Why is Mr Malik so obsessed with this young man? If Mr Malik has been trying to lure him to the negotiation table, why has he failed so far? Why would a ‘teenager’, as Mr Malik describes him, choose to seek the independence of Balochistan? Why would Malik use force to teach him a lesson?
Whenever the issue of Balochistan’s unrest is raised with neighbouring countries, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik would demand the handover of Brahmdagh Bugti. Mr Malik holds this young man in his 30s responsible for the insurgency in Balochistan. Malik blames Afghanistan for providing him shelter and India for issuing him an Indian passport. Pakistan warned in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, that it would hand over to the Indian government evidence that its agencies are backing Bugti. They vowed to do the same thing to Afghanistan, but we are yet to see this happen publicly.
Brahmdagh’s political resume is not so impressive; his public appearance is limited compared to other Baloch leaders. However, he has become rather popular with the youth in a short span of time. His popularity could be attributed to his close association with his late grandfather, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. Nawab Bugti was assassinated in the mountains of Balochistan on August 26, 2006 during General Musharraf’s regime.
Brahmdagh is wanted by Pakistan for his alleged anti-state activities. No one knows where he is. Perhaps the government knows as it often claims that he is in Afghanistan. Following the murder of his grandfather, Brahmdagh established the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) to continue the struggle for Baloch rights. But the government accuses him of leading the radical Baloch Republican Army (BRA). The latter is linked to various anti-state activities, including killing of settler and paramilitary officials in Balochistan, and damaging government property, especially gas pipelines along Punjab.
On a recent visit to Balochistan, the interior minister banned BRP activities and listed it among other anti-state parties. The party’s bank account was seized, its offices throughout the province shut down, and its staff fled underground. Unfortunately, the Balochistan director general of Frontier Corps (FC) views Brahmdagh in quite the same manner as Malik does. The FC also blames him for causing unrest in the province. This is further confirmed by the minister’s latest statement that it will not ‘free’ Balochistan.
“Brahmdagh had not responded positively to the government’s offer of talks, therefore, the government will use all its force to keep its grip on Balochistan,” warned the minister. He then handed over the province to the FC for a period of three months to restore peace.
This time targeted actions will be carried out based on ‘real intelligence’ reports, the minister declared. Although the FC does not have the power to raid or search, the federal government has given the chief minister of Balochistan the right to delegate these powers to the FC. However, the chief minister conceded that the FC is not under his control, and admitted that a negotiated solution is still the best method to bring about peace and stability in the region instead of using force.
A list of questions comes to mind when we observe Pakistan’s strategies. For example, why is Mr Malik so obsessed with this young man? If Mr Malik has been trying to lure him to the negotiation table, why has he failed so far? Why would a ‘teenager’, as Mr Malik describes him, choose to seek the independence of Balochistan? Why would Mr Malik use force to teach him a lesson?
One would also be compelled to ask: why has this youth sacrificed his luxurious life — which was of course not as good as that of the Bhutto-Zardaris or Sharifs — and chosen the path to fight for his people in the mountains and deserts? How could someone who has not been popularised like the children of Benazir Bhutto or Sharifs, nor was educated by spending millions of rupees, become so famous among the Baloch youth?
Mr Malik needs to do his homework when it comes to the issues plaguing Balochistan’s people instead of playing watchdog to Brahmdagh. Mr Malik must be well aware that the Baloch are being deprived of their rights to liberty, democracy and autonomy by Pakistan’s oppressive regime. Many have been murdered or involuntarily disappeared on a daily basis.
Instead of trailing Brahmdagh like a jilted lover, Mr Malik should ask why Balochistan has the highest rate of poverty and illiteracy, grossly inadequate infrastructure, lack of job opportunities, and little access to basic amenities. Why after all these years has Balochistan not been accorded the basic rights to its own resources — resources that are being voraciously utilised by Pakistan for the last 63 years?
Malik should be reminded that when Asif Ali Zardari was elected president in February 2008, he had issued a public apology for the atrocities and injustices to the people of Balochistan. However, this ‘apology’ seems to have ended up in a violent threat to administer force so that the Baloch continue to remain the underdogs of Pakistan.
A Pakistani TV channel’s president advised the people not to take Malik’s statement seriously as he frequently flip-flops and does not understand the gravity of the problems in Balochistan. I agree that Malik’s incompetence is turning Balochistan into a living hell.
The Baloch are liberal, secular-minded people and are constantly fighting against extremism. However, they are presented as being insular to the world — all because they are struggling to reclaim their basic human rights according to the 1948 United Nations Declaration on Human rights. Brahmdagh is one of the Baloch leaders standing courageously on the front lines of this ongoing fight for independence. I think that is what makes him a thorn in the side of Mr Malik.
The writer belongs to Balochistan and writes on the issue of Balochistan for international and national websites and papers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org