Amir Mateen

DERA BUGTI: The current phase of violence in Balochistan was triggered from this small but key power centre when Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed. And it might just be in Dera Bugti that the seeds of peace can be sowed.
The Bugti hometown has become a test case for the establishment to prove that they brought about a positive change in people’s life after the Nawab whom they accuse of holding back development for decades. After all, this most impoverished district of Pakistan fed natural gas to the rest of the country for half a century.
Security officials are confident that it is possible to turn Dera Bugti into a model district for other areas of Balochistan to follow. The people who run the show around here believe that the rebel leader Brahamdagh Bugti’s position has weakened. His activities have been curtailed in Switzerland. He lost an important commander Ismael alias Pahari Bugti, who surrendered to security forces recently.
Brahamdagh has got about 100 ‘fararis’ most of whom had returned from Afghanistan after he left for Swizerland. They keep their families in Sindh or Punjab and come to Dera for sabotage.
They are trained in making mines from fertilizer, something that the American CIA taught the Mujahideen, who in turn are exporting the technology to our areas. Nearly 176 people, most of them innocent tribals, got blown up in the last two years.
Ghulam Qadir Maisuri, who leads the government-backed Amn force of roughly 700 Bugti guards, believes that this is making ‘fararis’ extremely unpopular. “They sow mines in cotton fields when they are refused money by ordinary farmers,” he said. It was easier to raise rebels when the Nawab was extracting money from the establishment. That these rebels are taking private tax (bhatta) from ordinary folk shows that the supply of finances from abroad is shrinking.
Ghulam Qadir does not agree that there is a need to talk to Brahamdagh. “You should worry about people who are with you instead of those who are against you,” he said. People like Ghulam Qadir are obviously scared that if Brahamdagh is brought back, those siding with the government today will become the killing targets. Even former Chief Minister Akhtar Mengal is on record saying in a TV interview that there is no need to talk to people who negate Pakistan.
However, other nationalist leaders like Manzoor Gichki, Dr Maalick and Hasil Bizenjo believe that peace cannot be restored without dialogue. “It’s not just about Dera Bugti; Brahamdagh inspires the popular imagination of Baloch youth every where,” said Manzoor Gichki.
Whatever the case, the family of the Nawab will have to fight it out in Dera Bugti if it wants to remain relevant. The lesser tribes of Maisuris, Kalpars and Qaimkhanis have found a new voice and will not be bottled easily. The new roads, communication lines, better educational prospects and jobs from potential gas fields will change life here drastically.
A more difficult task is to reform the administration here. Police and the administration exist just in cities, which are less than five percent of the area. The old system is no more and the new has not shaped up. This leads to chaos. A single FIR has not been registered for the 176 people blown up by mines.
The biggest issue here is the settlement of land. Not more than 15 to 20 percent of land, incidentally owned largely by the Nawab, is settled. The rest is all collective tribal land and possession means ownership. If people could simply be allotted land, nobody could dare take it away from them. But then the mighty Sardars in the government are not likely to oblige. It will be a blow to their Sardari control if the trend got extended to their lands.
This highlights the inner contradictions of the Baloch nationalists. They want more rights for their province, but will not speak up on Sardars giving the same rights to their own people.
In the real world, the politicians in Quetta and Islamabad are not going to allow reforms to change life here. The bureaucrats in gas fields will continue to milk the local riches, sharing the booty with political high-ups. If Talal Bugti’s accusations are to be believed then the loot money worth billions of rupees is going all the way to Islamabad. It’s an open secret that those at the helm in Dera Bugti – MNA, MPA or private militias – owe their perks and power to the intelligence agencies. The horses can change but the cart will remain the same. Nobody seems keen on transferring power to political structures at some stage. It was always like this in Dera Bugti.
Now that the Nawab is no longer the largess is distributed among others. The vacuum leaves Rawalpindi in command which distributes money through secret deals. Nobody knows how much and from where this money comes and who receives them and why.
Nobody wants to introduce transparency around here as this might lead to lots of questions – the questions that nobody wants to answer. One can be pretty sure that lots of people are making lots of money behind this opaque arrangement.
Under the circumstances, the dream of Dera Bugti turning into a model district is just a dream. It will be a big achievement if the locals could get a semblance of normal life and comforts in the months and years to come.

The News

November 12, 2011