The Balochistan government has temporarily suspended buses carrying pilgrims from travelling on a volatile highway to neighbouring Iran due to security concerns.
“We have suspended the movement of buses carrying pilgrims on the Taftan-Quetta highway until the security situation improves,” a senior official told The Express Tribune on Friday.
Over 300 pilgrims entered Pakistan from Iran and reached Taftan, a border town in Chagai district, on Wednesday, but they were not allowed to travel on buses. “Paramilitary FC and Levies personnel escorted the pilgrims to Dalbandin as Taftan does not have an airport,” he added.
Assistant Commissioner Razzaq Sasoli said that 90 pilgrims took a C-130 flight from Dalbandin airport for Quetta and the remaining will take the same flight when it returns.
C-130 flights are also a temporary arrangement. “The government is [in the process of] devising a strategy regarding the pilgrims’ transportation,” a security official said.
After the Mastung bombing, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch had said that his administration was considering a ferry service for pilgrims as the Taftan-Quetta highway is not safe. The 700-kilometre highway connecting Quetta and Iran has seen dozens of suicide and roadside bomb attacks during the last few years.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2014.
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