Terrorism

Bus attack highlights growing resentment of China in Pakistan

By Pakistan Forward and AFP

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Pakistani rescue workers and onlookers gather around a wreck after a bus plunged into a ravine following a bomb explosion, which killed 12 people including 9 Chinese workers, in Upper Kohistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, July 14. [Stringer/AFP]

The attack on a bus carrying Chinese engineers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) on Wednesday (July 14) is highlighting the growing disdain among Pakistanis for China's overbearing presence in the country and for the policies espoused by Beijing.

At least 12 people, including nine Chinese engineers and two Frontier Corps personnel, died and several others were injured on Wednesday near the Dasu hydropower plant in Upper Kohistan, KP.

The bus was carrying about 40 Chinese engineers, surveyors and mechanical staff to a hydropower dam construction site in KP when an explosion on board sent it into a ravine.

According to Dawn on Thursday, initial investigations confirmed traces of explosives.

The power plant is part of the Beijing's massive Belt and Road Initiative.

Rejection of China

Rejection of China has been growing steadily in Pakistan.

The Chinese regime over the past few years has inked numerous deals with Pakistan for several multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects, raising concerns over Chinese influence in the country.

Projects linked to the BRI in Sindh Province have drawn protests from residents in the Thar Desert region after studies showed that coal-mining projects under the programme will be a major air pollutant in South Asia and will expose the local population to serious health risks.

In Balochistan, a deepwater port development -- a Chinese flagship project in Gwadar -- is driving serious unrest in the province because Beijing has been exploiting local resources without care or concern for the impact on locals, lawmakers and observers say.

Many questions are also being asked about the intentions of the Chinese military at the port of Gwadar, where a number of suspect buildings are being constructed under a cloak of secrecy.

Last month, in Gwadar local Baloch fishermen demonstrated against illegal Chinese fishing as well as the issuance of permits to Chinese trawlers.

In April, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) took responsibility for a fatal hotel bombing in Quetta. The TTP said it was targeting Pakistani security personnel, but observers noted that the Chinese ambassador was staying in the hotel at the time. He was not injured.

In June 2020, Baloch insurgents targeted the Pakistan Stock Exchange, which is partly owned by Chinese companies, in Karachi, Sindh province.

In May 2019, the separatist Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) attacked and besieged a luxury hotel in Gwadar. The three gunmen killed at least five people before security forces killed them. The BLA said it was targeting Chinese and other investors, according to the BBC.

Anti-China sentiment is also growing steadily in Pakistan over Beijing's treatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minority Muslim groups as well as Chinese companies' disrespect for Islam.

Beijing has been facing mounting pressure over its "horrific and systematic abuses" of Muslim minorities over the past few years in Xinjiang region.

COVID-19's legacy

Added sources of tension revolve around the fight against COVID-19.

In addition to China's lies about the origins of the pandemic, it shipped out substandard vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE) around the world, including to Pakistan.

Doubts over the efficacy and safety of vaccines donated by China have sparked protests, with demonstrators in Pakistan demanding Western-developed coronavirus jabs.

Pakistan has been administering mostly Chinese vaccines -- Sinopharm, Sinovac and CanSinoBio -- to its citizens as part of a government-run immunisation campaign that began in February.

But China's leading disease control official publicly acknowledged concerns over the effectiveness of Chinese-made jabs amid a potential plan to boost the efficacy of the nation's coronavirus vaccines.

The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention was "considering how to solve the problem that the efficacy of existing vaccines is not high", Gao Fu, director of the agency, told a conference in Chengdu April 10, local media reported.

Beijing's exports of faulty COVID-19 test kits, shoddy ventilators and phony masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) serve as another warning.

During the peak of the pandemic last year, Pakistani hospitals shunned PPE made in China after a series of infections and deaths of health workers treating COVID-19 patients.

"More than 1,000 doctors, paramedics and nurses engaged in the management of COVID-19 have tested positive for the virus because of bad PPE imported from China," Dr. Umar Jawad, secretary of the Pakistan Medical Association, said last April.

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