September 1, 2006

Pakistan rebel chief’s body recovered

By Asim Tanveer

DERA BUGTI, Pakistan (Reuters) - An elderly rebel chieftain
whose killing by Pakistani security forces last weekend sparked
violent protests was hastily buried on Friday in his hometown
in Pakistan's restive southwest province of Baluchistan.

Only about 30 members of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti's tribe
attended the funeral at his family's ancestral graveyard in
Dera Bugti, a town 245 km (150 miles) southeast of the
provincial capital, Quetta.

They were outnumbered by well over 100 security personnel.

Bugti, nicknamed the "Tiger of Baluchistan," was killed on
August 26 during an assault on his hideout in the remote hills
of gas-rich Baluchistan. His death unleashed a series of
violent protests this week across Pakistan's poorest and least
populated province.

The 79-year-old rebel, a one time chief minister of the
province and a federal government minister, led an increasingly
violent campaign to win decades-old demands for autonomy and a
greater share of profits from the province's resources.

The campaign included attacks on gas facilities,
infrastructure and security forces.

Bugti's body was retrieved on Thursday from the rubble of a
cave where he had been hiding with his most loyal fighters.

It is Muslim custom to bury the body the day that someone
dies or the day after. But, Samad Lasi, a civil administration
official in Dera Bugti, said the burial was hurried because the
body was decomposing and infested by insects.

"The central part of the body was damaged when the mountain
caved in. His face was recognizable," Lasi said, while Bugti's
watch, wallet, and spectacles were shown to journalists.

No family members were present at the funeral, although
officials say they were contacted.

"It was our right to have the body and bury it," Jamil
Bugti, one of Bugti's five sons, told Reuters.

A mullah who performed the last rites was the only person
to see the badly decomposed body in its coffin during the

"I have recognized the body," said cleric Maulana Malook.


Baluch political parties organized a strike on Friday
throughout Baluchistan, and streets were deserted in most

There were also strikes in Karachi and Peshawar, the
provincial capitals of Sindh and North West Frontier Province.

A session of the National Assembly, the lower house of
parliament, was adjourned after the opposition boycotted
proceedings, while President Pervez Musharraf held a meeting,
described as routine by army official, of Pakistan's top

The government says Bugti and an unknown number of his men
were killed when the cave they were in collapsed after a huge
explosion during the fighting in the Baluch district of Kohlu.

The government says security forces did not intend to kill
Bugti, but opponents and analysts say they doubt that.

Musharraf, a general who came to power in a coup seven
years ago, has faced a barrage of criticism for using
overwhelming force to put down Bugti's revolt.

An old-style feudal leader who boasted to a biographer that
he killed a man when he was just 11 years old, Bugti had many
critics. But in a tribal society where pride and courage are
highly valued, Bugti burnished his reputation with his

Analysts say his slaying could inflame opposition in
Baluchistan and stir up other parts of Pakistan where
resentment of the army and Punjab province's domination have
simmered since the country's formation nearly 60 years ago.