600 rebels surrender in southwest Pakistan
The tribesmen and three key commanders formally loyal to rebel chief Nawab Akbar Bugti laid down their arms at a ceremony in Dera Bugti.india Updated: Jul 15, 2006 17:28 IST
Around 600 militants laid down arms on Saturday in Pakistan's troubled southwestern Balochistan province where the tribal rebels are engaged in a low-scale insurgency for more political and economic rights.
Three leading commanders of rebel tribal chieftain Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti surrendered along with their men before Balochistan Home Minister Sohaib Sherwani in Dera Bugti, about 600 km east of the provincial capital Quetta.
"The militants have also surrendered a large amount of arms and ammunition to the authorities," said government spokesman Razak Bugti.
One of the rebel leaders, Khan Muhammad Masuri, is said to be the "right hand" of Nawab Bugti, whom the government blames for instigating attacks on state-owned power and gas installations.
Sherwani termed the surrender a "good omen" after militants pleaded guilty but said they were forced to pick up arms.
The surrender came in the wake of ongoing security operation in which the government claimed to have killed more than 40 rebels.
The impoverished but mineral-rich Balochistan has witnessed spiralling violence since the government announced to undertake new oil and gas exploration activities in December last year.
Besides fatal attacks on para-military soldiers, frequent targeting of gas pipelines and grid stations has cost the government millions of dollars.
Balochi nationalists blame the government for exploiting their resources but without sharing its fruits with the locals. The province meets nearly 22 percent of the nationwide gas demand.