Our correspondent in Pakistan, Ding Xuezhen and reporters Li Sikun and Wei Hui
The Chinese Consulate General in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, was suddenly attacked around noon on the 23rd, Beijing time. Three militants trying to break into the Consulate were killed in the exchange of fire with the police, along with two policemen and two civilians. All the staff members of the Consulate General and their families were safe. The attack left Pakistani political circles in a state of shock. The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Pakistan strongly condemned the attacks without losing time and promised to thoroughly investigate them and take all necessary measures to protect the “safety of Chinese friends.”
On the afternoon of the 23rd, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yiying agreed to urgent telephonic appointment with Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi. Qureshi informed of the attack and (results of) the preliminary investigation. Wang Yi requested (Translator: could even be translated as ‘asked’ or ‘demanded’) high level attention of the Pakistani side, and that it resolutely prevent recurrence of such incidents while stressing that no attempt to undermine Sino-Pakistani friendship can succeed.
Both countries one in condemnation
The attack occurred on the morning of the 23rd, local time. The local Pakistani media said that there was sound of gunfire outside the Chinese Consulate in Karachi around 9:30. According to sources, several men tried to enter the Consulate, and security personnel trying to stop them were fired at (by the attackers). The security personnel outside the Consulate fired back. Two militants were killed in the crossfire while another terrorist detonated the explosives. Two policemen and two civilians were killed in the incident. It is also reported that the militants had thrown grenades during the attack.
Reuters said that this was the “most prominent attack” against the Chinese ally in Pakistan. On the morning of the 23rd, explosions and gunshots were heard in the the area where the Chinese Consulate was located. Black smoke arose after the explosion. Karachi police chief, Amir Sheikh, said that three attackers drove a car loaded with explosives but failed to enter the Consulate. “They tried to get in, and the special forces and police shot and killed a terrorist.” In the subsequent gun battle, two other attackers were also killed. AFP said that a Pakistani father and son preparing to apply for a visa were killed in the crossfire.
After the attack, Pakistani security forces went to the incident area speedily and cordoned it off. Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi then told reporters in Islamabad: “The terrorists have all been wiped out.” Pakistan’s “Dawn” said that Qureshi condemned the attack and praised the way law enforcement agencies dealt with the attack. He said: “This incident is sad. The terrorists involved in the incident have been killed. We are in contact with the Chinese Consul General. Pakistan and China will jointly defeat the forces that want to prevent (national) development.”
The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan also issued a statement quickly expressing strong condemnation of the terrorist attacks. The statement said that the current situation had been brought under control, three terrorists had been killed, and that there were no Chinese casualties. After the incident, the Embassy and Consulate in Pakistan will launch an emergency mechanism at the earliest to ensure the safety of Chinese personnel.
“Terrorist attacks can never undermine China-Pakistan relations.” According to the “Dawn”, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly condemned the attack on the 23rd. The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that the Prime Minister has ordered a thorough investigation of the incident and that the culprits be apprehended. “This incident is part of a conspiracy against Pakistan-China economic and strategic cooperation. However, such incidents can never undermine Pakistan-China relationship that is higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the Arabian Sea.” The statement also praised the extraordinary courage shown by the Karachi police and Special Forces personnel. In his press conference of the 23rd, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Yan Shuang, said that Imran Khan had expressed condolences to the Chinese Consul General in Karachi.
On the afternoon of the 23rd, Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi made an urgent call to State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi. Qureshi said that the Pakistani government and all sections of society severely condemn the violent attacks by terrorists. “Friendship between Pakistan and China is unique and precious. The Pakistani side will protect the safety of Chinese friends in Pakistan just like it protects its own citizens”. Wang Yi said that China was shocked by the armed attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi and strongly condemned this atrocity against a diplomatic Mission. Wang Yi asked (requested/demanded) for high level attention of the Pakistani side and that it conduct a thorough investigation. He stressed that no attempt to undermine China-Pakistan friendship can succeed, and also that the Pakistani side definitely has the capacity to maintain domestic security and stability.
Separatist militants claim (responsibility)
The attack on the diplomatic Mission of China, traditionally a friendly country, has particularly shocked Pakistan. Many politicians condemned the incident of the 23rd and defended Pakistan-China relations. Broadcasting Minister, Chowdhury, said the attack was calculated, aiming at economic, defense and strategic relations between Pakistan and China. Former Interior Minister, Iqbal said: “Pakistan and China are iron buddies who completely united.”
Violent attacks have also been unanimously condemned by the international community. Paul Jones, the US Chargé d’affaires in Pakistan, said: “The United States condemns today’s attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi in the strongest terms.” The Indian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Twitter saying: “India strongly condemns this terrorist attack. There can be no excuse for condoning terrorist acts, and the perpetrators of this heinous attack should be brought to justice as soon as possible.”
The incident also brought an organization called the Baloch People’s Liberation Army to attention again, which is the organization that claimed responsibility for the attack. It is understood that the “Baluch Liberation Army” is a separatist armed group in Pakistan, mainly in the province of Balochistan, the largest province in Pakistan. According to its introduction in Wikipedia, the Baluch Liberation Army has established bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The organization (first) claimed to have launched a series of bomb attacks on the Pakistani authorities in the summer of 2000, and became known to the outside world since then. Currently, Pakistan has listed it as a terrorist organization. The New York Times said that the Baloch Liberation Army sought independence for Balochistan, wanting to establish an (independent) state. In March this year, a senior commander of the organization accused Pakistan and China of plundering natural resources of Balochistan in a video sent to an Indian news agency”.
In August this year, a suicide car bomb attack on Chinese company personnel took place in the Dalbandin area of Balochistan, southwestern Pakistan, killing six people, including three Chinese employees. The “Baloch Liberation Army” had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Zhao Gancheng, an expert on South Asian issues at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that the “Baluch Liberation Army” was at first not a terrorist organization. . It was a separatist organization, advocating independence, then turned anti-government and finally began using force. It has now become a violent organization. The forces of the “Baluch Liberation Army” are not too large. Unlike the “Al Qaeda” or Taliban in Afghanistan, they are not as strong but because Balochistan is relatively backward, there are many instance of the organization inciting trouble. AFP reported on the 23rd that Balochistan is the largest and poorest province of Pakistan, with ethnic, religious and separatist rebellions. Zhao Gancheng said that because of the backwardness of the economy and the deeper influence of extremist religious ideology, the security situation in Balochistan is relatively bad.
“Risks (figure) on the early warning radar”
The same day, on the 23rd, an attack of explosives took place in the tribal area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwestern Pakistan on the 23rd. Local media reported that the attacker on a motorcycle detonated a remote-controlled bomb in front of a religious site, killing at least 25 and injuring 35 others.
In recent years, with the development of the Pakistani economy and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the country’s energy, transportation and other infrastructure have continued to improve, and the security situation has also improved significantly. However, the recent deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan has led to an increase in the activities of some extremist organizations hiding in the border areas of the two countries, and terrorist attacks have occurred. The Global Times reporter learned that after the attack, some security companies had stepped up their patrols and watch of Chinese organisations and personnel. At the same time, the Embassy in Pakistan also reminded Chinese organisations and personnel in China to step up their vigilance, avoid unnecessary outings and ensure adequate security when going out was unavoidable.
Will the attack affect China-Pakistan cooperation projects? The Hindustan Times of the 23rd quoted Amir Rana, Director of the Pakistan Peace Research Institute, as having said that China and Pakistan have long anticipated security dangers from Baloch separatists. “I don’t think this will affect the Chinese projects in Pakistan. These risks are already on the early warning radars of Pakistan and China”. Later on the 23rd evening, Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, issued a message on Twitter that was emphatic: “”No matter what the cost, Pakistan will defeat the terrorists”.