BEIJING: Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi has urged Pakistan to investigate a blast on a bus that killed 13 people, including nine Chinese workers, but stopped short of calling it an attack, according to a post on Thursday on the foreign ministry’s website.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson called the Wednesday blast a bomb attack later that day but Pakistan said a mechanical failure caused a gas leak that led to the explosion.
The blast sent the bus crashing into a ravine in Khyber-Paktunkhwa province in northwest Pakistan where Chinese engineers have for several years been working on hydroelectric projects as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.
China is a close ally and major investor in Pakistan and various militants fighting the Pakistani state have in the past attacked Chinese projects.
Wang told Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi that if it was indeed a “terrorist attack,” and Pakistan should immediately arrest the culprits and punish them severely, according to the Chinese ministry’s summary of a meeting they had in Dushanbe on Wednesday.
Wang, who is China’s State Councillor and foreign minister, said “lessons should be learned” and both sides should further strengthen security measures for China-Pakistan cooperation projects to ensure their safe and smooth operation.
The two spoke in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, on the sidelines of a foreign ministers meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Thursday that terrorism could not be ruled out from the Dasu bus tragedy in Kohistan, saying that initial investigations confirmed traces of explosives.
A day ago, 13 people, including nine Chinese nationals, had died 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.
“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 Twitter.
His statement came a day after Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told his Chinese counterpart that 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.
Speaking in the National Assembly (NA), Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan called it a “cowardly attack” and said it would “not divert attention from the special initiatives between Pakistan and its neighbors.”
Awan said that he will speak to Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed to give a briefing on the country’s security situation, and ensure to take the house in confidence situation.
Moreover the Foreign Office (FO) said that the bus “plunged into a ravine after a mechanical failure resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast”. The FO also put the death toll at 12, including 9 Chinese nationals, up from earlier reports of 10 deaths.
Meanwhile, China asked Pakistan to thoroughly investigate the incident.
Condemning the attack, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian expressed his “shock and condemnation over the bombing”.
Lijian urged Pakistan to “severely punish the perpetrators“ and “earnestly protect the safety of Chinese nationals, organisations and projects” in the country.
In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan “strongly condemned the incident”, expressed condolences with the victims and the injured, adding that it “will do its best with Pakistan to deal with the incident”.
“The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan hereby reminds Chinese citizens, enterprises and projects in Pakistan to attach great importance to them, pay close attention to the local security situation, strengthen the safety of project personnel, take strict precautions, and do not go out unless necessary,” the statement read.
It, however, added that Pakistani authorities “were investigating the cause”.
According to details, the passenger bus carrying foreign national workers was exploded in Kohistan, killing 13 people including nine foreign nationals and four FC police personnel on Wednesday.
Kohistan Deputy Commissioner Arif Khan Yousafzai said that the explosion took place in a bus carrying Chinese people who were working on Dasu Hydro Power project in Barseen, Kohistan. He said the reason of the explosion hadnt been determined as yet.
The foreign national workers were going to the site area from Barseen in the morning when the blast occurred and wrecked the vehicle. The blast was sudden and the authorities have not been able to find out the reason for the blast as of now.
A total of 41 passengers were on board the ill-fated bus among whom the majority were of the foreign national engineers who were working on the Dasu Dam.
Thirteen people died in the explosion – nine foreign national, four FC men and two locals- while 31 received injuries seven of them seriously.
Deputy Commission Yousafzai said that the police and other investigation agencies were trying to determine the cause of the blast, but there was a likelihood that the cylinder fitted in the bus might have exploded.
“There is a huge explosion in the bus carrying the Chinese engineers … in Upper Kohistan, a senior administrative officer of the Hazara region said.