Pakistan appeals to militants over earthquake

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Saba Eitizaz reports from Balochistan, one of the worst affected areas

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 400 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.

At least 10 army helicopters are conducting rescue operations, with teams being flown to affected areas. About 500 wounded people have been moved and are being treated at a district hospital in Awaran.

Image source, AFP
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Many survivors have been left homeless after Tuesday's earthquake.
Image source, AFP
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The 7.7 magnitude quake destroyed thousands of homes in Pakistan's Balochistan region.
Image source, Reuters
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Rescue teams have struggled to reach many parts of the remote region.
Image source, AFP
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The government estimates that 300,000 people have been affected by the quake.

Food, tent and medicine have also been distributed to some of the affected areas.

Jan Mohammad Bulaidi, a spokesman for the Balochistan government, said that disruption of the communications systems in the affected areas was hampering rescue operations.

He also appealed to the government to allow international humanitarian organisations to participate in relief efforts.

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

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.

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.

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