Fahad Ali describes a worrisome situation
Terrorism raising widely propagated that Pakistan has valiantly surmounted the challenge of terrorism and for a time it was acknowledged that terrorists were retreating. The people felt reassured that the country has overcome this scourge and they felt free to move about without fear of a sudden terrorist-inflicted outrage. This fact was also recognised internationally encouraging the holding of cricket matches in the country. However, slowly people started witnessing the resurgence of terrorism that initially was confined to outer reaches of the border area but then the urban areas began to become targets of terrorist activities in the country. Almost all major cities of the country were subjected to outrages perpetrated by the terrorists and suddenly nothing felt safe anymore.
The latest Terrorism raising outrage took place in Karachi where least four people, including three Chinese nationals, were killed while four others were injured in a suicide attack outside the Confucius Institute of Karachi University (KU). The blast took place at approximately 2:30pm and a spokesperson for the university confirmed that three of the victims were Chinese nationals identifying them as Confucius Institute Director Huang Guiping, Ding Mupeng, Chen Sai and Khalid, the driver. The spokesperson also identified two of the injured as Wang Yuqing and Hamid and two other faculty members. Confucius Institute is a Chinese government-run body which offers language and cultural programmes overseas in Karachi.
Terrorism raising Television footage showed a white van in flames with plumes of smoke rising from its remains while the windows of nearby buildings were shattered. The van appeared to be turning towards the Confucius Institute, located next to the commerce department, when the incident took place. CCTV footage of the attack showed a burqa-clad woman standing outside the entrance of the Confucius Institute. The woman detonated herself just as the van neared the institute’s entrance. The BLA released a photo of a woman in fatigues raising two fingers in salute who it said had carried out the attack, and named her as Shariah Baloch alias Bramsh. Local media reported that the bomber had been a student at the university.
Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) mentioned that the suicide attack was carried out by a woman, adding that ball bearings were found at the site of the blast. It was also reported that the van was properly guarded as a Rangers team was escorting it which was why an improvised explosive device (IED) was not used instead. The blast ripped through the minibus, injuring at least four others near the university’s Confucius Institute. The separatist Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) said it attacked the vehicle carrying the Chinese staff, and that the suicide bomber had been a woman. The group opposes Chinese investment in Pakistan, saying locals do not benefit. It would be the first time a suicide attack by the BLA has been carried out by a female militant. The group has targeted Chinese nationals on a number of occasions, as has the Pakistani Taliban. China is heavily involved in large infrastructure projects across Pakistan, including in resource-rich Balochistan province.
The BLA has targeted Chinese nationals in attacks in the past. Terrorism raising in Balochistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency by armed Baloch groups demanding more autonomy and a greater share in the region’s natural resources if not outright independence from Islamabad. This is the first major attack on Chinese nationals in Pakistan since the bombing of a bus at Dasu in the northwest in July 2021 that killed nine Chinese nationals. However, that attack wasn’t claimed by the Baloch militants. The Pakistani Taliban — also known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan — had claimed responsibility for the attack. Four Pakistanis had also died in that attack. The Baloch separatist guerrillas, who say they are fighting for a greater share in regional resources of mines and minerals, usually attack gas projects, infrastructure and the security forces. They also attack Chinese projects and workers despite Pakistan’s assurances that it is doing everything it can to protect the projects.
The embassy of China in Pakistan confirmed that three of the country’s citizens had been killed in the blast. Pakistan’s government condemned what it called a cowardly terrorist attack. Under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor China is in the process of transforming Balochistan, rich in natural resources but Pakistan’s poorest province through major Chinese infrastructure projects comprising a network of roads, railway and pipelines between the two countries which forms part of Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative.
The most worrying aspect of the latest surge in terrorism is that it is directed towards Pak-China friendship and collaboration. In this context this is not the first of its kind of terrorist outrage but is the latest in the series of such attacks. Earlier, at least two children were killed in a suicide attack targeting a vehicle carrying Chinese nationals in Balochistan’s Gwadar district. Three people, including the car’s driver, were also injured when a suicide bomber blew himself near the vehicle. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. The incident came less than two weeks after a motorcycle bomb blast took place at Quetta’s Hali Road roundabout, near Balo¬chistan Assembly and the High Court, leaving two policemen martyred and 21 others, including 12 policemen, injured. There have been other attacks targeting Chinese nationals in the country. A Chinese engineer who lived in Karachi was shot at and wounded in a moving car by gunmen riding a motorcycle in the city’s SITE area where he was supposed to repair imported machinery. The banned Balochistan Liberation Front had claimed responsibility for that attack.
The most serious of such terrorist attack took place in Dasu area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Upper Kohistan district in which thirteen people, including nine Chinese nationals, two personnel of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) and two locals, were killed and 28 others sustained injuries when a coach carrying them to an under-construction tunnel site of the 4,300-megawatt Dasu hydropower project fell into a ravine in the Upper Kohistan area after an explosion. According to eyewitnesses, three vehicles were on their way to the Dasu dam site in a convoy after picking up Chinese labourers in the morning from Barseen camp — some eight kilometres from Dasu district headquarters of Upper Kohistan — via the Karakoram Highway when the blast occurred. Sources also mentioned that a Chinese national was missing and search for his whereabouts was under way.
Soon after the incident, army helicopters airlifted the bodies and the injured, including 33 Chinese nationals, to the Combined Military Hospitals in Abbottabad and Gilgit. In the meantime, the Terrorism raising FC personnel cordoned off the area until police and other investigating agencies arrived at the spot and started geo-fencing the area. WAPDA Chairman retired Lt. Gen Muzammil Hussain rushed to Dasu and monitored the rescue and relief operation at the site. Initially there were conflicting reports about the cause of the tragic incident with the Pakistani side attributing the incident to unfortunate accident but later conceded that it was terrorist activity directed towards the Chinese. This turn of event is indeed a great cause of concern as if the terrorists keep on targeting the Chinese then it will become difficult for the Chinese to keep on investing and working for infrastructure development of Pakistan. TW