The ‘let’s-see-how-a-country-breaks’ game
Will August 26 be remembered as Balochistan’s 9/11 in the history books? Yes, indeed. They say Balochistan will never remain the same after the killing of a man who dominantly reigned over the political and tribal scene in the country’s largest province as a unique figure for six long decades. No one accurately knows how Akbar Bugti (1927-2006), a charismatic, upright and dexterous politician, was killed in the Bhamboor Hills in Marri tribal area as the official statements pertaining to his death keep paradoxically changing.
The aftermath of Bugti’s murder, which the opposition parties maintain was the culmination of ‘target killing’, has witnessed unpredictably staggering backlash not only in Balochistan but elsewhere in the whole country, though not with the same intensity in the Punjab.
Balochistan feels swindled again. The killing of a 79-year old man, who had a considerable number of supporters as well as that of detractors, has immeasurably irked the Baloch. Worse was the handling of his dead body. The government denial to hand over the dead body of Akbar Bugti has increased the number of his sympathizers. It might sound too clichéd but it is very true that the Baloch have, ultimately, gotten a martyr for their nationalist movement. The sillier the mistakes on the part of the government, the quicker the pace of Bugti’s popularity gained in Balochistan. Least attentive of a charge sheet of Bugti’s crimes issued by the government, the ordinary Baloch considers Bugti as his hero; a hero who epitomizes resistance, steadfastness and struggle against exploitation and suppression.
People in Balochistan understandably keep asking why this happens to them again and again. Today, one happens to encounter scores of Baloch youths
who would inexplicably inquire: “ Why does this happen to us only?” While the others might badger you with their questions as to for how long they should uncomplainingly receive the dead bodies of their elders.
Though excruciating to concede, the fact remains unchanged that anti-Pakistan, anti-Punjab and anti-army sentiments have dramatically soared in Balochistan following the killing of Akbar Bugti. It is true that Balochistan has remained a restive province for decades in general and during the past couple of years in particular. But it was the aftermath of Bugti’s killing and its improper burial when we saw the national flag being set ablaze by disgruntled Baloch youth under our nose. It was the first time that thousands of people including the media teams witnessed the life-size portrait of the father of nation Mohammad Ali Jinnah being smashed into pieces by angry young men outside Quetta’s Ayub Stadium. Never before annoyed Baloch youth in the recent years marched in Quetta’s busiest avenue of Jinnah Road to stridently roar:
“ Bun kay rahey ga Balochistan…toot key rahega Pakistan.”
“Hum Lay kay rahein gay Azadi… thera Bap be dega Azadi”
“ Azadi ka aak he dung… guerrilla jang guerrilla jang”
[Pakistan will inevitably break and Balochistan will become independent]
[ We will get freedom. Even your father will be compelled to grant us freedom]
[There is just one way to seek freedom: guerrilla warfare]
Friends, we need to realize that there is something wrong somewhere when thousands of protestors yell together.
“ Yea general colonel… [While the others add] “ Baygarat”
“ Yea wardiwalay… Baygarat”
“ Yea topiwalay… Baygarat”
“ Yea bootonwalay… Baygarat”
[Shameless are these generals and colonels]
[Shameless are these men with uniform]
[Shameless are these men with caps]
[Shameless are these men with boots]
Could a military be more humiliated than this in its own country? Perhaps ours was expecting something more sever. They can still digest it. Not bad.
Should we still live in fools’ paradise and believe that things in Balochistan are hunky dory while thousands of protesters yell together.
“ Punjabiun ka kabristan… Balochistan Balochistan”
“ Jag Baloch jag … baag Punjabi baag”[Balochistan is the graveyard of the Punjabis]
[Wake up Baloch…wake up Baloch…run Punjabi run]
There has been constant endeavor on the part of the government to portray a negative picture of Akbar Bugti and justify his killing. It fails to work in the angst-ridden Balochistan. On the contrary, though some Baloch agree to some extent that Bugti was a bloody leader. But all that has infuriated them is that Bugti was ‘their bloody’ and the right to punish him, if he deserved to be, should have been given to them. The Baloch largely view the Pakistan army as ‘the Punjabi army’. What has upset them the most is the way Akbar Bugti’s murder and, subsequently, his burial were carried out. They believe they never deserved such a bad treatment from the Center, as they have never proved to be so disloyal to the state.
Ironically, Bugti was resented in Balochistan by some shades of political and scholarly opinion due to his pro-Pakistan views. He actually was one of the very few people in Balochistan who voted for the newly formed country of Pakistan in 1947. For a very long time, he was recognized in Balochistan as the biggest ‘friend of Pakistan’ and a man who compromised on ‘Baloch national interests.’
“ If Pakistani leaders [actually Baloch leaders always refer to the Punjab as Pakistan] can pay back a leader like Nawab Bugti with such an ‘heavy price’ then what should the others among us expect from Pakistan? Should we all remain loyal to Pakistan in order to meet a similar fate? No. We refuse to experience a fate that the late Nawab met. We can’t afford to be loyal to Pakistan,” declared Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, the vice president of National Party, during a press conference.
Sardar Akhtar Mengal, president of Balochistan National Party (BNP), on the night when the news of Bugti’s killing spread like the proverbial fire of jungle, told this writer: “ With this, our relationship with Pakistan, if there was any, has broken. We have no relation with Pakistan from now on.”On the other hand, his father and veteran politician Sardar Attaullah Mengal giggled and asked “ What relationship? We have had no relation with Pakistan from day one. Then how come you talk of the break-up of this relationship?”
Disappointed over Islamabad’s militaristic approach, both the Baloch son and father, the most popular democratic figures in Balochistan, have announced to permanently say good-bye to parliamentary politics. The BNP has given up its seats in the National and provincial assembly, the Senate, district and tehsil governments. It is not the end of democracy in Balochistan but just the inception, the political pundits predict. Another nationalist party, National Party, most probably to be followed by Bugti’s Jamori Watan Party (JWP), has also indicated to quit the parliamentary politics shortly. From now on, they all share one odd solution to the problems of Balochistan: Armed struggle. What is happening?
Presently, no news is good new from Balochistan. Musharraf junta is outdoing itself in terms of making political blunders in the province. Nothing seems to be going on the right direction. It is the time the macho president gave up his adventurous game of ‘let’s-see-how-a-country-breaks’. We are in brink of a civil war. A 1971-like situation is knocking at our doors. We have squandered too much time. Without further ado, the military should be pulled from Balochistan and a process of political dialogue should be initiated. If General Musharraf can negotiate and demonstrate flexibility with his enemy country, India, then why can’t the same be done with the so-called tyrant sardars of Balochistan? After all, no longer is it the matter of a general and that of three-minus-one sardars. It is the matter of very existence of the country.