July 18, 2024

China suspends work on two projects in Pakistan following deadly attack

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Chinese construction companies have ceased work on two significant dam projects in Pakistan after a devastating suicide bombing claimed the lives of five Chinese engineers and a Pakistani driver earlier this week, according to a provincial official speaking to AFP on Friday.

The companies have insisted that Pakistani authorities devise new security strategies before allowing the resumption of activities at the sites, where approximately 1,250 Chinese nationals are employed, the official disclosed.

Security concerns regarding Chinese workers remain paramount for both nations, as militants opposed to external influences frequently target Chinese nationals. The attack occurred on Tuesday when a suicide bomber targeted the workers, crashing into their vehicle on a mountainous route near one of the dam sites and triggering an explosion that sent the vehicle plummeting into a deep ravine.

A senior official from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa interior department, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed that since Wednesday, the China Gezhouba Group Company has suspended operations on the Dasu dam project in the province, while Power China has halted work on the Diamer Bhasha dam, spanning two provinces.

The official stated, “They have requested new security arrangements from the government,” highlighting that approximately 750 Chinese engineers are involved in the Dasu Dam project, with an additional 500 working on the Diamer Bhasha Dam. Movement for Chinese engineers has been confined to their residential compounds near the project sites.

While China has refrained from making official statements, it has consistently urged Pakistan to ensure the safety of its nationals. The diplomatic liaison intensified at the Chinese embassy in Islamabad following the attack, with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, along with the foreign and interior ministers, swiftly offering condolences.

China’s foreign ministry emphasized the enduring friendship between the two nations but urged Pakistan to “take effective measures to ensure the safety and security of Chinese nationals, projects, and institutions.”

The attack comes amid a backdrop of burgeoning Chinese investment in Pakistan, with over two trillion dollars in contracts signed worldwide under its Belt and Road initiative, channeling significant sums into infrastructure projects within Pakistan. However, grievances persist among Pakistanis over the perceived unequal distribution of job opportunities and wealth generated by these projects.

This assault follows recent attempts by militants to breach the offices of the Gwadar deepwater port in the southwest, a linchpin of Chinese investment in Pakistan. Previous attacks, including the storming of a luxury hotel in Balochistan province overlooking the Chinese-backed Gwadar port in 2019 and the targeting of the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi in June 2020, underscore the persistent security challenges faced by Chinese interests in Pakistan.

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