MULTAN, April 9: Fresh gas pipelines’ blasts near Sadiqabad have exposed the claims of the federal government and law-enforcement agencies they had made after the Mazari Goth blasts in January this year that appropriate measures had been taken to forestall such incidents.

While the Rangers and the police authorities have called the Sadiqabad blasts an accident occurred owing to the gas leakage from decaying pipelines, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited Managing Director Rasheed Lone minced no words in saying that it was nothing, but a sabotage.

The SNGPL technicians have reportedly found enough evidence, including metal pieces of the bomb supposed to be planted under the pipelines and wires used to explode dynamites, from the site of blasts, to support their head’s claim. Besides, technical details had confirmed that it was a sabotage.

One of the blown-up gas pipes was laid 10 feet under the ground, but the powerful blast broke it out of the surface at a 90 degree angle.

Tribal area’s sources told this correspondent that a movement of seven 4x4 vehicles towards the Punjab from the Dera Bugti area, Balochistan, was noticed on Monday evening. People in the adjoining Mazari areas became alert, anticipating another bloody attack by the rival Bugti tribesmen.

Sources in the Rajanpur police told Dawn that the local authorities had been informed of some Mazaris’ movement. However, the convoy of 4x4 vehicles did not come to the Mazari headquarters, and the next morning people knew about the gas pipeline blasts near Sadiqabad.

It is also learnt that an aide to the Bugti tribe chief in Mazari clan enjoys influence in the areas near the site of the fresh blasts. Faqir Muhammad Khird, who is said to be among one of the Mazari tribesmen who can freely go to Bugti area despite rivalry between two tribes, has agricultural lands closer to the site of blasts.

The gas pipeline blasts near Sadiqabad were fourth of a series in the last two-and-half-months that disrupted natural gas supply to the Punjab and the NWFP, causing losses of millions of rupees. The gas pipelines came under attack first on Jan 21 near the Mazari Goth in Rajanpur district.

The SNGPL engineers were on their way to regional headquarters in Multan after restoring the gas supply after four-day struggle when the saboteurs again blew up the pipelines in the Mazari Goth. An inter-ministerial committee was reportedly constituted to avert such incidents, and the Rangers and other security personnel had been deployed alongside the gas pipelines. The authorities took refuge under the pretext of the inter-tribal clashes.

The Bugti chief, however, stated on many occasions that inter-tribal clashes were a normal thing for the Balochis. He related the pipeline blasts to the issues of gas royalty and rents of the lands under the gasfields of Sui, Loti, Uch and Pir Koh areas of Dera Bugti.

The authorities concerned were claiming that the disputed matters had been resolved with the gasfield tribes when the pipeline, coming from Qadirpur gasfield, was blown up near Ghotki on March 1.

People involved in oil and gas business, however, believe that it was not merely the outcome of inter-tribal feud or disagreements over the royalty and rental issues. They stressed that it was part of the international tug-of-war over the natural resources. To give weightage to their argument, they draw attention towards the timings of the gas pipelines’ blasts.

The Mazari Goth blasts took place when Iranian President Syed Muhammad Khatami was in New Delhi to push a project of trans-Pakistan gas pipeline between his country and India. The talks remained inconclusive, as the Indian government reportedly expressed its apprehensions over the project citing security reasons. It reportedly stressed the need to explore the possibility of an underwater pipeline to avoid any disruption in gas supply through Pakistan.

The Sadiqabad blasts were occurred on the day when a two-day meeting of the fifth steering committee on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project was to start in Manila. Federal Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Naurez Shakoor is in Manila to head the Pakistani delegation.

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