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Riots Surround Funeral of Pakistani Rebel Leader


Fresh violence erupted throughout Pakistan as funeral and memorial services were held for slain tribal leader Nawab Bugti. The Baluch nationalist was killed Saturday by government troops, sparking massive riots across southern Pakistan.

More than 10,000 people attended funeral services in Baluchistan for rebel leader Nawab Akbar Bugti.

Violent protests erupted after the ceremony, fueling concerns of a wider conflict in the volatile province.

Rioters chanted "Death to Pakistan" and traded fire with security forces in the provincial capital, Quetta. Several shops were looted, and local authorities say at least two hand grenades were thrown at police.

Government forces killed Bugti during a raid Saturday on his mountain hideout. The 79-year-old tribal chief was a key figure in the province's decades-old push for political autonomy and greater control over valuable natural resources.

In Islamabad, opposition lawmakers accuse the government of deliberately killing a legitimate voice of political protest.

Aitzaz Ahsen, senior member of the Pakistan People's Party, accused President Pervez Musharraf of using military force to silence the opposition.

"Even the lawful and constitutional aspirations of the Baluch people are being suppressed by military force. Hundreds have been killed, other citizens are being kidnapped by intelligence agencies," Ahsen said.

For several years, Baluch nationalists have waged a low-scale guerilla war against the central government.

The government had repeatedly accused Bugti of sponsoring terrorist attacks against government installations, including several key gas pipelines. Bugti denied leading the insurgency, but was a vocal supporter of its aims.

Pakistani officials say they are committed to resolving the conflict in Baluchistan, and are doing everything they can to improve conditions in the impoverished province.

But some political analysts say violence in the region will likely increase following Bugti's death.

Former Punjab University professor Hassan Askari says the government's use of force in Baluchistan has polarized local communities there, and further alienated opposition groups throughout the country.

"It is a serious situation. This is going to add very serious strains to the political process in Pakistan." Askari said. "The space for moderate leaders or thinking has been greatly undermined, because the situation has been pushed to such an extent that emphasis on moderation loses any appeal."

Opposition leaders have been pushing a no-confidence measure in the National Assembly, accusing Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of mishandling the national economy.

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