Pakistan on Thursday said traces of explosives were “confirmed" in a preliminary probe into a bus blast that killed 13 people, including nine Chinese nationals, and an act of terrorism cannot be ruled out. Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry’s comments came a day after the all-weather allies, Pakistan and China, offered conflicting views on the possible causes of the fatal crash. While China termed the mishap as a bomb attack, Pakistan stated that the blast was caused by a gas leak.
The incident took place on Wednesday in Dasu area of Upper Kohistan district of the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where Chinese engineers and construction workers are helping Pakistan build a dam, which is part of the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “Initial investigations into Dassu incident have now confirmed traces of explosives, terrorism cannot be ruled out, Prime Minister (Imran Khan) 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," Chaudhry tweeted.
At least 13 people, including nine Chinese nationals and two Frontier Corps soldiers, died and 39 others injured when the bus carrying Chinese engineers and workers to the site of the under-construction Dassu Dam exploded. The bus fell into a deep ravine after the explosion. China on Thursday said it is rushing a special team to Pakistan to probe the blast.
Meanwhile, according to a report in Dawn newspaper, a Chinese national was missing and a search for his whereabouts was underway. However, so far there is no confirmation by the authorities on the missing person.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Wednesday said leakage of gas caused by a mechanical failure resulted in the blast in the bus after which it plunged into the ravine. The incident also figured in Wednesday’s talks between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the side-lines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Ministers meeting at Dushanbe in Tajikistan.
Wang told Qureshi that the Chinese side was shocked by the incident, hoping that the Pakistani side could quickly find out its cause, conduct rescue and treatment work at all costs, deal with the aftermath in time, and prevent similar incidents from happening again. Preliminary investigation showed that it was an accident and no background of terrorist attacks has been found, Qureshi was quoted as saying by Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua.
Pakistan and China have been jointly executing several high-value projects under CPEC, which was launched in 2015. The projects have reportedly sparked resentment, particularly among separatist groups who say there have been few benefits for local people, along with the jobs they create being lost to foreigners.
There have been incidents of targeted attacks on Chinese workers involved in various projects as well as officials. In April, a suicide bomber targeted a luxury hotel in Quetta where the Chinese ambassador was staying. The envoy remained unhurt as he was out of the hotel at the time of the attack. Pakistani Taliban had claimed responsibility for the blast.