Protests overnight demanding legal action against the foreigner were put to rest on Monday when authorities in northwest Pakistan said they had captured a Chinese engineer for insulting Islam.
Mr Tian, the director of heavy transport for the China Gezhouba Group Company, which is building the Dasu hydropower project around 350 kilometres north of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, was arrested by police.
The argument started on Saturday when the Chinese supervisor tried to pressure his local driving employees to speed up work when they prayed together at the job site in the afternoon.
The Chinese national allegedly continued to insult Allah and the Prophet of Muslims, as detailed in a copy of a formal police complaint.
Protests broke out in the Kohistan neighbourhood where the project is being built on Sunday night after the local workforce was enraged by the alleged act of blasphemy, as reported by the police. Thousands of protesters blocked the main route linking Pakistan and China.
Kohistan is the place where the Hindukush, Karakorum, and Himalayan mountain systems meet. It is also a natural border between ecological regions in the Himalayas, Hindu Kush, and Karakorum mountain ranges.
The protests lasted for several hours, ending only after the Chinese national was captured early on Monday morning. According to the police, community leaders were assured he would be prosecuted, and the busy Karakoram Highway was reopened shortly thereafter.
Among Pakistan’s majority Muslim population, blasphemy carries the death penalty.
Suspects are often attacked by mobs and even killed. Rights organisations at home and abroad have claimed that blasphemy accusations are enough to incite mob violence and even the death of the accused. Aside from intimidating religious minorities, blasphemy laws in Pakistan are used to settle personal grudges and conflicts.
After being unjustly accused of insulting Islam, a Sri Lankan factory manager was beaten to death in the country’s most populated central Punjab region in December 2021. Six guys were found guilty of lynching the foreigner and given death sentences.
As part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, China has recently spent billions of dollars in Pakistan to build highways, communication networks, ports, and power plants.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has brought thousands of Chinese workers and engineers to the megaproject. Not included in CPEC is the 4,300 MW Dasu hydropower project; however, there are Chinese residents and workers in nearby secure facilities.
In 2021, a bus full of Chinese and Pakistani construction workers was riding to their site when a suicide car bomber attacked them. Nine Chinese and three Pakistani workers were killed in the blast, making it the deadliest incident for Chinese nationals in Pakistan in recent memory.
The Dasu Dam’s construction was put on hold for a few months after the horrific attack.