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War against Pak to intensify: Marri

Sardar Khari Baksh Marri has now donned the mantle of Baloch leadership after the August 26 killing of Bugti.

india Updated: Sep 15, 2006 14:39 IST

Eighty-two year-old Sardar Khari Baksh Marri has now donned the mantle of Baloch leadership after the August 26 killing of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.

In an exclusive interview to the agency, Marri said: "There is no possibility of a peaceful dialogue with Islamabad and the war for Balochistan's liberation is now going to intensify."

Khair Baksh Marri is the leader of the Marri tribe, the biggest tribe of Balochistan.

While Akbar Khan Bugti was the sardar of one tribe, Marri is seen as the sardar of all Balochistan, and in that sense, he holds the greater sway over Baluchistan. He is wanted by the authorities and is on the run.

When asked about the violence characterising the Baloch struggle against Islamabad, Marri said: "A peace dialogue with Islamabad is now useless. The war continues and whoever wins this war, will win Balochistan."

Another point made by Marri was that the Baloch struggle was primarily directed against the Punjabis.

"Our war is against Punjabis and the exploitation that they have done of our province," Marri said.

He specifically mentioned the Gwadar Port, and said that the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) "will drive out all Punjabis from the Gwadar area".

Marri said that the resources in Balochistan belonged to the Baloch people and "no one will be allowed to exploit it".

In the interview, Marri made it clear that the Balochis were "no longer interested in autonomy, but in complete independence."

"Our freedom struggle has started, and we will take Balochistan to its pre-1947 position. Our annexation by Pakistan was illegal, and we will reverse it," Marri said.

When asked about the BLA, 50 percent of whose members reportedly come from the Marri tribe, Marri was full of praise for their role in the struggle to free Balochistan from the yoke of Islamabad.

"If my health had permitted, I would have led the BLA," Marri said.

"The BLA is in good hands and it will strike very hard at Pakistani interests in the days to come," he further added.

Marri explained that there was a feeling of complete alienation among Balochis is so far as Islamabad was concerned, and no amount of placating or statements from Islamabad "would make any difference to the cause".

Marri's views on Baluchistan came even as the International Crisis Group (ICG) called on the Pakistan Government to stop military action against the BLA in Balochistan.

The ICG urged the Musharraf regime to talk with political parties to resolve the conflict.

It warned that the conflict in gas-rich Balochistan could intensify if the government pressed on with an offensive against the BLA, which is fighting for independence from the rest of Pakistan.

Federal Information Minister Mohammed Ali Durrani has rejected the ICG report, which says that, "by choosing confrontation, the Musharraf Government bears responsibility for the state of the conflict."

"The only one way out is to end all military action, release political prisoners and respect constitutionally guaranteed political freedoms," the ICG report adds.

Noting that several people have been killed in violent street protests and bomb blasts in the wake of Bugti's death, the report further warns Islamabad that that people in Pakistan's largest province are unhappy about a lack of political representation.

'Sheer force' The ICG report says has only heightened the demand for more autonomy and this has widespread support among the population of the province.

"The military government should recognise that it faces conflict not with a handful of sardars [tribal chiefs], but with a broad-based movement for political, economic and social empowerment.

The military can retain control over Balochistan's territory through sheer force, but it cannot defeat an insurgency that has local support," the ICG says.

Government officials say a handful of tribal chiefs are behind the trouble in the province, because they fear their power base would be eroded by government plans to develop the region.

President Musharraf has pledged major infrastructure projects in Balochistan to win back lost support, while also promising to deal firmly with the militants.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Senate is continuing its debate on the Balochistan situation.

One of its members, Colonel (retired) Tahir Mushhadi called for the re-introduction of civilised norms to pave the way for a political solution to all problems besetting the province.

He said miscreants involved in anti-state activities, should be singled out and action be taken against them.

Mushhadi said all the political players should be treated equally and there should be no political victimisation.

He said political differences are to be resolved through dialogues and every one should work to promote democratic norms in the country.

Saadia Abbasi said Balochistan should be seen as an important unit of the federation and it must have all the rights as envisaged in the Constitution.

Babar Awan said that Baloch leaders had responded positively and cast their vote in favour of establishment of a Muslim land when Pakistan became independent in 1947, while Kulsoom Parveen said some political circles wanted to cash in on emotions of the Baloch people.

She said no one should exploit the political situation in Balochistan for personal benefit.