Pakistan on high alert as violence spreads in Balochistan

Monday, August 28, 2006

Widespread protests and violence were reported across parts of Pakistan after the Baloch Alliance declared a general strike following the killing of its leader, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.

Shops and establishments in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, remained closed as angry mobs vandalised government vehicles and offices in retaliation for the separatist leader's slaying. The main Quetta-Karachi highway and Quetta-Punjab highway have remained closed to traffic since Monday. A curfew was imposed by the authorities in Quetta, leading to the closure of educational institutions there.

A high-alert also was sounded in the commercial capital of Karachi, where the opposition plans to hold a protest later today. Pakistan's Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim Khan said that the Pakistani Army had not intentionally targeted Mr. Bugti and that he died when the cave he was in collapsed following a land-mine expolsion. President Pervez Musharraf, however, congratulated his army following the Balochi leader's death.

Balochistan, which became a province of Pakistan following the Partition of India, has been waging a low-key struggle for autonomy for quite some time, but the rebels stepped up their attacks over the past year. Pakistan has, in the past, blamed Indian intelligence agencies such as the Research and Analysis Wing for fuelling unrest in Balochistan.

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