Islamabad’s divide and rule game in Balochistan

By Malik Siraj Akbar

Only the desolately pessimists would conclude that the situation in Balochistan has reached a no-return point. Sardar Attaullah Mengal, the province’s first chief minister, said in September 2006 in an interview with Pulse magazine that the killing of Nawab Bugti had plunged the Balochistan situation into a point of no-return. Mengal’s charismatic son, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, also a former chief minister, went a step further when I sought his comments on the phone the night when the news of Nawab Bugti’s killing flashed on TV screens. “Nawab sahib’s killing has permanently disconnected all the Baloch links with Pakistan,” said an annoyed Akhtar.

Encouragingly, in the recent weeks we have heard some sane voices emerging from the country’s politically powerful quarters about the Balochistan imbroglio. Nawaz Sharif, the PML-Nawaz chief, has suddenly risen as a staunch proponent of the Baloch demand for maximum autonomy and control over their coast and resources. Along with his chief minister-brother Shahbaz Sharif, Nawaz has generated hopes that he would end up as a peace-maker in Balochistan. The former twice-elected prime minister of Pakistan has assured that he would come up with an All Parties Conference (APC) on Balochistan. In addition, he would not hesitate from launching a long march, like the one that he led for the restoration of the chief justice, to persuade the government to acquiesced the Baloch demands.

Back in Quetta, the Baloch capital, however, not everyone is submissively cheerful about Sharif’s fresh gestures. Currently, the Baloch skeptically debate whether Sharif –after the extraordinary triumph in the judicial movement – is desperately searching for a new issue to prolong his political ambitions or sincerely straining to settle the Baloch dispute once and for all. After all, many in Quetta still remember how an autocratic Sharif, while sitting at the Prime Ministers’ House in 1998, deceitfully conspired to dislodge the elected Baloch chief minister, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, and replace him with one of his loyalists.

Political pundits insist that both the PPP and the PML-N, two of the country’s largest political parties, equally contributed to the Baloch alienation, loss of faith in parliamentary politics, instigation of armed movements and promotion of hatred against the strictly centralized federal government.

On February 15, 1973, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto undemocratically dismissed the popular government of Sardar Attaullah Mengal which consequently led to a deadly insurgency. Similarly, the heavily-mandated PML-N central government rudely snubbed and domineered Akhtar Mengal’s provincial government. Primer Sharif even did not inform, let alone ‘consult’, CM Mengal that the Center contemplated nuclear tests in Balochistan. Poor Mengal came to know about the nuclear tests only when he watched the news on the television.

Historically, Nawaz Sharif had proved himself as a crook and anti-Baloch leader. In 1990, for instance, he asked Nawab Akbar Bugti to jointly struggle to oust the PPP from power so that they could form a coalition government in Balochistan. 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, Balochistan National Movement (BNM) and Jamiat Ulema-e- Islam (JUI). Consequently, Sharif came up with his favorite government in Balochistan and excluded Nawab Bugti from power.

The root cause of the problem in Balochistan is in fact Islamabad’s flawed policy of divide-and-rule. Instead of shrewdly taking on board all the stakeholders to resolve Balochistan’s outstanding problems, successive governments exploited the tribal enmities within the Baloch. Such wrong trends were encouraged as early as 1948 when the State of Kalat was merged into Pakistan. While the Prince Abdul Karim, the younger brother of the Khan of Kalat, resisted Kalat’s accession, the elder brother, Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, was officially pampered for his support to the central government in Karachi.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto also continued the same crooked policy. While the ousted CM, Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Governor Ghose Baksh Bizanjo and nationalist leader Khair Baksh Marri were implicated in notorious Hyderabad conspiracy case and imprisoned, another tribal chief, Nawab Akbar Bugti, on the other hand, was installed as the governor. Bugti not only consented to ZAB’s military operation but also fulfilled the latter’s desire to victimize the political opponents.

Among all rulers, Pervez Musharraf most impressively played the divide and rule game. He coaxed the Baloch chief minister Jam Yousaf to get his cousin Sardar Akhtar Mengal immured. It was Musharraf’s stint when Nawab Bugti was killed but all four MPAs, one MNA and one senator from his Jamori Watan Party (JWP), ironically, extended support to pro-Musharraf PML -Quaid-e-Azam. Likewise, while the Khan of Kalat, Suleman Dawood, threatened to challenge Pakistan at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), his younger brother, Prince Faisal Dawood, the then minister for Communication and Works, and two other female MPAs from his family supported Musharraf till the end.

In Khuzdar, pro-establishment Naseer Mengal was encouraged to challenge nationalist Mengals’ influence. Khair Baksh Marri’s popularity was questioned with the help of the rival Bijranis. Akbar Bugti’s family was kept out of Dera Bugti with the cooperation of the rival Kalpars.

Learning no lessons from the past, the PPP has now continued with the same policy by pitting Mir Aali Bugti, a grandson of Nawab Bugti, against his rebellious cousin Nawabzad Bramdagh Bugti. Aali, who is the son of former MNA Saleem Akbar Bugti, was brought back to his native Dera Bugti district last month after four years of displacement under the covert official patronage. It is likely that the government would encourage Aali to be crowned as the successor of Nawab Bugti. This seemingly is a deliberate attempt by the government to field Aali against Bramdagh Bugti, also a contender for the coveted seat of leading the Bugti tribe. The recent development, which the government contends is meant to bring peace to Dera Bugti, is likely to backfire and push Balochistan into a conflagration of tribal clashes and anti-government movements.

A solution to Balochistan issue is possible if the PPP and PML agree to jointly work on a mechanism that will not betray the Baloch but empower them. Similarly, attempts to pit one Baloch elder against the other should be shunned this time. Everyone’s fears should be allayed while taking them on board. The Baloch leaders should be mandated and encouraged to engage in a process of internal and external dialogue among themselves and with the Center.

Those who talk of impossibilities should know that the Baloch tirade can solely be responded with granting them maximum autonomy and control over their natural resources. Nonetheless, power should not be shared only with those who try to blackmail the state for their self-aggrandizement. For example, a similar attempt was made by Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, and Sardar Sanaullah Zehri during the Kalat Jirga on 21st September 2006 by warning to challenge Islamabad at the ICJ. But once these leaders were accommodated into lucrative slots of power, they never checked in to fly to The Hague.

Balochistan’s issue does not pertain to one tribe only. Therefore, everyone should be made a part of the negotiation process. An approach of empowering individual sardars against the others and the impoverished masses of Balochistan would only trigger more future rebellion.

5 thoughts on “Islamabad’s divide and rule game in Balochistan

  1. Thats all Pakistani Adminstrators can do make people kill each other so they can enjoy the fruit of staying power, they not even loyal to progress of their own country.
    For Baloch people worse is not even come yet killing of Akbar Khan Bugti, Balaach Mari, and terriost style killing of Baloch leaders Ghulam M Baloch, Sher M Baloch and Lala munir, is only tip of the iceburg, The Terrorist Pakistani Army with its terriost homeboys ISI just struck a new deal with American to Involve Jundullah a Irian Baloch Struggle outfit with Al quiada, so that they brand them extremist and Pakistani Punjabi army with green signal from Washington start Butchering Baloch people in Makran Balochistan.
    American dont care about Baloch people if Paki Punjabis gurantee them about their interest, Baloch has nothing to offer to Americans on other hand Paki Punjabis have Huge army with nuclear arms and Sucide bombers on their cantoments and barracks.

  2. I have written in one of my earlier write ups that the real objectives of USA to invade and occupy Afghanistan were not to punish the Taliban for not handing over Osama bin Laden and to destroy the so-called terror network of Al-Qaeda but to create safe and reliable routes to transport energy resources of Central Asian Republics (CAR) to its homeland. Its other regional objectives included keeping a watch on Russia and Iran, containment of China, making India a bulwark against China and ascendant power of South Asia, a key player in Afghan affairs and reducing Pakistan to a satellite of India after its denuclearization. For the realization of its primary objective, it had to ensure that Balochistan provided the desired energy corridor through Gwadar and Pasni. India too never desired Pakistan to become self sufficient economically with the assistance of Chinese by making use of Gwadar Port for import/export with CAR. Entry of China in the Indian Ocean through the shortest route did not suit strategic interests of USA and India. Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline was another sore point which had to be prevented and Iran veered towards Afghanistan by providing road connection with Chahbahar Port to ensure isolation of Pakistan.

    Covert operations by CIA and RAW in Balochistan began in January 2002 and in three years the interior was sufficiently subverted; necessary infrastructure put in place in the form of contacts, 58 training camps, provision of all sorts of arms and ammunition, sophisticated communication system and huge funds. Sui-Bugti area was picked up for subversion because of its accessibility from Indo-Pak border through Reti-Rahimyar Khan sector and Kohlu-Kahan area because of a very inhospitable terrain. Bugtis and Marris traditionally antagonistic to each other were wedded for the attainment of stated objectives. Each training camp had 300-500 students. Dissident Sardars of Bugti, Marri and Mengal tribes together with Baloch nationalist parties and quislings agreed to play their game in return for power and material benefits. Motivational nodes suggested to Baloch leaders to win over sympathies of Balochis revolved around economic and political deprivation, Punjab domination and Baloch nationalism. The route to bring in munitions was from Shahgarh-Kishangarh (5 km from eastern border)-Ubaro, Kashmore-Sui-Dera Bugti-Kahan. Afghanistan route via Muslim Bagh and Iran route via Zahidan where an Indian consulate was set up were also used for covert operations. The front was lit up in January 2005 through Dr Shazia rape case, with Nawab Akbar Bugti taking the lead role.

    A shady outfit Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) created by KGB in the 1980s went into oblivion once USSR fragmented in 1991.. It was reactivated by CIA and RAW once Balochistan flared up. The main gas supply routes Sui-Kashmor-Uchch-Multan and Sui-Kashmor-Sukkhar being only 45 km away from border with India were within turnaround radius of RAW saboteurs to blast them at will. The period from 2005 to 2007 saw worst form of terrorist activities. Hardly a day passed when there was no act of sabotage. Gas pipelines, railway lines, electric transmitters, military convoys, police stations were targeted with venom. Quetta too came under repeated bomb and rocket attacks. After a brief spell of army action, the Frontier Corps managed to cope up with the security situation at its own and has kept the army troops free of counter insurgency operations. Things have become relatively quiet after security forces succeeded in destroying most of training camps and keeping a check on supply lines. However, RAW and CIA sponsored subversive activities are continuing unabated.

    Nawab Akbar Bugti who led the insurgency from a mountain cave got killed in August 2007 when the cave collapsed because of artillery shelling. He was turned into a hero after his death and became the chief motivating factor for Baloch nationalism which has now peaked and Baloch nationalists are talking of separation without any inhibitions. RAW stepped up its activities in Balochistan from mid 2007 in line with the chalked out plan and increased the discretionary budget of RAW infested Indian consulates in Kandahar, Jalalabad and in Zahidan. Sardar Attaullah Mengal who was in self imposed exile was asked to return to Kohlu to lend strength to the Bugtis and Marris and also to keep a check on Balach Marri who was heading the BLA. After the death of Balach in end 2007 which caused a temporary setback to his mentors, late Nawab Bugti’s grandson Brahamdagh Bugti was put in his place. He is stationed in Kabul and is pawn of foreign agencies. The BLA H.Q. duly patronized by the two agencies as well as RAM is coordinating sabotage and subversion in Balochistan from Kandahar.

    UNHCR representative John Solecki was abducted from Quetta in early 2009 by BLA members on the directions of Brahamdagh Bugti at a time when UN Chairman was about to visit Islamabad. The abduction was aimed at seeking UN intervention in Balochistan affairs and to exert pressure on Pak government. His release in last April was meant to show softer side of BLA to UN. Brahamdagh stated that the BLA was not a terrorist outfit as alleged but was waging a freedom struggle. Soon after, three Baloch nationalist leaders were found brutally murdered in Turbat under mysterious circumstances. The blame was promptly put on local agencies. Baloch leaders upped the ante and as many as 14 non-locals were gunned down in Quetta. BLA terrorists helped by CIA and RAW were behind the murder of Baloch leaders who had played a key role in the release of Solecki. These Baloch leaders were on the verge of spilling beans about the role of BLA and its mentors. They were murdered to prevent the leakage, destabilize Balochistan, stoke Baloch nationalism and step up the bogey of independent Balochistan. Interior Minister Rehman Malik for the first time forthrightly exposed the role of RAW and dissident elements among the Baloch talking of separation. He however considered it prudent not to name other foreign agencies actively involved in that province to achieve their commercial interests. Non-locals in Balochistan are feeling unsafe and a large number have migrated to Punjab. The MQM supports the cause of Baloch in Balochistan.

    Notwithstanding the streaks of separatism seen among dissident Baloch Sardars and Baloch nationalists, the fact of the matter is that the Sardari system has remained the bane of Balochistan and has been a serious impediment in the way of development of the province. This is notwithstanding the perverse role of rulers who cannot be absolved of their failure to redress political and economic grievances of the people of Balochistan. The Baloch Sardars have a history of keeping their people deprived of education and basic amenities of life and have all along treated them as serfs. Greater portion of funds allocated for development works are eaten up by them. They also have a history of selling their loyalties to foreign masters in return for material benefits. Among them Sardars of Marri and Mengal tribes have all along been troublesome and looked towards outside powers for help. Nawab Bugti had always sided with the government and was despised by the people of Balochistan. He was led up the garden path by CIA and RAW and he fell in their trap. Apart from the role of few Baloch Sardars and camp followers, the ordinary Baloch are highly patriotic and honorable. Very big numbers are settled in urban and rural Sindh, in Punjab and in NWFP. There is heavy induction of Baloch in the armed forces particularly in the army. No trace of separatist tendencies is found in them. It is however unfortunate that our rulers instead of establishing communication with them are once again trying to woo the Sardars and are talking of reviving Sardari system that was abolished by Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto in 1973. This trend should be reversed.

    1. The above writer showing the name srk actually its real name is ISI, beatting the same drums since last 62 years against Balochs and their sardars, dont worry your pakistan is there to stay but without Balochistan, enough is enough.

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