Up in arms

Published: Saturday 31 July 2004

-- Protests against Pakistan's acquisition of vast tracts of land for mega military projects in its western Balochistan province are snowballing. In the latest incident, tribals blew up an airport in the gas-rich region of Sui. And now, local nationalist parties have threatened action on August 1.

The tribe members fired more than 50 rockets at security posts in the Sui natural gas field recently. An unidentified person, describing himself as a member of the relatively unknown Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) said his organisation was opposed to the establishment of cantonments in Balochistan.

Pakistan's interior minister, Faisal Saleh Hayat, threatened to use force if matters were not resolved politically. It's easy to see why the Pakistanis are on a hair trigger. At a time when global fuel prices are soaring, Sui -- situated about 400 kilometres southeast of Baluchistan's capital Quetta -- contributes 60 per cent of the country's natural gas production. Any obstruction in the flow of gas to industry in the east would shatter Pakistan's fragile economy.

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