Pakistan guerillas hit pipeline

Baluchi guerillas shut down Pakistan’s top gas field with rocket attacks on the pipeline. Why is nobody paying attention?

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Supplies from Pakistan’s main gas field have been fully restored, officials said on Saturday 11 days after a bloody attack by militant tribesmen seeking greater autonomy forced the field to be shut down.

"The previous pressure has been restored, gas has been restored to important places like fertilizer and power plants," Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Amanullah Khan Jadoon said on state-run Pakistan Television.

"The disruption that had been caused has now been fully rectified."

Supplies from the Sui field in the southwestern province of Baluchistan were suspended after the main processing plant and pipelines were damaged in the rocket attack on Jan. 11, in which as many as 15 people died.

Sui produces up to 45 percent of Pakistan’s gas and the attack disrupted supplies to power firms and factories in northern and southern Pakistan as well as to some consumers.

The field has been attacked frequently by tribesmen seeking more autonomy, development funds and gas royalties.

But recent violence has been unusually intense and analysts have warned it could explode into major unrest unless handled carefully.

The violence has also been a blow to Pakistan’s efforts to attract foreign investment into oil and gas exploration and has called into question its security guarantees for a proposed gas pipeline from Iran to India that would run through Baluchistan.

President Pervez Musharraf’s government rushed in extra troops and vowed to prevent future attacks on the Sui facility, while at the same time has holding out the prospect of more development funding to Baluchistan.

However, on Friday, a prominent tribal leader warned of more violence after security forces demolished houses used to launch the attack on the Sui field.

In an interview with Reuters, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti complained the military had moved tanks and artillery into Bugti tribal lands and said anger among tribesmen was growing.

Security officials also said the Marris, another powerful tribe in Baluchistan, had set up militant training camps in remote parts of the province, posing a serious challenge to the government.

See our last post on Baluchistan.