Pakistan quake appeal to militants

Officials in Pakistan have made an appeal to separatist militant groups in the south-western province affected by the deadly earthquake to halt attacks.

A spokesman for the Balochistan regional government said insurgent attacks were hampering rescue and relief efforts in some districts.

At least 348 people died and hundreds were injured when a 7.7-magnitude quake hit the region on Tuesday.

Rescue teams are still trying to reach affected areas.

The government said that official rescue teams have not been able to reach many affected areas because of poor road networks, says the BBC’s Shahzeb Jillani, in Quetta.

Officials estimate that about 300,000 people in six districts have been affected by the earthquake. Survivors need more provisions like food and water and there is also a lack of doctors and medical supplies.

Pakistan’s official paramilitary force, the Frontier Corps, has been leading rescue and relief operations.

It already had thousands of soldiers deployed in the area because it is fighting a long-running separatist insurgency by Baloch nationalist rebels.

On Thursday an army helicopter carrying the head of Pakistan’s national disaster agency, Maj Gen Alam Saeed, escaped a rocket attack, reports say.

Later, members of the Frontier Corps also came under fire in Awaran, the district worst affected by the quake.

The force stands accused of enforced disappearances and rights abuses in the impoverished and lawless province.

Western aid workers and international charity groups have long been discouraged from working in Balochistan – Pakistan’s largest but least populated province.

The quake occurred at a depth of 20km (13 miles) north-east of Awaran, the US Geological Survey said. Many houses were flattened, forcing thousands of people to spend nights in the open.

Awaran is considered a hotbed of the separatist movement and is also the home of a leading separatist militant, correspondents say.

Tuesday’s quake was so powerful it was felt as far away as India’s capital, Delhi, and Dubai.