Baloch Leaders Put Under House Arrest Amid New Violence

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Azhar Masood & Agencies

Published — Monday 17 July 2006

Last Update 17 July 2006 3:00 am

ISLAMABAD, 17 July 2006 — General Secretary of the Jamhoori Watan Party Sen. Shahid Bugti and Humayun Marri, sons-in-law of Nawab Akbar Bugti, were put under house arrest yesterday as militants from the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) fired rockets at buildings and shops and blew up the main power transformer in Kohlu. Wadh, Kohlu and Naal townships in Marri area plunged into darkness after the attack.

Shahid Bugti said that authorities had put him under house arrest in Quetta. “A large number of police surrounded my house early in the morning and I was told that I couldn’t go out,” he told Reuters.

He accused the government of not listening to the Balochs. “Just as in the past, they see Balochistan’s problems with closed minds. They don’t want to understand our problems.”

The insurgency mounted by Akbar Bugti and the BLA has lost steam after the surrender of some 600 tribesmen.

The fighters, led by three commanders, agreed to lay down their weapons at a parley with Balochistan’s Home Minister Shoaib Nausherwani in Dera Bugti district on Saturday.

Khan Mohammad Masoori, one of the commanders, pledged to halt attacks on government installations as his men handed over AK-47 rifles, machine-guns, rocket launchers and mortars in Baker town, 400 km northeast of Quetta, officials said.

Baloch government officials hoped the fighters’ decision to stop fighting would sound the death knell for a revolt led by tribal chieftain Akbar Bugti.

“It is a big success for the government and setback for the rebels,” Raziq Bugti, a spokesman for the Baloch government in Quetta, told Reuters. “The Bugti chapter has almost been closed now and militancy won’t come back.”

Yesterday, however, a bomb wounded nine people in a town, the spokesman said.

The explosion ripped through a radio repair shop in the main street of Barkhan, a small town about 350 kilometers east of Quetta, local police officer Manzoor Ahmed Khan said. Two nearby shops were also seriously damaged in the explosion.

The injuries were caused by shrapnel from the bomb and debris from the buildings, Khan said.

The owners of the three shops, some customers and passersby were among those reportedly hurt in the explosion.

Seven of the injured were taken to a state-run hospital in Barkhan while two others in serious condition were transferred to a hospital in the nearby city of Dera Ghazi Khan, Khan said. There was no claim of responsibility, but suspicion fell on renegade Baloch tribesmen.

Khan said the radio shop owner, a man from the eastern province of Punjab, may have been the target of the bombing.

Some ethnic Balochs, who comprise about half of Balochistan’s population of 6.5 million, accuse Punjabis of taking their jobs and businesses when they migrate there.

Radical Balochs have demanded that all Punjabis, who dominate Pakistan’s bureaucracy and security services, leave Balochistan. The Bugtis have not been alone, however, in fighting to throw off federal government control.

Leaders of the Marri and Mengal tribes have also been in revolt, and the shadowy BLA has carried out attacks too.

Balochistan is a desert region bordering Afghanistan to the north, and Iran to the west. It is rich in mineral resources, including copper, uranium and gas.

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