AS sunset clause regarding trial of hard-core terrorists by military courts is due to take effect in January 2019, terrorists have reared their face and demonstrated the ability to resume their dastardly acts. These attackers tried to enter the Karachi based Chinese Consulate’s premises but they were intercepted by security personnel at the outer checkpoint. The heavily-guarded E-Street neighbourhood of Clifton, housing the Consulate, is considered a red zone, it is home to a number of diplomatic missions. Chinese Consulate building, also serves as the residence for Chinese diplomats and other staff. Food supplies and medicines have been recovered from terrorists’ possession which point towards their probable plan of staging a hostage drama. There is a feeling of deep shock on the sad news of terrorist attack. Although Karachi has seen a sharp decline in terror attacks since the Rangers operation began in 2013, this was the second blast in Karachi in a week. On November 17, a blast in the Quaid Abad area had killed two teenagers and wounded 12 others. An initial probe into that attack suggested the involvement of sub-nationalist groups.
All three attackers were killed in the ensuing gunfight with security forces At least one attacker had been wearing a suicide vest which did not detonate. A suicide jacket, arms and ammunition were recovered from the attackers. Attackers first opened fire at a check post, then detonated a hand grenade in the area. The police stationed at the Consulate resisted and an exchange of fire began. Terrorists had wanted to enter the Consulate premises but their attempts were thwarted by police. After the policemen were martyred, the attackers proceeded towards the gate of the Consulate. However, deployed private company guards were quick to usher civilians with consular business into the building and shut the gates behind them; and Chinese staffers were taken to the main building. Attackers opened fire at the Consulate guards and then managed to breach the main gate and enter the building. Shortly after, the Rangers arrived in the area and an hour-long exchange of fire took place between security forces. Attack on Consulate was the latest in a series of assaults on Chinese nationals, including workers involved in the multi-billion dollar projects in Pakistan. Thousands of Chinese workers are employed in development of about $60 billion worth of infrastructure projects under ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) related projects have come under frequent attacks in Balochistan. The Chinese Embassy in Islamabad said it had prior information about a “series of terror attacks” planned against Chinese organisations and personnel. Pakistan Government has promised China that it will deploy sufficient troops to secure the CPEC as well as Chinese nationals in the country. According to Karachi police, preliminary evidence has linked the attack to the proscribed Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). Twitter by BLA has reportedly claimed responsibility; however, it could not be verified independently.
Though attackers’ design failed, two questions that arise are: Who could be the prime beneficiary of such an action against the Chinese in Pakistan especially in the backdrop of PM Imran Khan’s successful visit to China; and, Is it handy work of sleeping cells being operated by RAW, NDS and even CIA? Reportedly, the attack was orchestrated by outlawed BLA commander Aslam alias ‘Achchu’. He is currently under treatment at Max Hospital in New Delhi. Major General Asif Ghafoor, DG ISPR lauded professionalism of police force in pre-empting and foiling the major terror bid. “Pakistan Police Service has evolved through testing times. Their displayed professionalism in recent times as first responders is commendable. From pre-empting the terrorism attempts to foiling these at first checking point is the testimony. Salute to our police and its martyrs”.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also condemned the incident: “Pakistan and China would together defeat the forces that wish to halt development in the country”. Wang Yi, strongly condemned the terrorist attack and appreciated the quick, prompt and effective action of Pakistan security and law enforcement forces who sacrificed their lives to protect the Chinese Consulate. He said that the terrorist attack was an attempt to impact Pakistan China relations and to harm CPEC. The PM tweeted saying that attacks were “part of a planned campaign to create unrest in the country by those who do not want Pakistan to prosper. Let there be no doubt in anyone’s mind that we will crush the terrorists, whatever it takes.” “The attack was intended to scare Chinese investors and undermine the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. These terrorists will not succeed,” he added.
Condemnation of attack and condolences for the martyred security personnel came from all walks of life. The US and India also joined other members of international community to condemn the act of terrorism. US Chargé d’Affaires Paul Jones, in a tweet, said: “The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi”. India’s Ministry of External Affairs also shared a statement on Twitter by spokesman Raveesh Kumar saying: “We condole the loss of lives in this dastardly attack. There can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism.” Friendship between Pakistan and China is everlasting, however, enemy forces are attempting to create obstacles. Pakistan is fully committed to taking all necessary measures to provide robust security to all Chinese nationals and projects in Pakistan. Two countries are committed to continue cooperating to thwart the designs of hostile forces against their time-tested friendship. Pakistan and China are focused on their economic goals and remain steadfast to meet similar future challenges. Attack was clearly an attempt to derail CPEC-related projects.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.