The Last Nawab
By Malik Siraj Akbar
No single date left such a lasting impression on the society and politics of Balochistan like August 26th, 2006. It was, no doubt, “Balochistan’s 9/11” when the province’s former governor and elected chief minister Nawab Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti was brutally murdered by the democracy-blind military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf.
Balochistan marks today (August 26th) the fourth death anniversary of the top Baloch leader who was killed by a military dictator incapable of resolving political disputes on the negotiation table. Similar to the previous anniversaries, political parties across Balochistan are observing this as a “black day”. They have given the call for a complete shutter down strike and wheel jam to condemn the abominable assassination.
August 26th is one such day on which all people of Balochistan, irrespective of their ethnic affiliations and conflicting political views, mourn collectively. Every citizen of the country’s poorest province recalls the arrogant assault on an old ailing man who fought for the democratic rights of the people of Balochistan.
Late Nawab Bugti was in fact a staunch democrat who did not shut his doors for all forms of negotiations. He was the last man Islamabad could negotiate with on the ever-worsening situation of Balochistan. By killing Bugti, Islamabad has not been able to find the right person in the last four years to talk to.
Bugti’s high-profile political assassination was condemned not only nationally but internationally. Everyone saw it as a smug offensive by a military dictator on someone who spoke for the just rights of his people. Throughout his political career, Bugti was never anti-Pakistan. He was, much to the disappointment of nationalists, a federalist who believed in coexistence with Pakistan. What he demanded was not independence for Balochistan. He stood for maximum provincial autonomy for Balochistan and other provinces of Pakistan. In Bugit’s interpretation, the federal government should solely deal with foreign affairs, defense and currency while rest of the other subjects should be devolved to the provinces.
Bugti’s killing, however, gave birth to a very different generation of young Balochs who went a step further by shutting all the doors of dialogue with Islamabad. With grandson Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti as the successor, the younger followers of the late Nawab today only talk of an independent Balochistan. They are unwilling to compromise on anything less. This generation is beyond anyone’s control and is gaining more popularity and acceptance in the Baloch society due to its harsh stance.
Nawab Bugti was in fact the last Nawab of Balochistan with whom Islamabad could hold talk as he was a man whose decision would surely be accepted by all major stakeholders in the province. With him brutally killed, the conflict in Balochistan has even slipped from the hands of sardars and nawabs. Now it is the middleclass educated people like Dr. Allah Nizar Baloch and his like-minded folks who call the shots in Balochistan. Their interpretation of ‘rights’ and definition of ‘struggle’ is very disconcerting for Islamabad to cope up with.
Four years after the shocking murder, no final official report has been publicized yet to confirm what actually happened on August 26th, 2006. The circumstances under which the great Baloch leader was killed still remain a mystery. Even many people find it hard to believe that the Nawab had actually been killed because the military regime refused to show the body locked in the coffin to the family members of the nationalist leader. Disappointingly, he was buried in the absence of his family members and, worse still, in the presence of deadly family members as a mark of humiliation.
The Pakistan Peole’s Party, which has experienced the trauma of losing its founding leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and chairperson Benazir Bhutto, should conduct a thorough investigation of Nawab Bugti’s murder. Agreed, the PPP has not been able to investigate the murder of its own two top-most leaders, the situation in Balochistan will not normalize until the murderers of Nawab Bugti, particularly former President Pervez Musharraf and governor Balochistan Owais Ahmed Ghani are brought to justice.
The people of Balochistan as well as Pakistan must be granted the right to accurate information as to how Bugti was killed and whose decision it was to give a humiliating burial to a former chief minister and governor.
The government of Balochistan should declare August 26th as a provincial holiday every year to pay respect to an elderly political leader who preferred to die instead of surrendering before a belligerent military dictator. In addition, the incomplete debate in the Balochistan Assembly about renaming the Quetta international airport as Nawab Bugti International Airport should be resumed and completed as soon as possible. Since the people of Balochistan collectively share Nawab Bugti as their hero, the province’s capital airport should be named after him.
This write-up originally appeared in The Baloch Hal, Balochistan’s first online English newspaper