China asks its firms in Pakistan to heighten security for staff after Karachi suicide attack: Official
Beijing, Apr 28: China on Thursday asked thousands of its nationals working on the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in Pakistan to increase their security and watch out for terrorist risks following a deadly suicide blast in Karachi that killed three Chinese and wounded another.
"The Pakistani government has promised to strengthen security for Chinese personnel, projects and institutions, and will not allow any force to undermine our friendship and cooperation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here.
Asked about the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), the militant group whose woman suicide bomber carried out the attack at the Karachi University targeting the Chinese teachers, warning more attacks if China and Pakistan don't vacate from Balochistan province, he said that Pakistani government "will not allow any force to undermine our friendship and cooperation".
"We believe Pakistan will take earnest and concrete measures to ensure the safe and smooth progress of bilateral cooperation. Once again, we remind our institutions' personnel in Pakistan to heighten their security awareness and watch out for terrorist risks," he said.
A woman suicide bomber was seen on the video blowing herself near a shuttle bus used by Karachi's Confucius Institute occurred on Tuesday afternoon, killing three Chinese teachers and their local driver and injuring another Chinese person. In a purported video issued by the group, a BLA spokesman said that the motive of the attack was very clear.
"It was a simple and clear message to China and Pakistan to withdraw immediately from Balochistan," said the masked spokesman surrounded by armed men on a hilly terrain. "Baloch Liberation Army guarantees you the CPEC will fail miserably on Baloch land," the spokesman, who was holding an assault rifle, said in fluent English.
He warned that a special unit has been formed particularly to attack Chinese officials and installations in Balochistan. The group opposes Chinese investment in Pakistan, especially in the restive Balochistan, saying local people do not benefit.
The CPEC connects China's Xinjiang province with Gwadar port in Balochistan, providing China direct access to the Arabian Sea. Thousands of Chinese are currently working on scores of infrastructure projects.
The Pakistan Army has formed a separate brigade consisting of thousands of soldiers to guard the Chinese as both the BLA and the Pakistan's Islamic militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have carried out numerous attacks.
Wang said, "the Pakistani side is making all out efforts to investigate the attack and apprehend the perpetrator. Terrorism is a common scourge of all mankind. China and Pakistan has the resolve and capability to cut off the claws of the terrorists make them pay the due price."
He reiterated that China and Pakistan's iron-clad friendship is deeply rooted in people's hearts. "China supports Pakistan's national development and will continue to support its economic and social development and improvement of livelihood." State-run Global Times reported that Chinese businesses are ramping up precautions to ensure the safety of personnel and projects in accordance with official guidelines following the Karachi attack.
After the attack, several state-owned companies that are deeply involved in Belt and Road projects in the country told the daily that their local employees are safe and the projects have not been disrupted. The daily on Thursday also carried excerpts of the BLA threat, saying that the woman suicide bomb attack has socked both the Chinese and Pakistanis.
"The violent attack targeting Chinese teachers has shocked people in China and Pakistan and the international community," the report said. "There used to be threats from terror groups toward Chinese nationals in Pakistan. But it is rare to see such barefaced threats soon after such a violent and heinous terror attack,"
Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the daily. Qian said that by taking pictures of the attacker, quickly announcing responsibility, making further threats and hyping related topics, the BLA is promoting terrorist propaganda to maximize the influence of the terror attack.
The information of the bomber, if confirmed, and the terror attack in the University of Karachi showed the BLA's targets are wider and there have been changes in the structure of their leading group, said Zhou Rong, a senior researcher at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. The total number of the BLA may not exceed 6,000 and its Majeed Brigade has less than 500 people, he said. Zhou said the attack showed young people with higher education and humble origins in Balochistan may be replacing the older leaders of the province.
Compared with senior members, who are tribal leaders and may yield to the Pakistani government and military, these young people are more stubborn and make more varied attacks that are hard to prevent, Zhou said. In the Karachi terror attack, both terrorist and victims were teachers. The joining of women with higher education to the BLA shows how bewildering the extremist group can be, said Zhu Yongbiao, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies in Lanzhou University.
Wang Shida, deputy director of the South Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania Research Institute, said Pakistan's security has not covered smaller CPEC projects leaving the Chinese nationals vulnerable. Facing the BLA and other forces' rampant attacks, Pakistan should build a comprehensive security mechanism on all Chinese personnel and projects as soon as possible, Wang said.
The two major issues - religious extremism and separatism - remain big problems for the Pakistani government. Aside from cooperating with China on countering terrorism, the Pakistani government also needs to improve the education of the public to help them avoid being easily coaxed and incited by terrorists, Zhu Yongbiao, director of the Centre for Afghanistan Studies in Lanzhou University, told the daily. PTI