As the nation marked its 64th independence day, blasts and minor explosions rocked Balochistan and tribal areas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, killing at least 17 and injuring scores more.
Insurgents fired rockets at a military camp in North Waziristan, gutted a two-storey hotel close to Dera Allahyar, planted explosives in garbage dumps in Kalat and Mastung and attempted to sabotage gas pipelines and power pylons across Balochistan on Sunday.
Roadside restaurant blast
A major explosion rocked a restaurant on the National Highway in Dera Allahyar, some 400 kilometres south-east of Quetta, killing 14 and injuring 16 others.
A relatively low-profile organisation, the Baloch Liberation Tigers, claimed responsibility for the blast.
Its spokesperson, who introduced himself as Miran Baloch, phoned local news agencies and said it was a remote-controlled blast planted inside the hotel by his organisation.
He said they would continue to target those who celebrated Pakistan’s Independence Day.
The restaurant’s double-storey building was gutted in the explosion which took place while people were having their lunch.
“It was a remote-controlled blast and around 12 kilogrammes of explosive material was used,” said District Police Officer Jaffarabad Javed Gharshen.
Bismillah restaurant is one of the three eateries on the National Highway in Dera Allahyar that is open during Ramazan to cater to travellers, he added.
Frontier Corps personnel and police rushed to the spot and retrieved 14 bodies after several hours of hectic efforts.
The deceased and injured were taken to a nearby hospital but most of the injured were referred to Larkana and Jacobabad due to severity of their wounds.
Meanwhile, bomb disposal squads were also dispatched from Sukkur and Quetta to inspect the site, Gharshen said.
The deceased mostly belonged to surrounding areas and had come to the restaurant for lunch.
“Most of the people in Nasirabad division do not fast in Ramazan,” said a local journalist. “The hotel was therefore crowded with locals.”
The police started conducting raids and have arrested some suspects.
Three killed in Miramshah
At least three paramilitary soldiers were killed and 25 wounded when militants fired a rocket into their camp as they prepared for an Independence Day assembly.
Four rockets hit the camp in Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan district, an official told AFP.
“The condition of five of the wounded soldiers was serious,” the official said. Local intelligence officials confirmed the attack and the death toll.
Sabotaging gas pipelines
The police and security personnel defused a bomb attached to gas pipeline a few kilometres from the restaurant blast site in Jaffarabad.
DPO Gharshen said they had been alerted about subversive activities and they had seized explosive material weighing 10kg attached to the wall of a gas repeater station on the National Highway.
Around a dozen rockets were reportedly fired in Sui and adjoining areas.
Separately, a gas pipeline close to the bordering area between Dera Bugti and Jaffarabad was blown up, resulting in suspension of gas supply to Shikarpur and nearby areas.
Power pylons blown up
Power shortfall in Balochistan surged to 1,000 MWs on Sunday after militants blew up two power pylons near Sibi district.
According to Quetta Electricity Supply Company (QESCO), the shortfall will be met by increased electricity outages across the province where people already experience 18 to 20 hours of power outage.
“Quetta experiences 12 hours power cuts daily while two to three hours of electricity is supplied to the rest of the province, said the utility’s spokesperson.
He added that repair work on damaged power pylons will start after security clearance is received.
Garbage dump explosion
Separately, two explosions took place in Kalat and Mastung districts, injuring a child.
Explosives planted in a garbage dump went off, injuring a child playing nearby, sources said. The child is reported to be in stable condition since just the detonator went off, not the explosives.
Meanwhile, a hand grenade was hurled at the motorway office, partially damaging the structure’s wall. No one was injured in the attack.
Baloch militants often intensify their attacks on the eve of Independence Day to register their discontent.
With additional input from AFP.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2011.