Death of Pakistani Rebel Triggers Violent Protests

By Abdul Sattar
Associated Press
Monday, August 28, 2006

QUETTA, Pakistan, Aug. 27 -- Mobs burned shops, banks and buses in a second day of rioting over the killing of a top tribal chief by Pakistani troops, raising fears that a decades-old conflict in the country's volatile southwest could widen.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Pakistani television that Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti's death Saturday was "the darkest chapter in Pakistan's history."

Police arrested 450 people for rioting, but the violence spread from Baluchistan province into neighboring Sindh province, where ethnic Baluchis burned tires in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi.

Political leaders and analysts feared the killing of Bugti, an urbane former interior minister who led a decades-long violent campaign for greater rights for ethnic Baluch tribespeople, could influence more young Pakistanis to take up militancy.

Pakistani authorities accused Bugti, 79, of ordering attacks on vital government infrastructure to win more royalties for natural gas, oil and coal extracted from Pakistan's most impoverished region, Baluchistan.

Talaat Masood, a former army general, described Bugti's death as a "great tragedy" that will further divide ordinary Pakistanis from the military, led by Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who has allied his government with Washington over strong opposition from many Pakistanis.

"It is very dangerous when we are already fighting (al-Qaida) terrorists in Pakistan to bring about another reason for radicalizing the youth," Masood said.

Anti-government sentiment reached fever pitch on Quetta's streets. "The government has killed the Baluch leader. We will take revenge," said Ghulam Mohiuddin, a 27-year-old Quetta student.

In northern Quetta, nine policemen suffered wounds in a clash with dozens of protesters, some firing pistols, who tried to loot a bank and several shops, police said. A bomb blast damaged a government building and arsonists set fire to a telephone exchange in Kalat, a town 155 miles south of Quetta, police said.

Quetta Police Chief Suleman Sayed said early Sunday that a round-the-clock curfew had been imposed. But Pakistan's Information Minister Mohammed Ali Durrani and Quetta's mayor refuted the statement. An alliance of four Baluch nationalist groups announced 15 days of mourning for Bugti's death and vowed to continue protests throughout the region.

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