ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—A gunman opened fire on a car carrying two engineers in the southern port city of Karachi, the latest attack on Chinese nationals in close ally Pakistan.
One of the engineers was hit four times, mostly in the arm, police said, but was in stable condition. The other engineer and a Pakistani driver were uninjured in the attack.
Chinese nationals have been the victims of multiple recent attacks in Pakistan. Earlier this month, a bombing killed nine Chinese construction workers in a bus being taken to the site of a dam being built in northern Pakistan. That was the deadliest attack on Chinese nationals in Pakistan in recent years.
China and Pakistan are close allies. Beijing is working on a multibillion-dollar building spree in Pakistan, a flagship for its global Belt and Road Initiative to spread Chinese influence through infrastructure projects. Thousands of Pakistani army, paramilitary personnel and police are deployed to guard the construction sites and Chinese citizens involved in the projects.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman
said Wednesday that China was closely monitoring the shooting incident, which it described as an isolated event, but said that it was still under investigation. “We have full confidence in Pakistan’s ability to protect Chinese citizens and property in Pakistan,” he said.
The engineers targeted Wednesday had come to Pakistan earlier this month to fit Chinese equipment at a Pakistani-owned plastic manufacturer in Karachi. They were being taken to work in the morning, by a driver and car provided by the factory, when a motorcycle pulled up alongside, police said. One of the people on the motorcycle opened fire at the back of the car.
“This shooting will cause problems with the Chinese who will be livid at another incident so soon after the other attack,” said
senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, located in Singapore. “Pakistan may have to now revisit security for all Chinese in Pakistan, which is a big job.”
Chinese interests in Pakistan have been targeted mostly by separatists from the western province of Balochistan, who have been fighting the Pakistani army for decades. It remains unclear whether the other main set of insurgents in Pakistan, jihadists such as the Pakistani Taliban, are also going after Chinese targets.
Wednesday’s Karachi shooting was claimed by a separatist group called the Balochistan Liberation Front, a well-known faction of the insurgency which has also taken responsibility for some of the past attacks on Chinese targets in Karachi and Balochistan, their adjacent home province.
A Pakistani security official said that investigators hadn’t been able to confirm so far that the group carried out the attack.
an assistant professor of human rights and politics at the London School of Economics, said the Balochistan Liberation Front has emerged out of southern Balochistan, including around Gwadar port, where Chinese investments are heavily concentrated. Their members often come from communities forcibly displaced by these Chinese projects.
“Baloch insurgent groups see China as part of an occupying force that includes the Pakistani military state. In their eyes, Chinese investments exploit Balochistan’s location to secure a key section of the Belt and Road project. Their presence also leads to widespread military deployments by the Pakistan Army to protect Chinese capital,” she said.
According to Islamabad, both Baloch separatists and Pakistani Taliban have bases across the border in Afghanistan, which makes their presence there also a source of worry for Beijing.
China was so concerned after the attack on the workers on the dam this month that it dispatched its own investigators to Pakistan, which was followed by a visit of Pakistan’s foreign minister and intelligence chief to Beijing. No group claimed responsibility for the explosion.
In April, there was a bombing in the parking lot of a hotel where the Chinese ambassador was staying in the Western city of Quetta. He was unhurt, and it is unclear whether the ambassador was the target. The group claiming responsibility, the Pakistani Taliban, said they had targeted the security guards outside the hotel.
Targets of other attacks in recent years include the Chinese consulate in Karachi, the partly Chinese-owned stock exchange in Karachi and a hotel in the Chinese-run port of Gwadar.
There are also Chinese construction projects and commercial activities that are separate from the Belt and Road, which often have much thinner security provided. The Chinese workers targeted in the bombing earlier this month and in the Wednesday shooting weren’t working on Belt and Road projects.
The Chinese engineers targeted in the shooting Wednesday hadn’t been provided with any security, and police said they were previously unaware of their presence in the city.
Write to Saeed Shah at firstname.lastname@example.org