Musharraf’s trial for Bugti murder a must to keep Pakistan intact


LAHORE: The reluctance of the federal government to take up the August 2006 assassination of the Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and to put on trial the prime accused Pervez Musharraf could have serious long-term repercussions on the future of Pakistan, especially when a martyr has already been born to inspire the rebel Baloch nationalists in their ongoing struggle for greater rights and control over their natural resources.

“It is better to die – as the Americans say – with your spurs on. Instead of a slow death in bed, I would rather prefer death come to me while I am fighting for a purpose”, so said the late Nawab Akbar Bugti in May 2006 while talking to TIME Magazine correspondent by satellite phone from the mountain refuge that eventually became his grave. The 80 year old revered Baloch leader who wanted to fight to the death got his wish three months later when he was killed in a military operation on August 26, 2006, making him the legendary leader of the Baloch freedom struggle. The then military dictator Pervez Musharraf, who had already declared Bugti a terrorist, too had made no bones about fulfilling the desire of the rebel leader. In March 2005, he had warned the Baloch rebel: “Don’t push us. It is not the ‘70s. We will not climb mountains behind you. You will not even know what and from where something has come and hit you”. While responding, Bugti had stated in an interview to Newsline in June 2005: “The General [Musharraf] has promised to hit us in such a way that we will not know what hit us. In one sense, it is quick death that he is promising us. He could do this to me, and to a few other Baloch leaders, but not to the entire Baloch nation”.

Bugti was not wrong in saying so. Within hours of his death, described by many as extra-judicial killing, Baluchistan had witnessed a bloody reaction, in which dozens of people were killed and hundreds injured. Over 500 were detained in riots throughout the province, with many of the Baloch protesters targeting the Punjabi-owned properties and businesses in Quetta, aggravating the already volatile ethnic divisions. And three years later, the situation in Baluchistan remains precarious, mainly because the largest province of Pakistan continues to suffer from the neglect of the country’s new political leadership. Change has been promised repeatedly by the federal government, but in fact the trust deficit between the nationalists and the state has widened as the legitimate grievances of the people of Baluchistan have not been addressed. The gravity of the situation in Baluchistan can be gauged from the fact that for the first time in the 62-year old history of Pakistan, the Baloch celebrated August 11 as the Baloch Independence Day in several districts of Baluchistan.

Even today, one of the major demands of the Baloch nationalists remains the trial of Pervez Musharraf for having ordered Akbar Bugti’s killing. However, strangely enough, the PPP government is unwilling to do anything that could harm Musharraf – be it the assassination of Akbar Bugti or that of Benazir Bhutto. As a matter of fact, what actually prompted Musharraf to become personal with Bugti and target him was the firing of rockets in December 2005 while he was on an official visit to Kohlu. The rockets had crashed into a Frontier Constabulary camp on the outskirts of Kohlu, without causing any casualties. While Musharraf thought it was an attempt to kill him, the Baloch rebels had maintained that they wanted to lodge protest over the rape of a lady doctor Shazia Khalid in the Sui area of Baluchistan by an Army captain who had been exonerated by the military authorities. The rocket attack prompted Musharraf to order a massive military operation against the Bugti tribe, accusing Akbar Bugti of working against Pakistan at the behest of an enemy country, presumably India.

To Musharraf and his cronies, Bugti was no more than an insurgent feudal lord who wanted to prevent development from reaching his tribesmen and who operated a ‘state within a state’. Musharraf used to describe Bugti as a miscreant, a term introduced by the British East India Company – a term which was last used widely in 1971 by the Pakistani military elite to describe the Bengali people of erstwhile East Pakistan. The General repeatedly blamed Bugti for past insurgencies in Baluchistan, and accused him of being a warlord running a well-organised militia, private courts and prisons, using his income from the gas fields in Dera Bugti. On July 20, 2006, in an address to the nation, Musharraf said that for 40 years, three Baloch Sardars, who are opposed to development in Baluchistan, had been pampered unjustifiably in the name of political settlement, ‘but no more’. “We are determined to re-establish the writ of the state in Baluchistan by fixing the so-called Baloch Sardars.” Adding an insult to Baloch sensitivities, he said, “But I would not call him a Nawab any more as he is on the run.”

However, in his death and the barbaric manner in which it was carried out, Bugti has already become a martyred hero for Baloch nationalists everywhere in Pakistan, rather than the anti-state tribesman General Musharraf sought to portray him. To the warrior Bugti tribe, he was not only the tribal head but also the latest in a long line of nationalist leaders who tried to defend the province from exploitation by the Centre at the hands of the mighty Punjab-dominated military establishment. Three months before being killed, the security forces had succeeded in driving Bugti from his seat of power at Dera Bugti to the surrounding hills in Kohlu, only to start resettling his rival factions in areas previously under his control. Over 20,000 people of Masoori, Kalpar and other sub-tribes were transported back to Dera Bugti from different parts of Sindh and Punjab after Bugti was made to leave his hometown.

In April 2006, almost three months before his assassination, having left his Fort in Dera Bugti and shifted to the dry and treeless mountains in Kohlu, Nawab Akbar Bugti had issued a message to the Baloch nation – “Message from the Koh-e-Baloch (mountains of the Baloch) by the “Sipah Salar” (Commander) Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti fighting for the defence of Baloch coast, resources and identity”. His message was meant to motivate the Baloch youth to pick up the gun and fight a battle for survival in their ancestral land. The veteran Baloch was convinced that the ‘enemy’ understood the language of force alone and, consequently, the Baloch would have to battle it out to defend their 780-kilometers of coastline and riches of gas, oil, gold, silver and copper. He had asked the Baloch nation to embrace martyrdom instead of becoming a minority in their own land. He had warned against intrigues of fellow Baloch leaders with conduct similar to past sub-continental traitors like Mir Jaffar and Mir Sadiq.

The symbols highlighted in Bugti’s message and its tough language left little doubt in one’s mind that he had finally embarked on a path of armed confrontation with Pakistan’s mighty establishment. To him, the time for staging peaceful protests, holding negotiations and sitting in parliamentary committees was a thing of the past. Instead, he sought to inspire the Baloch youth to join the armed struggle that he had been leading from the front. On August 24, 2006, Bugti was spotted in a cave in the Kohlu area of Baluchistan and asked to surrender. But he refused to oblige. Hardly 24 hours later, on August 26, 2006, the Musharraf regime had announced that Akbar Bugti had been killed ‘in a military raid’. However, the Engineering Corps of the Pakistan Army took seven days to retrieve the body which was laid to rest on September 1, 2006, at his ancestral graveyard in the Dera Bugti. But none of his family members was allowed either to offer his funeral prayers or to see the dead body.

With Bugti’s death, the Baloch rebels definitely lost a charismatic leader, whose dogged resistance in the face of the state oppression had been a source of inspiration. When the 80-year old Baloch rebel was killed, his detractors in the establishment may have thought that they were ridding themselves of a particularly annoying problem. However, as it turns out three years later, it seems they have only made things worse. The repercussions of Bugti’s death continue to cast a long shadow over the Baloch-Centre relations in the foreseeable future and bound to become part of the heroic lore of Baloch history of resistance against the state since 1947, thereby strengthening the separatist emotion in the province. In his May 2006 interview to TIME magazine, a few months before his death, Akbar Bugti had stated: “We, the Baloch people believe that the best way to die is to die fighting. We Baloch are the masters of our own destiny. And if that is taken away from us, then life doesn’t really matter”.

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C Khan Rind
C Khan Rind
14 years ago

Musharraf’s trial for Bugti murder a must to keep Pakistan intact
Mr. Adnan thats the mentality which will destroy Pakistan, you call Musharaf as your president who is a son, of Mujra dancer from dehli with extreemly inferior complex, if these kind of people run Pakistan and its army than Pakistan’s heading towards its self desruction.
Shame on narrow minded Pakistanis who are the real enemies of
their own country.

14 years ago

Musharraf’s trial for Bugti murder a must to keep Pakistan intact
he was a traitor… murderer.. supressor… of his own ppl.. he met his rightful fate


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