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Baluchistan cut off
Agitators seal main highway to Pak
Muhammad Anwer
Asia News International

Quetta, August 30
As a direct fallout of last Saturday’s killing of Baluch leader Akbar Khan Bugti, the agitation in Baluchistan is now spreading, and today, the main RCD Highway connecting Baluchistan to the rest of Pakistan was sealed by protesting Baluchis.

Life in Quetta, besides other parts of Baluchistan has been severely affected by a partial strike.

Trucks carrying supplies from Sindh to other parts of Pakistan were stopped. Those trucks carrying goods from Punjab province were particularly targeted.

All along the RCD Highway today, bands of Baluchi youth, shouting ‘Azadi’ slogans, brought traffic to a complete standstill.

“We have nothing to do with Pakistan and its rulers (Pervez Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz), who have killed Bugti saheb,” said some of the protesters.

Heavy boulders and roads were placed on various parts of the highway, while Quetta City was cut-off from the highway.

Protesters put up burnt tyres and raised barriers at the Hub River Bridge linking Karachi to Baluchistan cutting off the road from Sindh to the industrial city of Hub . The enraged demonstrators also raised barriers on the Quetta-Karachi National Highway at Lakh Pas, Mastung, Qalat, Khuzdar, Wadh and other areas obstructing all sorts of traffic.

The road between Quetta and Iran was also blocked. Traffic was also blocked at Nowshki, Dalbadin, Chaghi and Taftan.

Reports of violence and destruction of property have come in from areas like Turbat, Mand, Tump, Baleda, Dasht, Punjgur and Mastung. In Turbat, an under construction radio transmission building was damaged extensively. Agitators were also reported to have staged a protest demonstration along the Coastal Highway in Gawadar; and some shops were ransacked in Chaghi.

The anger is spilling over, and the violence has wrecked large parts of Baluchistan, where the mood is to cut off ties and communication with the rest of the country.

The government has ordered the shutting down of all commercial operations at the airport and suspension of railway operations between Quetta and other parts of Pakistan.

So sensitive is the political situation in Baluchistan; that the government has ordered the arrest of several Bugti and Baluch tribesmen.

Last evening, four Marri commanders and about 1,500 rebel tribesmen or Fararis surrendered before the Pakistan military, apparently because they had lost hope after Bugti's death.

According to informed sources, the surrender ceremony took place at Thadri, which is about 100 km away from the Kohlu Hills; the last reported hideout of Akbar Khan Bugti.

The commanders who surrendered included Wadera Gazi Khan Marri, Wadera Bakht Ali Sherani Marri, Kari Khan Marri, Ruba Goryani Marri, Wadera Azeem, alias Bhuda, and Wadera Shamboo Khan Marri.

They were reportedly operating in Bhambor, Hashpur and Dango Khan, and said that they had decided to surrender because they were impressed with its massive development projects being undertaken by the government in the province,.

According to sources, a huge cache of arms and ammunition, including over a dozen 107mm missiles, over 350 Kalashnikov assault rifles, more than 50 rockets and ammunition were handed over to the authorities.

The Anjuman-e-Ittehad Marri, however, dismissed the surrender ceremony as a "farcical" exercise and drama, saying that the arms that were handed over were old 303 rifles, some of them non-functional.

It dismissed the reported surrender of Fararis, saying that they were not militants, but common citizens of Kohlu.

Baluch rebels, they said had no links with Islamist fighters on the Pakistan- Afghan border, and were just interested in securing their self-determined rights.

Analysts say Bugti's killing is likely to inflame the opposition in Baluchistan and could stir nationalist sentiment in the three other provinces against President Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup.

The rebels have been waging an insurgency for decades for the autonomy and a greater share of profits from Baluchistan's resources. In the last year, they have stepped up their attacks with a string of bloody raids and bomb blasts.




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