Islamabad: Around 100,000 settlers in Balochistan from other parts of Pakistan have left the troubled province so far because of violence involving Baloch separatist militants, Interior Minister Rahman Malek told the Senate here yesterday.

Making a policy statement on the situation in the mineral-rich southern province rocked by recurring attacks and acts of sabotage, the minister said "mysterious hands" were behind the unrest, but did not elaborate.

Since January this year alone more than 250 people from other provinces who had settled in Balochistan had been killed in attacks, Malek said.

He promised to provide details and concrete evidence about anti-Pakistan elements active in Balochistan and their foreign backing in an in-camera briefing to the lawmakers.

He said four private militias — the Balochistan Liberation Army of Harbyar Marri, the Balochistan Republican Army, the Balochistan Liberation Front of Dr Allah Nazar and Lashkar-e-Balochistan run by Javed Mengal — were operating in Balochistan.

Malek said Pakistan had raised the issue of foreign interference in the country during recent talks with the United States and India.

Anti-state elements

He said the anti-state elements were murdering pro-Pakistan leadership in Balochistan as they considered them an impediment to the fulfilment of their designs. He cited the recent killing of secretary-general of the Balochistan National Party Habib Jalib Baloch.

"Habib Jalib was a pro-Pakistani leader. A judicial inquiry has been ordered into his assassination and I will inform the House as and when final report comes," Malek said, strongly rejecting accusations of the involvement of intelligence agencies in such murders.

He renewed an offer of talks with rebellious Baloch leaders, saying the government wanted dialogue provided they came forward and declared respect for the Pakistan flag.