Nirupama Subramanian

People offer funeral prayers for Nawab Bugti; mourners go on the rampage

ISLAMABAD: The violence that erupted in Balochistan after the killing of Jhamoori Watan Party leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti abated on Wednesday but many towns in the province continued to be affected by shutter-down strikes, and sporadic incidents or arson were reported from some places.

Protesters blocked traffic to Hub ensuring that the industrial town was crippled. Thousands of people working in the Baloch town who commute daily from Karachi in neighbouring Sind could not reach their places of work.

A call from the nationalist four-party Baloch Alliance ensured that traffic on all other highways connecting the province to other parts of Pakistan remained blocked. Movement within Balochistan was also severely restricted.

Militants surrender

In many Baloch towns, people offered funeral prayers for Nawab Bugti, and in two places, mourners went on the rampage, according to reports.

In Quetta, the Baloch capital, it was a violence-free day with shops cautiously reopening after three days of arson and vandalism. But banks and schools remained closed.

The Government said 2,000 militant Marri tribesmen along with six commanders surrendered to district authorities in Kohlu, the place where Nawab Bugti met his end. The Nawab had left Bugti territory a few months ago to take shelter in Marri territory when security forces intensified their operations against him.

District officials said this was the first time the Marri tribesmen had surrendered. But Hyrbair Marri, son of the Marri leader Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, slammed the Government for the killing of Nawab Bugti, and said the Baloch people would never give up their armed struggle "until the achievement of their goal."

He alleged cluster bombs had been used on Nawab Bugti's hide-out and the killing was planned. The Baloch Liberation Army, a shadowy force that has claimed responsibility for several militant attacks, is linked to another son of Nawab Marri.

The Government said on Tuesday it had wanted to apprehend Nawab Bugti alive but a mysterious explosion inside the hide-out had put paid to the attempt by causing a collapse, killing all those inside and the military officials who had descended into the cave to negotiate with him.

Following incidents against Punjabi settlers in many parts of Balochistan since Sunday, the police described such acts as reprehensible and said these people, who had settled in Balochistan over the last four or five decades, belonged there, and had nowhere else to go.

Baloch-dominated parts of Karachi and places in interior Sindh that were affected by violence were incident-free day on Wednesday.

Sindh Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Raheem said the involvement of external elements could not be ruled out in the situation in Balochistan.