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Chamalang project: Marri tribe blocks coal transportation

by Qaiser Butt

QUETTA: After rejecting a deal reached by fellow tribesmen, hundreds of Marri tribesmen backed by their tribal chief Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri have blocked transportation of coal from Chamalang Coal Mines to other parts of the country.

An agreement signed by Baloch Senator Mir Mohabbat Khan Marri, the elders of the Luni Pakhtun tribe and the government of Balochistan in 2006 led to the commencement of coal mining at the reserves.

The agreement led to extraction of 1.5 million tons coal worth Rs6 billion between 2007 and 2010, according to the official estimates. Chamalang coalmines located 70km south-east of Loralai has proven deposits of approximately 500 million tons worth Rs200 billion.

The establishment hired the services of Mir Mohabat Khan Marri, a known rival of tribal chief Nawab Khair Bakhsh, to reach an agreement between the Baloch and Pakhtun tribes in order to start operations at the coal site that could not be utilised due to clashes for at least 30 years.

Karachi-based Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Marri, who is leading the separatist movement in Balochistan, is against sharing of the coal reserves found in his tribal domain with the rival Pakhtun tribe and the provincial government. The resisting Marri tribesmen claim that Senator Mir Mohabbat Khan Marri was not empowered to sign the accord on behalf of their tribe as Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri was the competent authority.

The Luni tribe which also has a large influence in Loralai district with neighbouring Marri tribes in Kohlu district is also not willing to give up their right of ownership without a fight.

More than 55,000 people from Balochistan, Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa and Punjab have been engaged in coal mining at the project since 2007.

Officials claim that the project is the largest revenue generation venture after Saindak Copper and Chaghi marble mines.

Rising clashes

In the latest incident, four tribesmen and a security official were killed on Thursday when tribesmen attacked a vehicle loading coal at the site.

At least five drivers of the trucks transporting coal from the Chamalang mines have been killed by the armed Marri tribesmen in the last month, according to official sources. They have also set on fire two trucks loaded with the coal on the mining site.

More than 800 army personnel, 250 frontier corps, 450 Balochistan constabulary, 50 Kohlu police and 2,000 personnel of Chamalang levies from Marri tribes are employed for security at the site.

The Balochistan Truck Owners Association blocked the Quetta-Dera Ghazi Khan highway for over two hours on Wednesday to protest against the killing of the drivers.

The protestors while demanding protection against the attacks by the Marri tribesmen claimed that more then 12 drivers have lost their lives.

More then 70 people from the rival Baloch and Pakhtun tribes have lost their lives during armed clashes while attempting to capture the coal mining site.