Pakistan Blasts Kill 12, Historic Building Gutted In Resource-rich Province

by
Reuters
Blasts triggered by suspected separatists killed a policeman on Saturday and gutted an historic summer retreat used by Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Baluchistan province, days after a new government vowed to end a guerrilla war there.

Quaide Azam Residency

Blasts triggered by suspected separatists killed a policeman on Saturday and gutted an historic summer retreat used by Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Baluchistan province, days after a new government vowed to end a guerrilla war there.

At least 11 women university students died in a separate attack in Quetta, the violence-plagued capital of the province, later on Saturday, the city police chief said.

A blast gutted a bus carrying the students, then another explosion rocked the hospital where survivors were taken, TV images showed. Witness acounts said police and fighters exchanged fire at the hospital.

The Quetta explosions were the most lethal militant attacks since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office on June 5.

Baluchistan, with large copper and gold deposits, is a vast province bordering Iran and Afghanistan. It has suffered a long-running armed independence movement, and what rights groups call a campaign of forced disappearances by security forces. Sectarian violence is also common.

Baluchistan supplies much of the natural gas feeding Pakistan's lifeline textile industry in eastern Punjab province, and is home to a deepwater port at Gwadar.

Saturday's attacks were the first since a new chief minister of the province took office last week. He has urged security forces, who deny wrongdoing, to end rights abuses and support his hopes of kindling talks with the separatists.

Several men surrounded the heritage Quaid Azam Residency in the hill town of Ziarat in the early hours of the morning, before detonating several explosive devices, local police and a witness said.

A policeman died and the ensuing blaze tore through the two-storey wood-clad building. It was not clear what type of weapon caused the blasts. Earlier, a senior local government official said rocket propelled grenades had hit the building.

Baluchistan has experienced waves of revolt by nationalists since being incorporated into Pakistan in 1948.

Some separatists in Baluchistan believe that Jinnah coerced the region's leaders to accede to the new nation of Pakistan.

Baluchistan's top policeman, Mushtaq Sukhera, said one rebel group, the Baluchistan Liberation Army, had claimed responsibility for the attack on the house. Reuters was not able to contact the insurgents to independently verify that claim.

On the day chief minister Abdul Malik took oath, five bullet-riddled bodies were found in the province.

The discoveries were seen by many as a message that security forces were intent on continuing what human rights groups have dubbed a systematic campaign of "kill-and-dump".

Jinnah stayed in the Quaid Azam Residency as he tried to recover from a lung disease in 1948, a year after his successful campaign to separate Pakistan from India. He died in Karachi soon after. The building is a national heritage site.