Armed separatists stormed the Chinese Consulate in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi on November 23, in one of the most serious attacks in years targeting Chinese nationals living outside of the country. The attack triggered an intense hour-long shootout during which two Pakistani civilians, two police officers, and all three assailants were killed.
Police officials said Chinese diplomats and staff at the consulate were unharmed and the Pakistani civilians killed were a father and a son who had come to the consulate to pick up their visas to China. Police also reported that one suicide vest had been recovered, and bomb squad members disposed of the other explosives.
A video posted on social media at the time of the attack:
— norbert almeida (@norbalm) November 23, 2018
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan denounced the attack as a “conspiracy” against China-Pakistan strategic cooperation and has ordered an inquiry.
China condemned the attack and urged its ally to ensure the security of its citizens. “China strongly condemns any violent attacks against diplomatic agencies and requests that Pakistan takes practical measures to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens and institutions in the country,” said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a press briefing.
The attack was claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), an armed separatist group from the southwestern province of Baluchistan. The group has vowed to carry out suicide attacks against Pakistani security forces and Chinese personnel living in the country. Following the Chinese counsel attack, it released a statement saying:
“The objective of this attack is clear: We will not tolerate any Chinese military expansionist endeavors on Baloch soil.”
In August, the BLA launched a suicide attack targeting a bus carrying Chinese engineers in Dalbandin, Balochistan, and wounding at least six. After that attack, the group warned that if Beijing continues “exploiting” the resources of Baloch, it should be prepared for more attacks.
Balochistan, the country’s largest but least populated province, is at the center of the massive multibillion-dollar cooperation deal known as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an infrastructure and energy corridor that sees southwestern China linked to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan.
Resentment of the CPEC has been building in the province, particularly in and around the port of Gwadar where residents allege that the Chinese-led expansion of the port has stripped fishermen of their livelihoods, pushed them out of their homes, and siphoned off their water supply.
In response to the Chinese-led expansion in the province, the BLA and other armed Baloch separatist groups have stepped up their attacks on Chinese personnel, terming the CPEC project an “imperialist” endeavor.