Understanding Bugti’s Legacy

By Malik Siraj Akbar

The sixth anniversary of former Balochistan governor and chief minister Nawab Mohammad Akbar Bugti is being celebrated across Balochistan in the midst of calls for shutter down and wheel jam strikes. Every year, this day is marked amid extraordinary security arrangements. The admirers of the Nawab take out protest rallies not only to condemn the brutal killing but also vent their frustration over the federal government’s inability to punish those elements in the army and the federal government responsible for the killing of a formerly elected politician.

Hence, August 26 has grown much bigger than a usual day on which a political figure is remembered and paid tribute by his supporters. For the Baloch, this day holds enormous significance. They view it as the day when trust between the Center and the province was breached and a frustrated autocratic regime proceeded with a military solution to a problem which could otherwise be resolved through political dialogue.

Nawab Bugti’s legacy is far different from his original political career. A staunch federalist through most of his career, the Nawab has today emerged as the greatest icon of the Baloch liberation movement for statehood. Balochi language musicians sing the praises of his bravery and steadfastness, poets compose poetry on his heroism and vendors sell his large-size posters in the streets of Balochistan.

It is ironic that neither the Baloch nationalists nor Islamabad could fully understand the Nawab’s politics. Both sides take extreme, and oftentimes unrealistic, positions while interpreting Bugti’s political life. For some, he is an unquestionable hero and for the rest he is known solely as a tyrant tribal chief who opposed development of his own area and tribesmen. Nobody is willing to admit that he was a human being like rest of us who made mistakes but also offered invaluable contributions to the society.

For instance, policymakers in Islamabad tend to forget the part of the history when the Nawab was Pakistan’s loyal governor in Balochistan during a military operation in 1970s that brutally killed thousands of innocent Baloch people. He remained committed to Pakistani politics also by serving as the Chief Minister of the province in order to support the political process. There was no reason why a man so supportive of Pakistani policies in Balochistan should be killed so roughly at the age of seventy-nine.

For the Baloch nationalists, it is unacceptable to concede that Nawab Bugti was actually never a part of the actual Baloch nationalistic troika (comprising of Sardar Khair Baksh Marri, Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Mir Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo). In his native Dera Bugti district, he would even cause problems for local students who wanted to open a chapter of the Baloch Students Organization (B.S.O.) He did not want to break Pakistan to create an independent Balochistan nor did he publicly champion such aspirations. He was not surrounded by such visionary nationalists who would dream of an independent Balochistan.

In Balochistan, all four members of the Balochistan Assembly from the Nawab’s Jamori Watan Party (J.W.P) voted for Jam Mohammad Yousaf of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League to become the chief minister of Balochistan. J.W.P.’s ideological foundations were so shallow that none of its member of the provincial assembly (M.P.A.) resigned against the Nawab’s killing. Instead, his son-in-law and the Party’s secretary general, Agha Shahid Bugti, continued to retain his Senate seat until 2012 while the Nawab’s official spokesman and the J.W.P. secretary information Amanullah Kanrani got so close to the ruling establishment that he was eventually promoted as Balochistan’s current Advocate General.

In 2004, the Nawab continued to support the parliamentary committee on Balochistan headed by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed. The Nawab delightedly agreed to negotiate with the then caretaker prime minister Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain Syed to figure out a peaceful solution to the Balochistan conflict. At one point, he expressed so much confidence in the Committee that he nominated three non-Baloch people, columnists Ayaz Amir, (late) Irshad Ahmed Haqqani and Mushahid Hussain Syed, ‘to make whatever decision they think was best in the interest of Balochistan.’ By that time, the Four-Party Baloch National Alliance (Comprising of the Jamori Watan Party, Balochistan National Party, the National Party and the Haq-e-Tawar Party), treated the Nawab as the undisputed negotiator of the Baloch people and they did not object to his proposal.

General Musharraf, on his part, did not encourage or facilitate a political approach toward the problem and ordered Bugti’s killing. Islamabad did not officially regret killing Bugti. The Nawab’s dead body was further humiliated as it was handed over to his tribal opponents rather than his family. The Nawab’s family was not allowed to attend his funeral nor has the family still been allowed to visit Dera Bugti to pay respects on the grave of the Baloch leader even six years after the killing. General Musharraf has blatantly defended the operation against Bugti say “it was 500% justified”.

The government has been consistently lying about the circumstances that led to Bugti’s killing. There is inconsistency and inaccuracy in the official account of what actually happened on August 26. For example, on March 14, 2012, General Musharraf claimed in an interview with DawnNews that Bugti “was not killed but instead had committed suicide”.

Surprisingly, General Musharraf contradicted himself in his Understanding Balochistan (Part – I) op-ed he wrote for the News International on exactly the same day he had spoken to DawnNews. The General said Bugti had actually died because of a cave collapse. Both of the statements are not convincing. The District Coordination Officer (D.C.O.) of Dera Bugti Abdul Samaad Lasi had publicly displayed Nawab Bugti’s eyeglasses. After all, it is impossible for eyeglasses to remain intact after the collapse of a cave, argue the Nawab’s supporters. The government has not brought forward public evidence of how the Nawab was killed six years after the tragedy struck.

Given Islamabad’s lackluster attitude, it is hard to believe that many in the policy world of the federal capital truly care how and why Bugti was killed. The Pakistan People’s Party does not want to publicly admit that it is not interested in investigating the Nawab’s killing but its behavior evidently indicates that the PPP has no intention to punish those who killed the veteran Baloch leader. While the P.P.P. allowed General Musharraf to leave Pakistan with official guard of honor, it has also rewarded the former chief minister of the province, Jam Mohammad Yousaf, by appointing him as a federal minister. Musharraf and Mr. Yousaf are both actually wanted by Pakistani courts for killing Bugti.

The Bugti murder case is indeed Balochistan’s collective case. The federal government should understand the sentiments of the people of Balochistan. If justice is dispensed in the Nawab’s case, people’s faith in the government will significantly increase. They will consider it as (the beginning of) justice for the rest of the entire province. Denial of justice to a highly powerful politician, tribal chief and former chief minister promotes pessimism and hopelessness among the rest of the population. For the people of Balochistan, the Nawab leaves a legacy of struggle for one’s rights no matter what it takes to achieve them. (Courtesy: The Baloch Hal)


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