Dera Bugti Under Siege


By Johar Ali Bugtti, London

“We are not scared and will fight back, they are mistaken
if they think they are superior and can eliminate us”
(Nawab Sahib)

dera-bugti

Construction of Deep-Sea-Port Gwadar

The announcement of General Musharraf of the construction of Deep-See-Port Gwadar in 2002 further triggered the new phase of violence between the Baloch Nationalist and the Federal Government of Pakistan. It is worth by mentioning that during the hottest months of June and July of 2002 about 50, 000 paramilitary laid siege to Dera Bugti, the headquarter of the Bugti tribe and the ancestral town of Nawab Bugti, which left the local population without electricity, water, telephone and medical facilities.

Undoubtedly, the siege of Dera Bugti widened the gap of conflict between the Bugti’s and Military government

Nawab Sahib immediately protested strongly by saying;

“His own area lacked electricity & gas while the Sui gas warms houses in Punjab, Sindh and Paktunkwa (formerly NWFP) provinces of Pakistan and being used for domestic and Industrial needs also”.

(Nawab Sahib)

In response to the military operation on Dera Bugti, the Bugti tribesmen started their resistance by carrying out raids in early 2003. They attacked the main gas pipelines causing widespread anger through out the country. Meanwhile the Marri militants also joined with Bugti’s. They jointly took furious action and compelled the government to talk to Nawab Sahib in order to defuse the confrontation in his area and discuss the package of constitutional, economic and other concessions to fuse the anger and frustration of the people of related area of Balochistan.

Cantonments

Instead of the dialogues and the constitutional way to ease the situation, the military government added fuel into the fire by announcing in 2004 to construct three more Cantonments in Sui, Kohlu and on the Coastal town of Gwadar. The above announcement was seen as a means to further tighten federal control over the province and the apprehension was not without basis. While rejecting the construction of the cantonments, Bugti and Marri armed forces along with other Baloch militants started their serious reactions against the Pakistan Forces from 2004. The clashes between the Bugti resistance forces and security forces of Pakistan began in 2002 and their frequency increased in 2004 and 2005. This was caused by the disgraceful event of a woman doctor named Shazia Khalid who was raped on January 2, 2005 by Captain Hammad in the hospital of the Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) in Bugti Tribal Territory of the province of Balochistan. This was followed by military operation on Dera Bugti and Kohlu.

“We doubt the government’s intentions. We fear the government has been strengthening army presence in the province in order to crush the nationalist’s sentiments at any given moment. The government has engaged in undeclared military operations in Balochistan, particularly in areas strongly dominated by the Baloches”.

(Dr Abdul Hayee Baloch)

The Rape of lady Doctor

“Rape is a heinous crime”

(Nawab Sahib)

It is worth noting that the honour of woman is indeed one of the most sensitive of ‘Baloch Code of Honour’. In fact, women have an honourable status in Baloch society. It should be mentioned here that for centuries, the Chiefs of the Baloches are the main custodians of the Baloch society and they are the Martial Administrator as well as judicial head of their tribes.

When Shazia Khalid was raped, Nawab Sahib, as the chief of the area, using his traditional power demanded the alleged rapist to be arrested and be handed over to him so that he should be tried under the Baloch traditions. This demand was not only rejected but covered up by the authorities concerned including General Musharraf himself. The rape of the doctor and consequent manner of covering up the incident however provoked the Nawab and his tribesmen.

In fact, the rape was a pre-planned and well-organized drama against Nawab Sahib especially and the Baloch nation generally. The director of the whole drama just wanted an excuse for the military operation against Bugti’s, Marri’s and then all Baloches of Balochistan. No doubt, he succeeded in exploiting and dragged them into the most dreadful battle ever fought in Balochistan.

In response to the rape incident the fearless and death-defying Bugti’s, along with war like Marri militants, attacked the Sui gas fields. They blew up the gas installations at Sui, which forced the company to evacuate its personnel from the area disrupting gas supply across Pakistan for several weeks. The subsequent armed clashes between Baloch militants and the security forces resulted in scores of deaths on both sides. Since then a new phase of violation took place in Bugti area.

“At the end of a five-day battle, in which the tribesmen stormed the gas company compound, eight people, including three soldiers, were killed and 35 people wounded. The army rushed thousands of troops and paramilitary forces to Sui. The rebels were heavily armed, well trained and organised, using sophisticated satellite telephones. They fired 430 rockets and 60 mortar rounds at the Sui plant.”

(Aftab Ahmed Sherpao; Interior Minister of Pakistan, 2005)

General Musharraf immediately sent tanks, helicopters and extra 4,500 soldiers to crush them. In retribution, security forces targeted civilian populations and fired hundreds of rockets and mortar shells at residential areas in Sui, killing and injuring innocent people including women and children.They searched house-to-house by 7,000 regular troops plus Frontier Corps (FC) supported by amour, artillery and gun-ships. The houses were bulldozed and more than 1,500 insurgent attacks were mounted through out the province, culminating in a pitched battle between the FC and Bugti tribe’s people.

Nawab Sahib told Hamid Mir (journalist)

“Clashes in Sui were in reaction to the incident of criminal assault on a lady doctor in which security guards were involved, but instead of arresting the accused and taking action against them, the PPL management and high-ups of Defence Services Group tried to hide this heinous crime. The incident of criminal assault was a stigma on Baloch society and people reacted to it when no action was taken against the accused.”

“The reaction was appropriate and fitting. It was exactly according to our traditions, culture and social practices. Whenever a tribe’s honour or prestige is at stake, this is the way one should react. If you read our history, people have given their lives to protect women, their honour and their livestock. The reaction was only to punish those who committed this wild, dirty act.”
(Nawab Sahib)

On January 10, 2005, President Pervez Musharraf, on Pakistan television, warned the Baloch nationalists;

“Don’t push us … it is not the 1970s, and this time you won’t even know what has hit you”

The warning of Musharraf was an open challenge to all Baloches and the situation, in fact, went out of control. The Baloch leaders immediately challenged the army of Pakistan.

“Here, we are ruled by a class which does not recognize logic, history, ground realities, democracy. The only language it knows is that of violence and brute force,” On the top of it, they say the Baloch are rebels, getting money from the outside world.”

(Nawab Khair Baksh Khan Marri)

“General Musharraf had power and was enjoying the support of the United States. It was not for the first time that President Musharraf had criticized nationalists as he issued such warnings also during his visit to Quetta, Gwadar and other areas in the recent past and was again warning of military action”

“General Sahib Pervez Musharraf has promised to hit us in such a way that we will not know what hit us. In one sense, he is promising quick death us. They could do this to a few Baloch leaders, but not the whole Baloch nation.” His promised ‘quick death’ has come, but in death, as in life, he appears poised to remain the rallying force for the Baloch.

“We are not scared and will fight back they are mistaken if they think they are superior and can eliminate us.”

(Nawab Sahib)

“The Baloch people would not allow the usurpers to loot the resources of the province and deny the local people’s constitutional and political rights.”

(Nawabzada Balach Marri)

Responding to the warning of General Pervez Musharraf the Bugti tribesmen along with fellow comrades on 11 January 2005 attacked the country’s largest gas producing plant at Sui resulting in damaging the main pipe line by cutting the gas supply to the whole country for at least a week or two. This confirmed that there was to be ‘no surrender at any cost’.

Military Attack on Dera Bugti

It was on March 17, 2005 Musharraf came up with a more inhuman plan to use all available air and ground power to eliminate Nawab Sahib .The military forces started shelling the town of Dera Bugti, the head- quarter of Bugti tribe and the ancestral Fort of Dera Bugti of the Nawab. Rockets and mortars also targeted his house where he was attending a meeting with his tribesmen, but he survived. During the daylong operation more than 77 civilians were killed, among them were innocent 33 Hindu worshipers, including children men, women and more than 100 people were severely injured with the severe damage to the houses including Mosque and a Hindu temples. The operation expanded to residential areas of Dera Bugti where hundred of men, women, children and livestock were killed by ground and aerial attacks indiscriminately.

After the operation of Dera Bugti Marri and Bugti resistance forces were engaged in a guerrilla war with the Pakistan security forces. However, this was not the first military operation on Dera Bugti. Prior to this the first expedition was made by Khan of Kalat in 1820 and the second under Major Billamore in 1839 with the third one by the governor of Sindh General, Charles Napier in 1844; fortunately all failed to subdue the Bugti’s.

Peace Agreement

Security forces and army continued such bullets, bullying, harassments and killing on a daily bases. Even then, Nawab Sahib, being a traditional Baloch, did not shut the doors of dialogue and reconciliation. He was approached by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the Chairperson of the ruling party, i.e. Muslim League (Q) and the Secretary General, Mushahid Hussian Syed, indeed he honoured them. At last, on March 23, 2005 they made the peace agreement. Unfortunately, as usual, General Parvez Musharraf vetoed the peace agreement and the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz refused the general amnesty. All the posts vacated by Bugti tribesmen after the March agreement they were occupied by army troops. Heavy artillery guns and armoured cars were deployed along the roads leading from Sui to Dera Bugti.

In December 2005 addressing a newspaper editors’ meeting in Lahore, Musharraf thundered

‘There are two or three tribal chiefs and feudal lords behind what is going on in Balochistan. The past governments have made deals with them and indulged them. My government is determined to establish its writ. It will be a fight to the finish”.

Military operation on Marri Area on December

The ongoing operation was now extended to many other Baloch areas. Thousands of para-military and regular troops with heavy machine-gun and artillery moved into the Bugti areas. Dera Bugti looked like a town under siege with heavily armed para-military troops positioned on the surrounding hills and check posts set up at the entry points.

After the Sui incident, the deadly attacks and counter attacks between Baloch fighters and security forces were continued, but the situation intensified when on December 14, 2005 the militants launched a series of rocket attacks during President General Pervez Musharraf’s visit to a newly constructed army cantonment in Kohlu. The next day a rocket hit an army helicopter carrying the Inspector General, Frontier Corps, Major General Shaukat Zamir Dar, and his deputy, Brigadier Saleem Nawaz.

The war on the terrorists now diverted troops and U.S. supplied weaponry from Al-Qaeda and Taliban to Bugti and Marri areas along with the US supplied weaponry. The operation now expanded to the Marri area, where on 17th December 2005 Pakistan Army launched an army operation against innocent Marri Baloch people throughout Kohlu District, parts of Dera Bugti, Noshki, Makran District and other parts of Balochistan. More than thirty thousand army personnel, twelve Gunship helicopters, four fighter jets, and several spy planes of different sizes, heavy artillery and missiles were used. The result of 10 days of intensive bombing and shelling by army jets, gunship helicopters and heavy artillery was the killing of at least 86 people and more than 100 seriously wounded. Shamefully most victims were women and young children.

Breaking Peace Agreement

When Pakistani security forces moved into Kohlu district on December 18 to start their long awaited operations in Balochistan, they broke the peace agreement of March 23, 2005 that had lasted for nine months since the violent confrontation in Dera Bugti. The Baloch resisting forces continued unabated despite the use of aircraft, helicopter gun ships and tanks against them by General Pervez Musharraf. These reinforcements and intensified air strikes have not been able to subdue the nationalists as would be evident from some of the latest incidents reported in the Pakistani media.

Despite having started in Kohlu district the conflict engulfed most of Kohlu and Dera Bugti districts but insurgents were challenging the writ of the State virtually across the entire length and breadth of Balochistan by targeting railway lines, gas pipelines and electricity and communication towers.

“The Bugti tribe owns the land which contains Pakistan’s largest natural gas fields. However, the majority of the tribesmen live in abject poverty, with no employment or basic health and education facilities. We are fighting for the control of our national wealth and for our political rights,”

(Nawab Sahib)

“It is a bitter fact that unlike the fortunate inhabitants of many Middle East Countries, the Bugti’s as a whole do not receive a single paisa as royalties from the production of natural gas in their own land”. (Sylvia Matheson; Tiger of Balochistan)

Conclusion

It is a hair raising fact that the rape of a female doctor on January 2, 2005 completely changed the relationship between Baloches and the government of Pakistan forever. Actually, the year 2005 Bugti and Marri lands were the scene of pitched battles fought between security forces and the Baloch nationalists. No doubt, the year 2005 marked the fifth round of battle ever fought between the Baloch resistance forces and Pakistan forces. Unfortunately, this continues until today.

No doubt, the world watched with amusement as General Pervez Musharraf declared an all-out war on Balochistan; on Dera Bugti, Kohlu, Makran, Jalawan and particularly Nawab Sahib.

Extracts taken from ‘The Nawab’ by Johar Ali Bugtti; to be published soon.
© Johar Ali Bugtti, London.

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