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A suicide bomber attacked a convoy of Chinese engineers working on a dam project in northwest Pakistan, killing six people in the latest of a series of attacks targeting Chinese interests in the country. The engineers were on their way to the construction site in Dasu when the attack occurred, resulting in the deaths of five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver. This area has been targeted in the past, with a similar attack in 2021 that killed 13 people, including nine Chinese nationals. The region has been a focus of Chinese investment as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

While no one claimed responsibility for the recent attack, it is believed to have been perpetrated by extremists operating in the country’s northwest. The ethnic militants targeting Chinese interests in mineral-rich Balochistan generally operate in the south and southwest of the country, far from the location of Tuesday’s attack. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police have initiated relief efforts at the site, where staff from the construction company China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC) were working on the hydropower project. Construction had previously halted after the 2021 attack on the same company.

China has been a major investor in Pakistan’s infrastructure projects, with over US$65 billion allocated under the Belt and Road initiative. Despite the attacks, Pakistani Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar affirmed the country’s commitment to fighting against militants and ensuring the security of Chinese nationals working on various projects. The attacks on Chinese interests in Pakistan come at a critical time, just before Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s scheduled visit to Beijing. It will be his first visit to China since assuming office after the February elections, indicating the significance of the relationship between the two countries.

The attacks on Chinese interests in Pakistan underscore the ongoing security challenges faced by foreign workers and investors participating in infrastructure projects. The country is home to twin insurgencies by extremists and ethnic militants advocating for secession. While ethnic militants primarily target Chinese assets in Balochistan, extremists operate in the northwestern region where the recent attack occurred. The lack of claims for responsibility for the attacks raises questions about the motives and actors behind these incidents, as well as the efficacy of security measures in place to protect foreign workers and investments.

The recurring attacks on Chinese assets highlight the vulnerability of foreign workers and investments in Pakistan, despite the government’s efforts to enhance security measures. The spate of attacks in recent years, including the 2021 incident in Dasu, has caused disruptions to construction projects and raised concerns about the safety of Chinese nationals working in the country. The Chinese embassy in Islamabad did not immediately comment on the recent attack, indicating the potential diplomatic ramifications of these incidents on bilateral relations. Moving forward, addressing the security challenges faced by foreign workers and investors in Pakistan will be crucial to sustaining and enhancing economic cooperation between the two countries under the CPEC initiative.

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