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Balochistan observes strike to protest Bugti killing

August 28, 2006 15:25 IST
Pakistan's Balochistan province was tense on Monday as a general strike to protest the killing of rebel tribal chieftain Nawab Akhtar Bugti by security forces went underway, a day after three persons were killed in violent protests and over 600 arrested for rioting.

Several areas across Balochistan province and number of areas in Sindh and Karachi, which are inhabited by large sections of Baloch people, were completely shut down, reports from the areas said. "Police have arrested around 600 protesters in Quetta on charges of attacking government buildings and vehicles," reports quoted a senior police official as saying.

After two days of heavy violence, Quetta, the capital of Balochistan wore a deserted look and its provincial assembly session was aborted and the legislature was adjourned for several days following protests from opposition parties. Reports said three persons were killed and over 600 held in different parts of Balochistan and Karachi.

At least 45 vehicles, scores of shops, banks and government buildings were ransacked or set on fire. A curfew was imposed on Quetta for an indefinite period last evening and heavy contingents of police and Frontier Corps personnel were deployed in different areas. Later, Quetta District Nazim Mir Maqbool Ahmed Lehri lifted the curfew and said more troops were being deployed to curb unrest. He also announced that educational institutions would remain closed in Quetta for three days.

Two bombs exploded in Kalat. A device was planted in the building of Nadra that went off, destroying its offices. A hand grenade was hurled into a telephone exchange.

The district offices of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League were set on fire in coastal towns of Pasni and Gwadar. A police post also came under attack in Gwadar. More protests were expected during the funeral of Bugti, the chieftain of 2.5 lakh Bugti tribe, who dominated Balochistan politics both as Chief Minister and Governor of the province as well as head of Jhambhoori Watan Party, which shared power in the past both at the centre and in Balochistan.

Meanwhile, the body of the rebel chieftain was yet to be handed over to his family. The government maintained that the body would be handed over as and when it was found from the rubble of a cave, which crumbled due to heavy firing from the government forces. Pakistan Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani denied reports that Bugti was hit by satellite guided missile system that tracked his phone.

Such systems were used in the past to target some of the pro-Taliban tribal leaders in Waziristan. A similar strike by US helicopters on a house in Bajour in the Pak-Afghan border to target Al Qaeda number two, Aymen Alzawahiri in 2005 ended up in a major controversy as several civilians, including women and children, were killed while Zawahiri managed to escape.

He said in view of heavy firing on the defence helicopters few days ago security forces tried to capture the cave. Army lost four officers and one soldier in the fighting, he said.

There were reports in the media in Islamabad in recent weeks that United States has not objected to Pakistan using the systems supplied to Islamic militants to target Baloch rebels. Meanwhile, Bugti's relatives clarified that his grandsons, Nawabzada Baramdagh Bugti and Nawabzada Aali Bugti were alive and safe.

A spokesman for Anjuman Ittehad Marri said in Islamabad on Sunday that both the grandsons of Nawab Bugti were alive as they had left the area when it was under heavy attack. Another prominent Baloch leader, Nawabzada Balaach Khan Marri, son of Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, was also alive, he said.

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