KARACHI, Aug 28: Veteran politician Sherbaz Khan Mazari has refuted government claims about killing Nawab Akbar Bugti in a mountain cave and said that the tribal chieftain was actually killed following a bitter shoot-out in the open.

A press statement issued to Dawn by Mr Mazari says that the body of Nawab Bugti has been taken to Islamabad.

“The regime now claims that it is digging to find Nawab Bugti’s remains. This is widely believed to be a subterfuge as there is no body there to be found.”

Mr Mazari says: “My old friend Akbar Bugti was an 80-year-old man incapacitated by a muscle-wasting disease and unable to walk properly. How could the army have so confidently announced that they had killed him if he had been trapped and hidden within the depths of a cave at the time it collapsed?”

He says the government, faced with a tremendous public backlash, is now trying to take cover behind a disingenuous tale about a helicopter coming under fire and an ensuing battle which led to ‘the collapse of a 120-foot cave in which Nawab Bugti had been sheltering’.

“Obviously, the story about the cave is creative fiction,” he says.

According to Mr Mazari, the government had previously attempted to eliminate Nawab Bugti on two previous occasions: on March 17, 2005, when TOW missiles were deployed as Nawab Bugti sat in his ‘baithak’ in Dera Bugti, and in early July 2006 when SSG commandoes were dropped by helicopters to encircle his previous mountain redoubt.

“My message to Musharraf is this: General, you have finally managed to kill the man you wanted. Now, if you possess an honourable bone in your body, do the decent thing and hand the body of Nawab Bugti to his family members. The least my dear friend Akbar Bugti deserves is the dignity of a proper funeral and a final resting place in the land he loved enough to give his life for,” the statement concludes.

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