SUI, Jan 26: Pakistan army formally announced on Wednesday the launch of a project to build a garrison in the troubled gas-rich town of Sui.

Earlier this month tribal rebels fired rockets at main gas field at Sui, killing eight people and suspending the supply to millions of homes and hundreds of industrial units.

Since then troops have been deployed around the Sui gas fields to track down those responsible. "We have come here and taken over the 400 acres of land allotted to the Pakistan army," commanding officer Lt-Col Mazhar Masood said.

"We will soon build a cantonment (garrison) here which is the need of the area," he said at a special press briefing in this dusty town, some 350 kilometres south east of Quetta.

The land had been acquired and payment made to the owners, he said, adding that one battalion of regular troops with a number of tanks had already arrived in Sui. "You can see only sand dunes here, but within very short time a cantonment will be built and the sand dunes will be turned into green land," he said.

Lt-Col Masood said the troops were in Sui "to protect the key gas installations, life, honour and property of its citizens from miscreants and to provide reinforcement to paramilitary forces in maintaining the law and order in the area."

He said it was necessary to station troops in the town as rocket attacks, which had damaged the strategic gas pipelines, had become a 'regular feature'. The government last year said it planned to build three new military bases in Sui as well as in Kohlu, which has untapped oil and gas reserves, and the coastal town of Gwadar, which is the site of a Chinese-funded deep seaport.

The plan triggered strong opposition from nationalist tribesmen who claimed the projects would bring in outsiders who would ultimately outnumber ethnic Baloch. -AFP

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