Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday dismissed a story published in an Australian news outlet on a Wuhan lab conducting alleged covert operations in Pakistan, calling it “politically motivated and fake”.
“It is composed of distortion of facts and fabrications that quote anonymous sources,” said a statement issued by the ministry, through the office of the Foreign Office spokesperson.
Australian journal says Pakistan building biological weapons with China
The Klaxon report, quoting unnamed “intelligence experts”, claims China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology has “set up operations in Pakistan as part of a broader offensive against India and Western rivals”.
“The secret facility is allegedly making anthrax-like pathogens which could be used in biological warfare,” the report published on July 23 alleges.
In an article published on July 23, Australia’s investigative newspaper The Klaxon said China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology has signed a covert three-year deal with Pakistan military’s Defense Science and Technology Organization (DESTO) to collaborate research in “emerging infectious diseases”.
Quoting anonymous intelligence sources, The Klaxon said the China-funded project has conducted successful soil sampling tests to isolate Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT), which has a striking similarity to Bacillus Anthracis – or anthrax, a classified bio-warfare agent.
“Considering the striking similarity between BT and Bacillus Anthracis, a classified bio-warfare agent, (Pakistan’s) improved know-how in handling the bacteria could enrich a potential offensive biological program,? one source said.
The Wuhan lab was providing ‘extensive training on manipulation of pathogens and bio-informatics’ to Pakistani scientists ‘to help Pakistan develop its own virus collection database’, the report said.
“This could help Pakistan enhance its capability of genetic identification of viruses, access to dangerous microorganisms, and use of genomic tools for research and infectious diseases,” an intelligence source said.
Foreign office rejects reports citing Pakistan lab
“There is nothing secret about the Bio-Safety Level-3 (BSL-3) Laboratory of Pakistan referred to in the report,” said the statement by Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued today. “Pakistan has been sharing information about the facility with the States Parties to the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BTWC) in its submission of Confidence Building Measures.
“The facility is meant for diagnostic and protective system improvement by Research and Development (R&D) on emerging health threats, surveillance and disease outbreak investigation.
There is No Secret Chinese Lab Producing Biological Weapons in Pakistan: Foreign Office https://t.co/ONv68tUvYX
— ProPakistani (@ProPakistaniPK) July 27, 2020
“Pakistan strictly abides by its BTWC obligations and has been one of the most vocal supporters for a strong verification mechanism to ensure full compliance by the States Parties to the Convention.”
Read more: Is COVID-19 a biological weapon?
“The attempt to cast aspersions about the facility is particularly absurd against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the need for better preparedness in the areas of disease surveillance and control and international collaborations in that regard, consistent with Article X of BTWC,” added the statement.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology came under scrutiny in April with the US probing whether the virus actually originated in the virology institute — located in China’s coronavirus epicentre — with a high-security biosafety laboratory.
Chinese scientists have said the virus likely jumped from an animal to humans in a market that sold wildlife. But the existence of the facility has fuelled conspiracy theories that the germ spread from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, specifically its P4 laboratory which is equipped to handle dangerous viruses.
The director of the laboratory, Yuan Zhiming, had said that “there’s no way this virus came from us”. None of his staff had been infected, he told the English-language state broadcaster CGTN, adding the “whole institute is carrying out research in different areas related to the coronavirus”.
China rejects allegations of using Pakistan to produce biological weapons
The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan also denounced as “fabricated” the Australian media report.
“It is totally irresponsible, vicious-intentioned to smear China and Sino-Pak relations. As a responsible nation, China always lives up to its obligations to BWC,” the diplomatic mission tweeted Sunday.
Pakistan and China have traditionally maintained close political, economic and defense relations. The two neighboring countries have over the past six years further cemented bilateral ties, with Beijing investing billions of dollars in major infrastructure and energy development projects in Pakistan.
GVS News Desk with additional input by other sources