JWP is clinically dead
By Malik Siraj Akbar
Two months after the death of its founder Nawab Akbar Bugti, the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP), is facing internal strife. An unanticipated decision on October 27 by seven leading JWP office-holders, including secretary general Agha Shahid Bugti and information secretary Amanullah Kanrani, to secede from the party, has left the rank and file stupefied.
Since its formation on August 16, 1990, JWP is going through the worst crisis in its short history. The issue of resigning from assemblies to protest the Nawab’s killing has generated more problems instead of becoming a solution for Baloch parties. Like the National Party which has still not made up its mind on the issue of resignations, JWP is also divided on the issue.
However, experts view the JWP crisis as much deeper than that of NP. “Resignation is not the only issue that has divided JWP. The real issue is about succession: who will be the party chief and head the tribe. There is also the problem of asset and wealth distribution,” says a source close to the party and the family.
JWP’s rupture has come in the wake of the ambivalent strategies the two ambitious scions of Nawab Bugti have with regards to the correct course of action following the Nawab’s death. Encumbered with high public expectations, the two stepbrothers and political neophytes, Jamil and Talal Bugti, have traded harsh words, leveled serious allegations and questioned each other’s bona fides and motives.
Jamil Bugti, Nawab Bugti’s 50-year old son, launched a blisteringly attack on party leaders for not quitting the assemblies in protest against the killing of his father. On October 23, he told the media that a vast majority of the Nawab’s supporters, including his youngest son Shahzawar, wanted JWP members in the Balochistan assembly and in the Senate to quit.
“I fear some people are hijacking my father’s party by pleasing the government and not paying heed to the demands of the party workers,” Jamil said. “Nawab Bugti did not sacrifice his life for the sake of some assembly seats. If the JWP leaders, despite the lapse of two months, can’t quit the assemblies then they should quit the party and sit at home,” he thundered.
Jamil’s criticism incensed the leading JWP leaders who called his statement derogatory. Following it, the top seven JWP leaders, including secretary general Agha Shahid Bugti, information secretary Amanullah Kanrani, founding member Manzoor Khosa and MPA Dr Rubab announced to quit party offices in protest against Jamil Bugti’s statement.
This divided the JWP in two groups: one is led by Jamil Bugti and enjoys the overt backing of Mir Humayun Marri, the party president; the second fiction, which doesn’t have a chief until now, seems to be led by Bugti’s eldest son, Talal, and now also enjoys the support of the group of seven protestors.
“We are the actual JWP. Jamil is even not a party member,” Amanullah Kanrani, the JWP information secretary told TFT [See Kanrani’s interview in this issue] . On his part, Jamil maintains that his father’s party has been sold to the government by some of its leaders in return of minor gains.
“Kanrani has been offered promotion as a judge by the government for selling out JWP to the military regime,” Jamil Bugti told TFT, adding: “JWP is dead with the assassination of my father. Now they can form JWP-M(ilitary) or JWP-O(fficial).”
Jamil contends that the decision by JWP leaders to tender resignations from party positions is nothing but a drama. “Instead of quitting party positions, they should have quit the assemblies. But they don’t have the courage to do so because they are being dictated by the government.” Jamil has also disclosed that Saleem Khosa, a party leader, had been asked by a Corps Commander to prevent his son from resigning from the assembly.
Allegations and counter allegations have deepened the crisis. Many observers believe the party is dead with the death of the Nawab. “The biggest problem with JWP,” a seasoned historian told TFT, “is that Nawab Bugti was simultaneously the leader, worker, organiser and the political brain of the JWP. He was the only man who communicated with the people and activated the party. There were hardly any real leaders in the party.”
Also, there is no political movement from the JWP leaders since the outbreak of fresh differences. No one owns or disowns the party and ordinary workers are in a fix. Jamil Bugti has come as a staunch opponent of parliamentary politics and a supporter of the armed struggle while the other faction talks of purely peaceful democratic struggle.
Although JWP cannot be classified among the parties that emerged after the disintegration of the erstwhile National Awami Party (ANP), it has had a dominating impact on the politics of Balochistan due to the charisma of the Nawab. During the general elections of 1988, the Nawab extended support to the Balochistan National Youth Movement (BNYM), headed by Dr Abdul Hayee, and led it to victory. This ultimately led to the Nawab becoming the chief minister of the province.
In a convention held in Quetta on August 16, 1990, Nawab Bugti, a week after the dismissal of his government on August 7, 1990, announced the formation of the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP). Soon after its formation, JWP was joined by Balochistan’s former caretaker chief minister Mir Humayun Marri; Marri is a son-in-law of the Nawab. That granted JWP the status of the ruling party, though the caretaker government also comprised IJI (Islami Jamhoori Ittehad) and PNP as part of a ruling-coalition set-up.
In the elections of October 29, 1990, JWP won 13 seats in a house of 43. During the election campaign, JWP did not make any alliance with its former allies, BNM and JUI. It rested content with forming an alliance with the IJI despite the fact that the Nawab had, time and again, said that IJI lacked the loyalty and reliability factors. Though JWP and IJI were in a position to form a government in Quetta, IJI preferred to join hands with the Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan National Party and Pakhtoonkhaw Milli Awami Party to do so.
JWP, which won 8 seats in the provincial assembly in the polls of 1997 and four in 2002, is now on the brink of complete disintegration.It also played a supportive role in installing Sardar Akhtar Mengal and his cousin Jam Mohammad Yousaf as the Balochistan chief minister in 1997 and 2002, respectively.
Differences in the ranks of JWP were even visible in the lifetime of the Nawab. One of its MNAs, Haider Bugti, sided with the government while four of its MPAs have, according to Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Yousaf, finally made up their minds to join the ruling Pakistan Muslim League.
Observers and other political parties in Balochistan are viewing the JWP crisis from a distance. When TFT asked Sardar Akhtar Mengal, president of the BNP, about how he viewed the whole matter, Mengal refused to comment, saying, “It is their internal matter”.