THE DEATHS OF three Chinese teachers in a suicide bombing in Karachi, the capital of Pakistan’s Sindh province, is the latest attack on nationals and infrastructure connected with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a critical link in the Belt and Road as it connects western China to the Arabian Sea opposite Oman.
The blast occurred outside the entrance to the University of Karachi’s Confucius Institute, where the three were teachers. A fourth was injured. The Pakistani driver of the minivan carrying them also died.
The Baloch Liberation Army, a separatist group that says that China-funded projects exploit the local population, has claimed responsibility for the attack. It has long gone after Chinese targets within and beyond its home province.
The response of the foreign ministry, expressing grave concern and calling on Islamabad to punish the perpetrators, suggests that Beijing still hopes that the Pakistani authorities can improve security for its Pakistan-based nationals.
That may be hoping against hope, given the increasing sophistication and coordination of the Baloch insurgents’ attacks, both on Chinese interests and Pakistan’s military.
Proving that it can blunt the threat of the Balochi and other Pakistani militant groups that pose to Chinese interests — last year, the Pakistan Taliban was deemed responsible for the deaths of nine Chinese nationals in an explosion that hit a bus convoy carrying engineers to a hydro-power plant construction site in northern Pakistan — will be a challenge for new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s administration and the military-security establishment.
The two countries have an ‘all-weather’ strategic partnership whose importance was reaffirmed during the visit of ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan to Beijing during February’s Beijing Winter Olympics. That trip brought multiple attacks on Pakistani military bases, which renewed Beijing’s pressure on Islamabad to keep Chinese assets and citizens in Pakistan safe — a concern that has again been tragically reinforced.
Update: The Baloch Liberation Army said on April 27 that it would intensify its attacks on Chinese targets. Meanwhile, the suicide bomber has been identified as a 30-year old mother of two who was studying for a master’s degree at the university. Female suicide bombers are rare in Pakistan.