The terrorist attack targeting Chinese working on the Dasu dam should serve as a wake-up call for everyone who matters in Pakistan.
No one claimed responsibility for the bomb that ripped through the bus carrying Chinese to their workplace in which nine Chinese workers and three Pakistanis, including two FC men, were killed.
But given the geo-strategic and geo-economic significance of the deeply close cooperation between Pakistan and China, particularly on the construction of CPEC, the reasons for such attacks are understandable.
Investigations are still underway. But, Prime Minister Imran Khan very aptly held out assurance to the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that Pakistan would not allow hostile forces to create a wedge between the two countries that have stood the test of time through the history of their ties.
However, despite such assurances we need a deep introspection and should take urgent measures to stem the rot.
It is not for the first time that inimical forces have targeted Chinese interests and personnel in Pakistan.
There have been numerous such attacks on in Balochistan which were mostly claimed by Baloch separatists linked to India.
In 2018, these militants tried to storm the Chinese consulate in Karachi but were shot dead by guards before they could enter the premises. Four people were killed in the firefight that included two terrorists and two police officers.
But the Dasu attack was the most serious one to date and the events that took place in the aftermath of this assault underline the need for Pakistan and China to take concrete and joint efforts to thwart attempts definitely aimed at weakening their friendship.
However, the reaction of the two countries to the Dasu incident underlines the need for both countries to evolve a joint mechanism to deal with such situations, before they take required measures to address this problem on permanent basis.
Soon after the incident, the Pakistani foreign ministry put out of a statement that it was an accident triggered by a technical fault in the bus that caused a blast plunging the bus into a ravine.
But the Chinese foreign ministry, shortly afterwards, said the blast was caused by a bomb, meaning that it was a terrorist attack. It also called on Pakistan to hold its “perpetrators” to account.
A day later, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of a regional conference in Dushanbe and stood his ground and reiterated that “preliminary investigation showed that it was an accident, no background of terrorist attacks have been found.”
The Chinese official Xinhua news agency quoted Wang as saying that Pakistan should quickly find out the cause of the blast and take measures to prevent such incidents from happening again.
Within hours of this meeting, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted confirming that the explosion in the bus was caused by a bomb.
“Terrorism cannot be ruled out,” the information minister said.
These developments led the Chinese side to call off the tenth meeting of the Joint Coordination Committee on CPEC scheduled through a video link on July 16 to a later date.
The Chinese government, instead, decided to send a joint working group to Pakistan to coordinate efforts for a proper investigation into the incident and enhance security and eliminate security threats and ensure safety of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects.
Such divergent public positions by Pakistan and China on matters of mutual interest and concerns have been unseen in the past.
The two sides need to learn a lesson from this incident and work more closely to avoid repeating a similar situation in the future.
Moreover, the government in Pakistan should also put its own house in order as diplomatic ties, particularly with a country like China, are too delicate to be handled by everyone.
The government should speak in unison on such sensitive issues and must stop irrelevant ministers to give statements on such matters.
Pakistan is facing numerous challenges on foreign policy as well as on the economic fronts.
It is facing hostility not just from India but the Afghan government too, which has upped the ante against Pakistan in the wake of growing successes of the Taliban in the battlefield following US-led withdrawal of foreign forces from their country.
The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has not removed Pakistan from its notorious grey list of countries lacking on measures to stop terror financing and money laundering despite Pakistan’s accomplishment of most of the criteria set by it.
Both Pakistan and the International Monitory Fund (IMF) had agreed to revive the $6.6 billion bailout package for Pakistan, but there are still hiccups in the release of the funds over implementations of the conditions set by the Fund.
Except for China, the foreign investments in Pakistan have been negligible. There have been no noticeable investments from the US, Europe and East Asia while there have been no signs yet of the fulfillment of the commitments made by our Arab friends.
In such a precarious situation, Pakistan needs to act very prudently and take all out measures to genuinely address the concerns of China, which has been our most reliable friend in testing times.
China’s involvement in almost all major development projects in Pakistan, particularly those related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), have been a thorn in the eyes of many regional and international forces.
At the time when the country is facing tremendous pressures from varying fronts, all stakeholders in Pakistan act wisely to safeguard the country’s vital and core interests.
These pressures could intensify in the coming months and years with the emergence of Taliban as the dominant force in Afghanistan.
This situation could not only a pose threat to Pakistan’s own security, but to all of the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, including China.
Pakistan and China have in the past made coordinated efforts for peace in Afghanistan through quadrilateral framework.
Both countries should revive those efforts, as peace in Afghanistan would not only help them realise their dream of gaining connectivity and access to the land-locked Central Asia, but it could also pave the way for smooth implementation of their bilateral development projects.
The writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad