On July 14, a bus blast killed nine Chinese workers along with two Pakistani soldiers in Northern Pakistan. The bus was carrying more than 30 people and was heading towards the site of Dasu hydropower project in the remote upper Kohistan region. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is now alleging that the suicide bombing was executed by Islamist militants with the support of Afghan and Indian intelligence agencies.
The explosion sent the bus falling down a mountainside, killing at least 13 people. Beijing attributed the explosion to a deliberate bombing attack while Pakistani officials initially blamed it on mechanical failure and later admitted that an attack might have taken place.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian demanded that the Pakistani government punish the individuals responsible for the incident. “China has asked Pakistan to thoroughly investigate the truth as soon as possible, capture the perpetrators, punish them severely, and effectively protect the safety of Chinese personnel, institutions, and projects in Pakistan,” Lijian said.
Projects funded by China have been met with distrust by the locals as people see no benefits from such initiatives. Dasu hydroelectric project is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative. CPEC is a $65 billion investment plan that involves the construction of an optimized network of roads, pipelines, and railway connectivity between China and Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi blamed a “nexus of Indian RAW and Afghan NDS” being behind the bus blast. RAW, which stands for Research & Analysis Wing, is the foreign intelligence agency of India while the National Directorate of Security (NDS) is the national intelligence and security service of Afghanistan. An Indian government official has dismissed the charges as baseless, adding that Pakistan had previously made accusations like this in the past.
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While addressing a news conference with the head of the Pakistani investigation team, minister Qureshi categorically stated that Pakistan has the evidence to back up their allegations against the Afghan and Indian intelligence agencies.
According to Qureshi, a group is known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which is reportedly linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State was directly responsible for the attack. In a message sent to Reuters, TTP denied being responsible for the incident.
Javed Iqbal, Pakistan’s Deputy Inspector General of Counter Terrorism Police who was in charge of the investigation, said that the blast was caused by an explosive-strapped car ramming into the bus. He stated that around 100 to 120 kilograms of high explosives were used in the car bombing. Forensic findings from the suicide bomber’s remains revealed that the attacker was not a Pakistani national.
Iqbal added that all evidence including cell phone data analysis, video footage, investigation of local handlers and facilitators, and forensic examination of the car used in the attack pointed to TTP having executed the bus blast. Iqbal also alleged that officers of RAW and NDS directed the TTP in Afghanistan.
Responding to the incident, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson stated, “China is firmly opposed to all forces that use terrorism as a means to get geopolitical benefit.”