QUETTA: Baloch insurgents have intensified their attacks on vital gas pipelines and power transmission pylons in recent days, depriving the entire province of power and gas facilities for days and causing losses worth over Rs100 million to the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC).
As many as 10 gas pipelines, including two high pressure pipelines, and four power pylons of 132KV and 220 KV transmission lines were blown up within the last week.
The attacks on government installations, particularly in the Bugti tribal territory, Nasirabad and Sibi divisions, started in 2006 after a military operation was carried out in Dera Bugti against the former governor and chief minister of Balochistan, Nawab Akbar Bugti.
“Last year, the SSGC suffered a loss of over Rs100 million due to targeted attacks on gas pipelines, said general manager SSGC Balochistan Mohammad Haroon. “The company has suffered an equivalent loss this year too as attacks have picked up,” he added while talking to The Express Tribune.
The gas pipelines are six to eight thousands kilometers long and supply gas to 12 districts and 29 small townships of the province. The remaining 18 districts have no gas facilities.
A private security company, National Police Foundation Security Company (NPFC), is paid by the SSGC to provide security to this vast network in Balochistan. The SSGC and the provincial government blame each other for security lapses.
“It is the responsibility of government as well to provide security to the gas pipelines because the company alone cannot afford to depute security guards on the entire network,” said Haroon.
Meanwhile home secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said the “NPFC is responsible for security because it is being paid for this purpose by the SSGC,” adding the government is also making its utmost efforts to thwart such subversive activities.”
The provincial government has beefed up security for the main gas pipelines while Balochistan Constabulary personnel have also been deployed in areas under the control of Balochistan Levies after the frequent attacks, Durrani added.
He added: it is extremely difficult to attach explosive materials along a buried pipeline without the help of the locals in tribal areas.
“We have suggested that companies recruit local people as security guards,” he said, adding it helps when locals themselves are responsible for security.
Most of the personnel in NPFC are aged and retired employees and have been arrested recently because they were not even present at the time of attack, he added.
The banned outfit Baloch Republican Army (BRA) usually claims responsibility for sabotaging infrastructure.
“The recent attacks were a reaction to the recovery of bullet-riddled bodies of Baloch youth,” a spokesperson of the organisation who introduced himself as Sarbaz Baloch told local media from an unspecified location.
While the locals consider this inefficiency on the part of the government, political observers attribute it to political disenfranchisement, and call for settling of issues by holding talks with the aggrieved Baloch people.
Disrupting gas and power: Two gas pipelines blown up
Unknown militants blew up two more gas pipelines near Dera Allahyar and Dera Murad Jamali on Sunday disrupting gas supply to Uch Power Plant and Sohbatpur town.
According to Balochistan Levies, militants blew up an 18-inch-diameter gas pipeline on Chattar Road, disrupting gas supply to Uch Power Plant and causing an electricity shortfall of 586 MW.
Separately, a 16-inch-diameter pipeline near Dera Allayar area was also blown up, disrupting gas supply to Sohbatpur and adjoining townships, an official at SSGC said.
Meanwhile repair work on sabotaged gas pipeline near Dera Murad Jamali is partially completed and gas supply to Quetta has been restored, said the SSGC spokesman Inayatullah Ismail.
Published in The Express Tribune February 14th, 2011.