Pakistan releases rebel nationalist leader

May 9th, 2008 - 10:37 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
Islamabad, May 9 (DPA) Pakistani authorities Friday released a nationalist and senior rebel leader, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, as part of reconciliatory efforts to end violence in the insurgency-hit south-western province of Balochistan. Mengal, who is the chief of his own faction of the Balochistan National Party (BNP), was arrested in November 2006 for allegedly abducting and manhandling two undercover military officials. He also faced charges of sedition.

“I will be really pleased when all the political prisoners of Pakistan, especially from Balochistan, will be released and those who are missing will be brought back,” said Mengal as he walked out of a hospital in the port city of Karachi where he was undergoing medical treatment.

Hundreds of cheering BNP activists greeted their leader on his release.

Balochistan saw a surge in violence during the last four years in the wake of increased use of military means to quell insurgency. The number of political arrests and people going missing also rose during the period.

The insurgents, who occasionally target civic infrastructure in Balochistan, have demanded greater provincial autonomy besides seeking due share of profits from exploitation of natural resources in the area.

Pakistan’s new national and provincial governments, which were formed after candidates supporting President Pervez Musharraf were trounced in the Feb 18 vote, decided last month to broker peace with Baloch armed rebels.

“We should start the process of reconciliation so we may bring peace and prosperity to this federal unit, especially, and in large to the country,” Balochistan chief minister Aslam Raisani said during an assembly session last month.

The anti-Musharraf parliamentarians also vowed to release the political prisoners, with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani saying last week that: “We want to see Sardar Mengal released as soon as possible.”

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