DERA BUGTI: The late Nawab Akbar Bugti matters even more in death than alive.
A whole generation grew up accustomed to his maverick ways. He controlled everybody and everything for over half a century around here. Locals talk about him as if he was still alive-all things from mundane to sublime: the way he ate a platter of hot green chillies splintered with a sauce of red ones; his insomnia that kept him talking all night; his peculiar humour and sarcasm that made his company so engaging. People talk about how he threw out sub-clan Kalpar Bugtis from Dera, subjugated the majority Maisuri Bugtis and kept fellow Rahija Bugtis happy in command.
Everybody has a story to tell. How he held jirgas, made people walk on fire and maintained private jail. His rule was absolute. Nobody could win elections without his approval. “He controlled how we ate, drank or even slept,” said Ghulam Qadir (Maisuri) Bugti, who lives in Nawab Bugti’s house in Sui, now renamed as ‘Pakistan House’. The Nawab must be turning in his grave to see that his archenemy, a Maisuri Ghulam Qadir now calls the shots in Dera and not one of his children or grand children.
However, it is his political legacy that continues to haunt not just Dera Bugti but Balochistan and even the rest of Pakistani establishment. Baloch nationalists always accepted him apologetically. He was never forgiven for accepting Governorship of Balochistan when the Baloch launched the biggest ever insurgency following the dissolution of the National Awami Party (NAP) government in the 1970s. “It was seen as a stab in the back of the revolution that the farari rebels wanted to bring about,” mused former National Assembly Deputy Speaker Nawab Wazir Jogezai. The rebels took to the mountains and the NAP leadership, including the sacked Chief Minister Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri was jailed. It was in such critical time that Nawab Bugti helped then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to restore order. The scars of that betrayal by Nawab stayed long time after,” Jogezai added.
Many argue that Nawab Bugti always rescued the State (establishment) in times of trouble. He always charged his price in the shape of power, perks and money which he thought was his legitimate right as the Nawab of Bugti tribe. The biggest condition was that he be allowed absolute control in his native Dera Bugti. But then he delivered results in the end.
Nawab Bugti had the un-paralleled stature to bring together conflicting groups on one table. It was his charisma that brought together the divisive lot of Baloch nationalists under the umbrella of Balochistan National Alliance (BNA) in 1988 to form the provincial government. The State may have lost a giant in the person of Nawab Bugti who had the ability to handle any kind of crisis in Balochistan. Herein lay the biggest dilemma of Balochistan.
No single voice in Balochistan can influence the collective lot of Baloch people now. Even Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri and Sardar Attaullah Mengal did not match Nawab Akbar Bugti’s influence. Attaullah Mengal is now reduced to his native Wadd and his son Akhtar Jan can hardly handle his own faction of the Balochistan Nationalist Party (BNP). Khair Bakhsh stands retired from politics and has more inspirational value than practical. The rest of the Baloch leaders are pygmies in comparison to the grand triumvirate that ruled the hearts and minds of Baloch people for half a century.
No single Baloch nationalist-whether moderate or extremist—could ensure the compliance of others. Moderate leaders like National Party’s Hasil Bizenjo and Dr Maalick or even Dr Hayee Baloch are restricted to their small political factions. Most of them cannot visit Quetta, let alone their respective areas. The mainstream political parties have little hold in the province. The mighty Sardars, most of them in the Balochistan Cabinet, cannot influence outside their tribal pockets. Among the militant extremists, Balochistan Republican Army’s (BRA) Brahmadagh Bugti, Balochistan Liberation Front’s (BLF) Dr Allah Nazar and Balochistan Liberation Army’s (BLA) Harbiar Marri are all restricted to their own turfs. Most of them are not even on talking terms with each other.
“If we really have to do that-who do we talk to,” said a Minister in the PPP government who did not want to be named. “The only person who could do that-Nawab Bugti-is dead.”
Ironically, the Baloch nationalists who had issues with the living Nawab are now united over his death. “Nawab’s martyrdom has made him a Baloch hero,” said Baloch politician Rauf Khan Sasoli.
Pakistan Army, which killed Nawab Bugti in an operation, is confused about handling his myth. It’s a sensitive issue to ask whether the Nawab is a martyr (shaheed). A Frontier Corps (FC) jawan when asked bluntly replied,” if Nawab is a martyr who are we?”
Yet the FC put up the huge pictures of Nawab Bugti along with Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal during their Independence Day celebrations on August 14. Senior army officials now agree that former President General Musharraf mishandled the Bugti issue and has left the army in the quagmire.
The army high command openly alleges that Musharraf bypassed the ‘institution’ and personally supervised the operation through his favourites in Military Intelligence. Even the ISI and the then Corps Commander (the present Chairman Joint Chief of the Army Staff) was kept out of the loop. Sources say that the army does not have details of the operation, like in the case of Kargil. Then Director General of Military Operations was actually snubbed when he insisted for archival material. Army historians may never know what exactly happened in those mountains in Kohlu. Former Provincial Minister Saif Magsi, who is the lawyer in the Bugti case, is optimist that Musharraf will be the first general to be tried in Pakistan. “His personal involvement is clearly there,” he says.
Yet it is the army which is bearing the brunt of the Balochistan crisis. Nawab Bugti’s death keeps the resistance fire burning in Balochistan. The ghosts of Nawab Bugti continue to trouble Balochistan and the country at large. But it is in Dera Bugti that you see his smoky presence the most.
November 7, 2011