since 2015 a special military unit that includes thousands of personnel as well local police contingents have been providing security for Chinese nationals working on the nearly $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Popularly known as CPEC, the mega-project is part of Beijing's global Belt and Road Initiative.

A team of Chinese investigators is working with Pakistani officials to ascertain the facts surrounding last week's deadly attack.

Speaking at a regular news briefing Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin reiterated Beijing’s demand to find and punish the perpetrators of the attack.

“China firmly supports Pakistan in looking into what happened with utmost resolve and effort, bringing the perpetrators and whoever’s behind the attack to justice,” Wang said.

The spokesperson added that Beijing supports Pakistan in “doing everything possible to protect the safety and security of Chinese personnel, projects, and institutions in Pakistan.”

Referring to those responsible for the attack, Sharif promised workers at Dasu that his government will “make sure that exemplary punishment is given to them.”

Muhammad Imran, the district police officer of Shangla which includes Bisham — the site of last Tuesday's attack — told VOA that security has increased on the Karakoram Highway.

“We are trying our best to give robust security to [the] Chinese as well as to [foreign] tourists who travel this route frequently,” Imran said. However, he refused to say how many additional personnel had been called to provide enhanced security.

Remains repatriated

Earlier on Monday, a Pakistani military plane carrying the bodies of the five Chinese victims of the attack arrived in the city of Wuhan, China. Chaudhry Salik Hussain, minister for overseas Pakistanis and human development, accompanied the remains.

Before the plane departed, Pakistan’s President Asif Zardari, and army chief Gen. Asim Munir, along with Sharif took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at a military air base near the capital.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Banned Pakistani militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban that was behind several recent deadly attacks in Pakistan denied involvement.

In July 2021, 13 people including nine Chinese nationals were killed in a suicide attack on their convoy as they travelled to Dasu – Pakistan’s largest hydroelectric project.

In 2022, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan handed the death penalty to two men accused of facilitating the deadly attack.