Faced with widespread violence following the killing of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has warned that strict action would be taken against anyone who harmed the country.
"Whoever wants to harm Pakistan nationally or internationally would have to fight with me first," he said stressing that no one would be allowed to harm the country while he remained in power.
In his first public comments since violence broke out last weekend following Bugti's killing in a military encounter, Musharraf told a public meeting in the summer resort of Murree near Islamabad that strict action would taken against anti-state elements.
Elements opposed to the development and prosperity of the country would be dealt with iron hands, he said. "No comprise would be made on (the) country's stability and interest. The government during the last five years has taken several initiatives for the development and prosperity of Balochistan that has not been taken in last 50 years," he was quoted as saying in the media.
However, as the opposition parties alleged that Bugti's killing would further alienate people of Balochistan from Pakistan, he said that his only demand from the people of the province was to "love Pakistan". "I want to tell the poor people of Balochistan who are suffering from a sense of deprivation for the last 50 years that the government is committed to their welfare," he said.
In an attempt to mollify protestors, Musharraf said he loved Balochs and worked for their prosperity through various development projects and the only reward he wanted in return from the province was to "love Pakistan".
Without directly referring to Bugti, whom his government projected as a warlord and tribal chieftain who kept his 2.5 lakh Bugti tribe under tight leash, Musharraf said while the Baloch people had been deprived of their basic rights, the government was committed to taking adequate measures to secure their development.
A substantial amount of financial resources was being used to fund development projects in Balochistan, he said. Musharraf reaffirmed strong resolve of the government to the socio-economic uplift of Balochistan but said no one would be allowed to work against the country's integrity and sovereignty.
He said all the government's resources were for the welfare of people of Pakistan, including those from Balochistan who had been victims of neglect in the past. But at the same time, he said, no one would be allowed to act against the country's integrity and sovereignty.
Musharraf listed a host of development projects being executed in Balochistan. "We are undertaking mega projects in Balochistan worth Rs 135 billion which will usher in an era of prosperity in the province."
In this context, he referred to the Gwadar deep sea port, construction of a coastal highway linking Karachi to Gwadar and the Mirani and Subakzai dams which were nearing completion and would be inaugurated soon. He said the government completed a scheme worth Rs 8 billion to overcome the water shortage in Quetta. The government was also laying a network of roads in the province, he said and referred to the construction of 900 km road that will link Gwadar with Turbat. Referring to the demand of linking Balochistan with Punjab, he said the government was constructing metal roads between Zhob and D I Khan and the one that will link Quetta with Loralai and D I Khan.