Roads blocked in Balochistan in protest at Mengal’s arrest
By Malik Siraj Akbar
QUETTA: Protestors blocked roads and highways across Balochistan as police continued their crackdown on nationalist leaders on Sunday.
Nationalist parties called the wheel-jam strike to protest at the arrest of Sardar Akhtar Mengal, the Mengal tribal chief and president of the Balochistan National Party, and hundreds of other Baloch activists over the last 10 days.
A BNP spokesman termed Sunday’s strike a “grand success”. He claimed that police had detained 300 Baloch workers, including the 70-year-old father of a party leader, in Quetta alone and injured 60 protestors during the last three days.
Traffic remained suspended in most parts of the province, including large parts the provincial capital Quetta. Protestors blocked the national highway, disrupting Balochistan’s road links with the rest of the country.
In Baloch-dominated parts of Quetta, BNP supporters blocked roads, including Sariab Road, and pelted stones at passing vehicles. The Quetta-Chaman road was also blocked in Kuchlak, on the outskirts of Quetta. BNP supporters threw stones at the police when the latter tried to open the road. The police later arrested Malik Abdul Majeed Kakar, Quetta district president of the BNP, along with ten party workers at around 1:00pm.
In Karachi, police booked Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, central president of the Balochistan National Movement (BNM), and Sher Mohammad Baloch, provincial president of the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) Sindh chapter, as they protested against the latest crackdown on Baloch leaders.
There was a complete strike in Khuzdar, home district of Sardar Mengal. Protestors blocked the Quetta-Karachi highway and chanted slogans against the detention of Baloch leaders and demanded their immediate release. Policed detained Latif Baloch, BNP secretary general for Khuzdar tehsil, and a worker named Siraj Ahmed. “They were later shifted to Khuzdar Central jail,” a source told Daily Times.
The Quetta-Taftan highway was completely blocked in Dalbandin district, leaving hundreds of trucks and vehicles stranded. A shutter down and wheel jam strike paralysed daily life in Kalat. Three BNP leaders - Mohammad Imran, Abdul Haleem and Naimatullah - were detained by the police under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. The protestors also broke the windscreens of several vehicles which defied the wheel jam strike call.
The strike was also observed, at least partially, in the Pashtoon-dominated areass of Loralai, Panjgur, Turbat, Noshaki, Mustung, Gwadar and Hub.
Police started the crackdown on Baloch leaders days before they planned a long march across the province starting from Gwadar. The aim of the march was to protest against the killing of tribal chief Nawab Akbar Bugti, the military operations in the province, and the construction of cantonments and major development projects in Balochistan.