LAHORE: Since 2014, foreign engineers in Pakistan had been faced attacks on them. In May 3, 2004, a car bomb in Gwadar had killed three engineers from China, a suicide bomber had killed 11 French engineers in Karachi in 2002. The recent incident took place in Kohistan, which claimed a dozen lives including that of nine Chinese nationals, the Pakistani government said the bus carrying Chinese and Pakistani construction workers plunged into a ravine from a slippery mountainous road
The claim raised many a eye-brow on the social media platforms, knowing country’s foes like India have been spewing venom against the US$62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which is a paradigm shift for the country due to building of network of roads, railways, hydro-power projects and pipelines spanning across 3,000 km approximately. Conspiracy theories are hence circulating on WhatsApp groups, Twitter and Facebook etc, whereby various users apprehend that it might well be a destabilizing activity.
The CPEC spans from top of the mighty Himalayas in Kashgar city, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region to down below towards the Arabian Sea, specifically southern Pakistan’s Gwadar Port. Under this Belt and Road Initiative, the 1,300 km long Karakoram Highway is strategically designed to connect China’s western Xinjiang Autonomous Region with Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan.
In October 2020, the “Asia Times,” a Hong Kong-based English language publishing group, had reported: “Pakistan Army has provided an around-the-clock security apparatus through a special security division comprising more than 15,000 troops to protect the Chinese personnel working on CPEC projects. The Chinese officials have also hired their own private security guards in addition to military protection. During the last 18 months, various separatist groups hostile to Chinese investors and the Pakistan Army have amalgamated to share each other’s resources and expertise. Their alliances has resulted in a renewed wave of militancy in the region.”
According to this media house, some staunch anti-China separatists like the Balochistan Liberation Army claimed to have orchestrated the June 29, 2020 attack on the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) because China had a 40 per cent stake in this bourse. At least four lives, including those of three guards and a cop, were lost in the attack, which they managed to repulse. Besides, following is a chronology of some of the major terrorist attacks against Chinese nationals living and working in Pakistan:
On July 8, 2007, unidentified gunmen killed three Chinese workers and wounded another near Peshawar, in what Pakistani officials said was a terrorist attack in the aftermath of the siege of militants at Islamabad’s Lal Masjid, an American newspaper “Boston Globe” had reported.
In May 2017, two Chinese nationals were abducted in Quetta, and later executed.
On February 5, 2018, unknown gunmen opened fire on two Chinese nationals in Karachi, killing one and wounding the other in Defence Housing Authority.
Police said the two employees of a Chinese shipping company were targeted, while they were traveling in a car. According to the “Reuters” and the “AFP,” the perpetrators had fired at least nine shots before fleeing in a car. One victim, identified as Chen Zhu, 46, was shot in the head and died in the hospital. The other survived the attack. They were working for Cosco Shipping Lines Pakistan, a company operating since the early 1990s. They were residing in Karachi’s Lalazar Colony.
On August 11, 2018, a suicide bomber had targeted a bus with Chinese engineers in Dalbandin, Balochistan, leaving six injured.
On November 23, 2018, an armed assault on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi’s Clifton area resulted in the death of three terrorists in the hour-long shootout.
Two policemen and two Pakistani civilians laid down their lives defending the facility. Fortunately, no Chinese national was even injured in the attack.
On May 26, 2021, the Anti-Terrorism Court expressed displeasure at the failure of the prosecution to prove Indian role in the attack, and present witnesses against suspected members of the Baloch Liberation Army for facilitating the attack on the Chinese Consulate.
On May 12, 2019, an attack at the Pearl Continental in Gwadar left numerous hotel employees and a Pakistan Navy soldier dead.
The “CNN” in its coverage of the incident quoted “ISPR saying, the gunmen forced their way into the hotel’s main hall, killing a security guard and firing indiscriminately as they attempted to reach the upper floors of the building.”