The Chinese firm, working on the Dasu hydropower project, would continue carrying out work on the project, the company announced on Saturday, as a visiting Chinese investigation team inspected the site where nine Chinese workers died in a bus tragedy in Upper Kohistan district earlier this week.
The China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC), which had announced to discontinue work on the project and ended the employment contract with the Pakistani staffers, said that the higher authorities had rejected its decision.
Nine Chinese nationals and four Pakistani citizens were killed and more than two-dozen others sustained injuries on Wednesday morning, when a shuttle bus, they were travelling in, plunged into a deep ravine after an explosion on board.
The bus was ferrying the Chinese and Pakistani workers to an under-construction tunnel site of the Dasu hydropower project in the remote Upper Kohistan district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, when it hit the tragedy.
Initially, the Foreign Office had said the incident was an accident, but the government later said that traces of explosives had been found at the site of the incident. Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Thursday that “terrorism could not be ruled out”.
The CGGC announced on Saturday it was rescinding its earlier order of suspending the employment contract, stating that high officials had rejected its decision. According to the latest announcement the CGGC would continue to work on the project.
Arif Khan Yousafzai, the deputy commission of Upper Kohistan district, said that the Chinese ambassador and other officials decided to continue the work on the project. The Chinese ambassador said that China would extend all possible cooperation to Pakistan, he added.
The CGGC announcement came as a Chinese investigation team, inspected the site of the incident. The team travelled to Dasu from Islamabad via four helicopters. Later they reached the site of the incident after travelling through the Karakoram Highway.
Probe in final stage
Addressing a news conference in Islamabad, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid confirmed that that a 15-member Chinese team was involved in the ongoing investigation into the Dasu bus tragedy. He said that he had spoken with his Chinese counterpart about the ongoing investigations.
Rashid told reporters that the investigation into the bus tragedy had reached its final stage and the perpetrators would be “exposed and brought to justice” soon. He added that the country’s top security institutions were investigating the incident.
Earlier in the day Rashid received a phone call from China’s Public Security Minister Zhao Kezhi. He assured Zhao that the investigation into the bus tragedy was under way at the highest level on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“The Chinese investigation team is being provided full support,” Rashid said. “All Chinese workers in Pakistan would be provided fool-proof security,” the minister said during the telephone conversation with the Chinese minister, according to an official handout.
The two ministers discussed the progress in the investigation and also agreed to complete the probe on a priority basis. They expressed regret over the loss of precious lives. “Pakistan and China’s friendship is tried, tested. We are iron brothers,” the interior minister said.
Responding to a question at the press conference, Rashid said that Zhao had contacted him on the instructions of President Xi Jinping and that he was apprised of the sentiments of government and the people of Pakistan over the incident.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, Rashid continued, had directed Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to visit China and asked him [Rashid] to ensure more security to the Chinese nationals. The Interior Ministry had issued directives to the law-enforcement agencies, accordingly, he added.
About the Chinese investigators, Rashid said that the 15-member team arrived in Pakistan on Friday. The team is visiting the site of the incident along with the additional secretary and officials of security institutions.
“The investigation into the bus incident is under way, while the wounded persons are being provided the best treatment, he added. “The culprits involved in Lahore incident have been arrested, so those behind the Dasu bus incident will also be exposed,” the minister added.
Separately, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported that Zhao made an urgent phone call to Rashid on “a recent terror attack that caused heavy Chinese casualties” in Pakistan. “According to the ongoing investigation … this is a terrorist attack against Chinese personnel,” Zhao said.
According to Xinhua report, Zhao said that the Chinese government had paid high attention to the attack on Chinese personnel that occurred on Wednesday, about which Chinese President Xi Jinping had given important instructions.
“China strongly condemned any organisation and personnel that carried out this atrocity,” he said, expressing that hope that both the countries would work “together to find out the truth, solve the case as soon as possible… and severely punish the organisers or individuals behind the attack”.
Zhao requested the Pakistani side to take overall measures to identify and troubleshoot security risks facing Chinese personnel, institutions and projects in Pakistan, fix loopholes, strengthen its early-warning system and security measures, … to prevent similar incidents from happening again.”
The interior minister said that the Foreign Ministry would give a better briefing on the Afghan policy, but added that the border management [with Afghanistan] was the responsibility of the interior ministry.
“At the moment no incident has happened [at Chaman border] that merits serious notice,” he said, in response to a question. He also revealed that some arrests had been made in Peshawar when questioned on the display of Afghan Taliban flags in some areas.
“Pakistan is keeping a vigilant eye on the situation across the border. We’ll never allow use of our land against anyone and someone else use of its land against us,” he said, adding no superpower could ignore Pakistan due to its geographical importance.
Afghanistan had border with the Central Asian states and today the situation was totally different from the past when Afghan border was linked with Russia, he added. He said India always tried to avail any opportunity to create unrest in Pakistan.
Regarding issuance of fake passports and identity cards, Rashid said that eight accused had been arrested, while 19 others had been served with show-cause notices. “Instructions have been issued to expel the holders of fake identity cards from the country,” he added.
The minister said he would visit Azad Kashmir along with Prime Minister Imran Khan and hoped that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf would form government there. Rangers and civil armed forces would perform security duties during the AJK polls, he added.
(With additional input from agencies)