A Chinese national has been taken into custody in Mansehra, Pakistan, following accusations of blasphemy by a mob. However, the accused has denied making any statements that could offend the religious sentiments of Muslims. The individual is being held at Police Lines in Abbottabad, where the district administration has declared the premises a sub-jail and heightened security measures. A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was constituted by the government to investigate the matter, which is the third attempt to sabotage the 3,420-megawatt Dasu hydropower project.
The JIT had previously investigated the 2021 attack on a bus carrying Chinese nationals to the dam sites that claimed the lives of 13 people, including nine Chinese nationals. It had also investigated a blaze that broke out at a Chinese worker’s residential camp earlier this month. The Chinese citizen accused of blasphemy is likely to be produced before an anti-terrorism court in Abbottabad on Thursday, according to sources privy to the interrogation.
The interpreter, Mohammad Yasir, who testified for the FIR was also grilled by the police team investigating the case. He said he was “doubtful” of the sacrilegious remarks allegedly made by the Chinese man. Yasir also claimed that labourers who accompanied him during the incident were compelling him to stand firm on his previous stance.
The incident prompted crowds to take to the streets, and work at the project site was suspended. However, Chinese engineers and workers have since resumed work. The FIR for the incident was registered at the Kamila police station in Upper Kohistan under Sections 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 6/7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
The Chinese foreign ministry said on Wednesday that its mission in Islamabad was verifying the situation regarding its national. “The Chinese government has always required overseas Chinese citizens to abide by the laws and regulations of the host country and respect local customs,” said the ministry’s spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, at Tuesday’s news briefing. “If this issue does involve a Chinese citizen, the embassy will provide consular protection and assistance within the scope of its duties.”