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Pakistan tribal leader denies Indian support

Nawab Akbar Bugti has denied claims by President Pervez Musharraf that his group is being supported by New Delhi.

india Updated: Jan 14, 2006 12:56 IST

Pakistan's powerful tribal chieftain Nawab Akbar Bugti has denied claims by President Pervez Musharraf that his group is being supported by New Delhi, an Indian newspaper reported on Thursday.

"President Musharraf is using his favourite weapon—lies," Bugtisaid in a satellite-phone interview from his headquarters at Dera Bugti town in Pakistan's volatile southwestern Balochistan province.

"His objective is to defame the legitimate demands of the people of Balochistan."

Musharraf said in an interview with an Indian television channel that there was proof that nuclear rival India was providing support to the tribal insurgency in Balochistan.

Indian involvement, he added, included "financial support" and "support in kind".

The elderly, white-bearded Bugti, however, flatly denied the charge.

"What is the need for us to take anything from anyone," he asked. "The weapons we are now using flowed into this region when the United States financed the jihad (holy war) in Afghanistan," he said.

"It was the Inter-Services Intelligence which distributed them to Afghanistan, Iran, Jammu and Kashmir -- and to us in Balochistan," he added, referring to the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency.

The cost of acquiring weapons was minimal because of their easy availability, he added. In the latest violence to rock the province, Pakistani forces shot dead 12 suspected tribal militants on Wednesday after a roadside bomb blast killed three soldiers, a government official said.

Opposition parties in Balochistan accuse the government of using helicopter gunships and warplanes to rocket and bomb civilians.

India said last month it had noted these allegations with concern and said it hoped Islamabad would show "restraint".

Musharraf responded by saying he was "annoyed" and "disappointed" by the statements. New Delhi has a strategic interest in Balochistan as a proposed gas pipeline from Iran to India is slated to pass through the region.

Bugti warned that Baluchistan insurgents would continue attacks on both existing and future pipelines.

"India-Pakistan peace is something for them to deal with, not us. We want our rights -- a fair share of the revenues from our country's resources," he said.

The arch-rivals began a peace process two years ago which has so far produced a number of largely symbolic steps, including cross-border bus services and the resumption of sporting ties, but progress has been sluggish on central issues, including their bitter dispute over Kashmir.

Balochistan tribesmen have waged a revolt against the central government in the province during the past year and a half, targeting government installations, railway tracks and gas facilities with bombs and rockets.

They are demanding a bigger share of the region's natural resources and jobs in state projects as well as more political rights, and they also oppose the setting up of military garrisons.

First Published: Jan 12, 2006 15:40 IST