By Malik Siraj Akbar
What is being enormously remembered today on the eve of the third death anniversary of Baloch leader Nawab Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti is the absence of an undisputed political figure that could bridge the gap between the province of Balochistan and the center. Baloch nationalist parties are marking the death anniversary of Nawab Bugti, a former chief minister and the governor of Balochistan who was killed in a military operation on August 26, 2006, with a “black day” today (Wednesday) all over the province.
In these three years, distances between disgruntled Balochistan and the federal government have tremendously skyrocketed. While Nawab Bugti was willing to negotiate with parliamentary committees, headed by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed and Senator Wasim Sajjad, to peacefully resolve the Balochistan issue, the situation in today’s Balochistan displays a gloomy picture for the ruling Pakistan People’s Party. Not many Balochs now seem to be prepared to join PPP’s efforts to resume a process of dialogue.
Rauf Mengal, a former MNA who was also a member of the parliamentary committee that met Nawab Bugti in 2004, tells this blogger that all Baloch political parties were so enthusiastic in then for a political solution to all the outstanding issues that they had submitted their collective list of grievances and demands to the parliamentary committee even before the formal commencement of the committees’ work.
“Now, our younger generation in Balochistan is unwilling to talk about parliamentary politics and provincial autonomy. In response to his willingness to negotiate with Islamabad, Nawab Bugti was rewarded with his brutal death,” said Mengal, “now people in Balochistan are talking about independence.” Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, the secretary general of Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam), told me that during talks with Nawab Bugti along with Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain, “we found Nawab Bugti positive, willing to talk and ready to negotiate with Islamabad on the matters pertaining to his area (Dera Bugti) and the province of Balochistan. These negotiations continued in a period of great threats and tensions.”
According to Syed, negotiations between Nawab Bugti and the federal government culminated in March-May 2005 in the reopening of the road between Dera Bugti and Sui, defusing of tensions between the Frontier Corps (FC) and the Bugti tribesmen and the removal of unnecessary FC check posts.
“We achieved all this without even firing a single shot,” flaunts Syed, who believes the killing of Nawab Bugti in August 2006 was “a big blow to the building of trust and confidence between the center and the province.”
Political observers believe Nawab Bugti left two legacies, one of dialogue and the other of armed resistance.
“While there has been no replacement of the towering political figure that Bugti was who symbolized the whole province and possessed the capability of speaking undisputedly on the behalf of Balochistan, the philosophy of armed resistance given by the late Nawab to his followers remains unlettered,” says former Senator Amanullah Kanarani, who remained the spokesman of Nawab Bugti till his death on August 26, 2006.
Kanrani recalled Nawab Bugti’s willingness to negotiate with Islamabad despite withdrawing from the parliamentary committee because of large number of arrest of Baloch students and the rape of Dr. Shazia Khalid of the Pakistan Petroleum Limited allegedly by a military captain.
The Nawab had assured that he would still support any positive measure the government took to ease tensions in Balochistan. The aging leader began to lose hope in Islamabad after the recommendations of the parliamentary committee were not announced and implemented to normalize Balochistan.
Kanrani, the former information secretary of the Jamori Watan Party (JWP), said his last telephonic conversation with Nawab Bugti took place on August 23rd. “It was the first time I felt that the Nawab had become disappointed with Pakistan. He had lost faith in the government and tended to remain utterly indifferent to all political affairs,” he recollected. Nawab Bugti’s death galvanized the Baloch nationalistic movement in the province and attracted more young people towards separatist tendencies. Bugti has now become the much-celebrated martyr on whom many of the movements largely depend in this part of the world. However, the biggest loser in the meanwhile became the Bugti family and the political party he had founded, the Jamori Watan Party (JWP).
The Bugti family, soon after the murder of Nawab Bugti, fell victim of infighting between the sons and the grandsons of the illustrated leader. Likewise, this party broke into three factions: One faction was soon headed by Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti who renamed it as the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) which shunned parliamentary politics and championed the cause of an independent Balochistan. The other two remaining factions of the JWP are now being respectively led by the Nawab’s eldest son, Talal Akbar Bugti and Mir Aali Bugti, the current chief of the Bugti tribe.
BNP’s Rauf Mengal agrees with the notion that the killing of Nawab Bugti bode bad for the federation of Pakistan by distancing the Balochs from the federation. In his words, the worst part of it is Islamabad’s unwilling to be apologetic about its old mistakes. “Even today, no one truly admits that the killing of the Nawab was a mistake, so was the use of force against the Baloch people,” points out Mengal, who resigned from his National Assembly seat in protest against the killing of Nawab Bugti.
What is the way forward for Balochistan three years after the murder of Nawab Bugti? “Forming another committee on Balochistan is a mere joke,” says PML-Q Mushahid Hussain Syed who recommends that the PPP government should wholeheartedly implement the recommendations of the parliamentary committee which Syed had led because its recommendations, according to Syed, reflect the true aspirations of all segments of the Baloch society.
The newspaper editor-turned politician suggests that all politically motivated case against the Baloch leaders, whether they are currently living in Kabul, New Dehli, Dubai or London, should immediately be withdrawn. Likewise, the all the missing persons should be brought public and an explanation about their whereabouts be given.