Understanding Balochistan Part - I
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
It is painful to see what is happening in Balochistan. It is more painful to see accusations being made against the army or the Frontier Corps (FC), Balochistan, or even me, that we were the cause of the problem. Such accusers, who are actually trying to gain political mileage, do not realise how much they are damaging the solidarity and unity of Pakistan.
There also are TV anchors and writers in the print media who with, their half-baked knowledge, cause more damage to the cause of Pakistan. My motivation for writing this article is to remove some misperceptions and distortions and expose the vicious propaganda that is misleading the people of Pakistan on the Balochistan issue.
Balochistan was debated in a US Congressional committee and aspersions were cast on human rights violations. Signs of an ulterior motive of planting seeds of separation were visible. I have always warned of a known foreign hand trying to destabilise Pakistan through Afghanistan and Balochistan. This is now getting serious. Pakistan must take immediate note and tell the US not to encourage anti-Pakistan activity in its highest legislative bodies. It is a pity that human rights violations are not being noticed in Kashmir or Assam in India but are visible only in Balochistan. I strongly reject these planted notions of human rights violations or missing persons in Balochistan as anti-Pakistan designs being promoted by agents provocateurs.
Brutal suppression of demonstrations for public rights by citizens within a state does come under the purview of human rights but use of modern weapons to kill innocent people of a different ethnicity, undertake terrorist activity to disrupt/damage national infrastructure, launching a guerrilla war for separation against government forces, openly challenging the writ of the government by a small minority of the population is intolerable for any state and needs to be dealt with with an iron hand.
There certainly have not been any human rights violations in Balochistan. A few of the sardars have always shown anti-Pakistan tendencies since the country’s inception. Operations have been launched against them in the Ayub era, the Bhutto era, the Zia era, and then during my tenure. Such confrontations are not unique to my tenure.
Balochistan has a total population of about eight million (four percent of Pakistan’s population). Forty percent of these are Pukhtuns who inhabit west and north Balochistan bordering Afghanistan. They have orchards and are peace-loving traders. They are not Taliban supporters, they are very patriotic and strongly pro-Pakistan. The area to the south of Turbat, Panjgur and Bela is the Mekran coast. This area, and even up to Khuzdar and Kalat, is populated by Brahvi-speaking Baloch. These twenty percent of the Baloch population are very different from tribal Baloch. They are entirely pro-Pakistan.
This leaves the area in the centre and east Balochistan bordering Punjab and Sindh. It is this area that Marri, Bugti, Mengal, Rind and several other tribes inhabit. They are pro-Pakistan. It is mainly the Marri and Bugti areas where agitation is found. Their combined population is about 400,000 (0.25 percent of the population of Pakistan). Even in these tribes the major part of the population is not with the sardars.
The biggest sub-tribe of the Bugti clan, the 70,000-strong Kalpar Bugti, were expelled from their lands in a vendetta launched by Nawab Akbar Bugti, who forced them to languish in Punjab and Sindh for over 15 years. It was our government which resettled them on their own land for which they remain ever grateful to me. In the Marri area the rich Chamalang coalmines were closed owing to a Pakhtun-Baloch ethnic feud. Through strong action we got the dispute resolved and the coalmines were made operational again.
Thousands of people got employment and millions of rupees worth of coal was sold daily from the mines. Fifteen percent of the revenue generated went to Kohlu district, which probably became the richest district of Pakistan. The Marris were extremely happy at their newfound development. They will not follow their decadent sardars. In the Mengal tribe, Naseer Ullah Mengal is a prominent tribal leader. He is strongly opposed to the Akhtar Mengal group.
The question that arises is as to who are these militants opposing Pakistan and engaging in separatism. They are a few tribal followers of the agitating sardars and their offspring living abroad getting protection from foreign agencies. These tribal followers, who perhaps number 2,000 to 3,000, spread into some sixty “Ferrari camps” and, armed by foreign agencies, are the ones resorting to militancy. When governments show weakness or adopt a policy of appeasement towards them, these separatists and militants run wild and suppress the pro-Pakistan population, which is in vast majority.
Some of the sardars are very vicious, unforgiving and decadent. They believe in keeping their tribes backward and under subjugation. A typical insight was provided by none other than Nawab Akbar Bugti in an interview on June 29, 2006, with the Economist magazine. The magazine said “Mr Bugti claims to have killed his first man at the age of twelve.” Bugti was quoted as saying, “What is better than seeing your enemies driven before you and then taking their women to bed?”
Ninety percent of Balochistan was “B” area and only 10 percent was “A” area. In the “B” areas writ was exercised by the tribal sardars through the “Levies,” These Levies were paid by the government through the sardars who would keep a good chunk of the money themselves. Also, in cases of confrontations with the army or the Frontier Corps, which were not an infrequent occurrence, the government- paid levies acted as soldiers of the Sardars’ militias.
I gradually converted the entire “B” area, district-wise, into “A” area. We raised an additional police force for districts and additional 10 wings of the FC, creating thousands of jobs to augment law and order. This was not received well by some of the sardars, notably the Marris, the Bugtis and the Mengals.
It would be appropriate to talk of Nawab Akbar Bugti`s episode here. He was challenging the authority of the FC, the army, the provincial government and, indeed, of Pakistan. On his behest gas pipelines, electricity pylons, road bridges and railways lines were being intermittently blown up by miscreants. On one single day 450 rockets were fired at Sui gas installations. The FC garrisons were subjected to rocket and machinegun fire. The FC’s movement in Dera Bugti was restricted.
When the FC retaliated, Akbar Bugti escalated the confrontation and, with his close followers, went into the mountains. During the ensuing confrontation he was located in a cave in the mountains. The cave was surrounded and four officers went inside, quite clearly to ask him to surrender. If the intention had been to kill him, the officers would never have gone in like that.
After that an explosion took place and the cave collapsed, unfortunately burying Nawab Akbar Bugti and the four officers inside. The explosion, most likely, was from a planted explosive device or a rocket being fired. The officers certainly could not have been carrying rocket launchers. This is a clear case of a self-inflicted casualty.