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Pakistan Bus Blast That Killed 9 Chinese Puts More Speed Bumps on Road to Afghan Peace

People gather at the site of the bus tragedy, in Kohistan district of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. (File pic: AP/PTI)

People gather at the site of the bus tragedy, in Kohistan district of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. (File pic: AP/PTI)

Pakistan's information minister said that a preliminary probe suggested the possibility of it being a terror attack cannot be ruled out.

Thirteen people, including nine Chinese nationals, two personnel of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) and two locals, were killed and 28 others injured when a coach carrying them to an under-construction tunnel site of the 4,300-megawatt Dassu hydropower project fell into a ravine in Pakistan’s Upper Kohistan area after an explosion on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted the next day that a preliminary probe suggested the possibility of it being a terror attack cannot be ruled out. “Initial investigations into Dassu incident have now confirmed traces of explosives. Terrorism cannot be ruled out, PM is personally supervising all developments in this regard. Govt is in close coordination with Chinese embassy we are committed to fight menace of terrorism together,” he wrote on Thursday.

His statement came a day after Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told his Chinese counterpart that a preliminary investigation into the incident revealed it was not a consequence of a terrorist attack, according to a statement on China’s foreign ministry website.

In a way, this incident has made the Afghanistan situation more complicated, especially if there is a possibility of terrorism. The Sweden-based Hyrbyair Marri group is also in focus.

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On the other side, Pakistan is going to organise the Afghan Peace Conference on July 17-19, in which several Afghan leaders have already confirmed their participation. However, the Taliban in Doha are not yet invited.

The Ashraf Ghani government will attend but not the President himself. Regional countries as well as the people in Pakistan are worried that the Taliban could again cross the border and enter their nation, and now the key players are collectively making efforts to press warring Afghans to negotiate an “inclusive political settlement” to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control.

This has become the need of the hour, especially after Pakistan indefinitely closed the Friendship Gate — the border crossing with Afghanistan in Chaman district of Balochistan — for all commercial activities and pedestrian traffic.

The decision came after the Taliban said they had captured Spin Boldak, a major district in southern Afghanistan. A video released by the insurgents showed their white flag flying in place of the Afghanistan one above the Friendship Gate.

It is worth noting that this particular border is not wholly covered with barbed wires and in 2001 the Taliban including Mullah Omar used the same border to cross and enter Pakistan. They had spread across Balochistan and Quetta Shura was actually the base of power for them, and this was why it was kept alive for two decades.

The situation is indeed complex and it is difficult to say whether the Taliban will be successful in conquering Kabul. Key players like the United States, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan are trying to reach a compromise, and at this juncture, no other options for a peaceful solution are in sight.

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first published:July 16, 2021, 14:30 IST