Beijing/Islamabad, Jul 16 (PTI) Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday told his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan to take solid and effective measures to strengthen security and protection of the Chinese personnel and institutions in the country following a bus blast in which 13 people, including nine Chinese personnel, were killed.
Nine Chinese nationals and two Frontier Corps soldiers were among those killed when the bus carrying Chinese engineers and workers to the site of the under-construction Dasu Dam exploded on Wednesday in the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The bus fell into a deep ravine after the explosion in the Upper Kohistan district.
Li had a telephonic conversation with Khan as a special investigative team dispatched by China to probe the blast reached Pakistan.
While expressing gratitude to Pakistan for carrying out the fast rescue of the injured and prompt probe into the incident, Li said a case involving human life should be treated with the utmost care.
Initially, the two countries differed on the bus blast incident on Wednesday.
While China termed the incident as a bomb attack, Pakistan stated that the blast was caused by a gas leak. Islamabad later admitted that it was a bomb blast, stating that traces of explosives were 'confirmed' in a preliminary probe into a bus blast and an act of terrorism cannot be ruled out.
Li stressed that the Chinese government attaches great importance to the safety of Chinese personnel and institutions abroad, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The top priority at present is to spare no effort to rescue and treat the injured, minimise casualties, and properly handle the aftermath of the incident, Li said.
A Chinese working group has arrived in Pakistan and is ready to coordinate closely with the Pakistani side, Li noted.
He hoped Pakistan can offer assistance to the working group, use all necessary means to find out the facts in a serious and responsible manner, and ensure that the perpetrators behind the incident are brought to justice.
Li said he hoped Pakistan will do its utmost to prevent similar incidents from happening again.
Noting that the global and regional situations are undergoing complex and profound changes, Li said the Chinese side attaches great importance to the China-Pakistan relations.
The two countries are all-weather strategic cooperative partners, Li said, adding that China is willing to work with Pakistan to strengthen strategic communication and coordination, deepen practical cooperation, and safeguard regional peace and security, so as to better benefit the two peoples, he said.
On behalf of the Pakistani government and people, Khan expressed sincere sympathy to the Chinese government over the heavy casualties of Chinese nationals over the “terrorist attack” in Pakistan, and extended deep condolences to the bereaved families.
He also briefed Li on the progress of Pakistan's investigation into the incident at this stage as well as the follow-up work.
Pakistan is ready to give its full support and cooperation to the Chinese working group, he said.
According to an official statement in Islamabad, Khan reiterated that Pakistan and China had an iron-clad friendship which had withstood the vicissitudes of time.
“No hostile forces would be allowed to damage brotherly relations between Pakistan and China,' Khan said.
The Pakistani side attaches great importance to the safety of Chinese personnel and institutions in Pakistan, Khan stressed, adding that his country has reinforced and will continue strengthening security measures, so as to guarantee the safe and smooth operation of Pakistan-China cooperation projects, Xinhua report said.
Thousands of Chinese workers are working in Pakistan in a host of projects of USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Commenting on the incident, Qian Feng, the director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the state-run Global Times that Balochistan terrorists and the Pakistani Taliban were possible sponsors of the bomb attack.
Pakistani Taliban opposed the government for religious reasons, and targeted cooperation projects with China that the Pakistani government has been promoting.
Balochistan does not want Pakistan to become integrated via economic development, which will make their separatist agenda bankrupt.
Qian said the Pakistani Taliban gained notoriety by attacking the Pakistani government, civilians and the army.
In recent years, the terrorist group has targeted Chinese projects in the country, and launched attacks on Chinese tourists, as well as business people, as they know that Pakistan attaches great importance to China-Pakistan ties, and they aim to use such attacks to sabotage bilateral relations, Qian said. PTI KJV SH MRJ AKJ MRJ