Pakistan urged to end Baluch offensive

Tribal chieftains in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province have called for an end to military operations in the gas-rich region where militants are fighting for more autonomy.

    Baluchistan has witnessed a spike in violence

    The demand came at a meeting of tribal jirga (council) attended by heads of more than 80 Baluch tribes in the city of Qalat.
    A declaration, issued at the end of the day-long meeting, read: "The military operations are state-terrorism. These must be stopped."

    The jirga was convened in the wake of the killing of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a veteran Baluch rebel leader, in a military offensive on August 26.
    Several people were killed in violent street protests and bomb blasts after Bugti's death, which analysts said would exacerbate trouble in Pakistan's biggest but least-developed and most sparsely populated province.
    The jirga called on international human rights groups to conduct an investigation into the killing.

    Baluchis have been waging a low-key insurgency for decades in Baluchistan but tensions have increased since the death of 79-year-old Bugti.
    The Brussels-based International Crisis Group has warned that conflict in the province on the border with Afghanistan and Iran could intensify if the Pakistani government presses on with an offensive against rebels.
    Baluchis complain of a lack of political representation and say their province's resources are used to the benefit of Pakistan's other provinces, most notably Punjab, while Baluchistan is neglected.

    The province of mountains and deserts sits on Pakistan's biggest reserves of natural gas.

    Government officials say a handful of tribal chiefs are stirring up trouble, fearing their power base would be eroded by government plans to develop the region.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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