Wed, Aug 30, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Funeral provokes further unrest

BALUCHISTAN RIOTS Thousands attended the service for a former governor whose death on Saturday in a clash with Pakistani forces has sparked unrest in the province


Gunfire and rioting broke out for a fourth straight day yesterday after an emotion-charged funeral service for a prominent tribal chief killed by Pakistani forces. Two police were wounded and dozens of shops destroyed in the violence.

More than 10,000 mourners attended the ceremony in the Baluchistan capital, Quetta, for fugitive tribal leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, who was killed on Saturday. His death has sparked days of violent protests that have left at least two people dead and dozens wounded.

Two banks, three roadside restaurants and a courier company were set on fire elsewhere in Quetta. Hundreds of club-wielding protesters also burned shops, banks and cars in the Baluchistan towns of Khuzdar, Turbat and Gawadar, on the Arabian Sea coast.

Police official Bashir Ahmad initially said two bombs exploded outside the Quetta stadium where an emotion-charged service was held for 79-year-old Bugti, whose body has not yet been returned to his family.

But a police officer at the scene, Najmuddin Tarin, later said the blasts were caused by gas cylinders that exploded inside some of the 20 shops set alight by protesters after the ceremony at a Quetta sports stadium.

Gunfire broke out shortly after, wounding two of the scores of police that had deployed to the service to try prevent a repeat of the daily rioting and vandalism that has followed Bugti's death.

Police have made at least 500 arrests.

Bugti was a former provincial governor and an articulate champion for greater control by Baluch tribespeople of natural resources extracted in the region.

He died after troops attacked his cave in the Kohlu area, about 220km east of Quetta, officials said. The cave's roof collapsed, killing Bugti and several of his fighters.

Political and religious leaders led thousands into the Quetta stadium for yesterday's ceremony. A reporter at the scene estimated the number of mourners at more than 10,000. Political supporters of Bugti put the figure at more than double.

"Death to Pakistan's army" and "Pakistan will disintegrate, Pakistan will no longer exist" were chanted by the protesters during the service as a Pakistani military helicopter hovered overhead.

Afterward, groups of young men smashed windows throughout the stadium and burned a security guard post. Smoke billowed from surrounding streets as protesters, many with faces covered by scarves, set car tires alight and looted shops. Police fired gunshots into the air in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

Quetta Mayor Mir Maqbool Ehmat Lehri, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, was chased away from the stadium on foot by Bugti supporters.

Bellowing through a loudspeaker, Bugti's son-in-law and Pakistani Senator, Agha Shahid Bugti, appealed for calm, yelling: "Anyone who is looting and damaging other's property has nothing to do with us. We are peaceful. They are our enemies."

In other developments in Pakistan, authorities detained a former leader of an outlawed Islamist militant group an hour after he was released following a court ruling his detention was illegal, his lawyer said yesterday.

"It is a mockery of the law. It is an insult to the court. They wanted to show the court that the executive is more powerful than the judiciary," lawyer, Nazir Ahmed Ghazi said.

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, was first placed under house arrest on Aug. 10.

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