Long live free and united Balochistan

Long live free and united Balochistan

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‘some Balochis Support Sardari, Others Democracy.

Recently, government sources have spoken of granting a general amnesty to all Baloch political prisoners as well as those in exile or allegedly involved in anti-state activities.

Earlier this month, the government also decided to halt work on setting up cantonments in Balochistan’s Dera Bugti and Kohlu areas. However, these moves have been received with much scepticism from the Baloch nationalist and separatist circles.

In this context, Dawn.com talks to the chief of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP), Brahmdagh Bugti, who has denied having any reconciliatory talks with Islamabad and rejects ‘such statements as eyewash.’

Brahmdagh is one of the most prominent faces of the ongoing Baloch insurgency. He is the grandson of Baloch politician Akbar Khan Bugti, a former chief minister and governor of Balochistan, who was killed during a military operation on August 26, 2006.

While another of Nawab Bugti’s grandsons, Mir Aali Bugti, has been nominated as the sardar of the Bugti tribe, Brahmdagh has reportedly taken command of separatist Baloch fighters. The Pakistani government has blamed India for supporting the 28-year-old guerrilla commander through Afghanistan, where he is currently rumoured to be in hiding.

Q. Please explain your calls for an independent Balochistan.

A. Firstly, I’d like to emphasise that we were a free people. In 1948, we were forced to become a part of Pakistan, literally on gunpoint. On top of that, Balochistan as a province and the Baloch as a people have not been treated fairly by successive governments. Still, we have tried to fight for our rights within the Pakistani parliamentary system, but every time we have been suppressed through military operations and other means. At this point, things have come to such a head that people are left with no choice but to seek complete independence from Pakistan.

Different methods are being employed in the process of an independent movement. There are political groups and then there are armed groups – albeit with a political objective – whose politics are fundamentally, if not solely, based on achieving the independence of Balochistan from Pakistan. Of course, a unification of such groups is a rather important factor in most independence movements and that is something I think Baloch independence organisations should also move toward.

Q. What is your vision for an independent Balochistan?

A. I will go with whatever the people of Balochistan want. Balochistan has had a tribal system which has its pros and cons. The world, meanwhile, is moving towards purely democratic governments that come into power through elections. Interestingly, the tribal system is not entirely undemocratic since if a particular sardar is not popular enough, his rule is quite likely to end. In the end, I see some people of Balochistan supporting the sardari system while others go for direct democracy. They should be allowed to decide their own future.

Q. Your cousin Mir Aali Bugti is the current sardar in Dera Bugti while your other cousin Shahzain Bugti is willing to pursue parliamentary politics. How do you perceive your cousins’ political decisions?

A. It’s amusing how in 2006 Islamabad created a fanfare about abolishing the sardari system in Dera Bugti and now Aali Bugti has been brought to power there with the blessings of the Pakistani establishment. Aali has not been able to step out of his house. As for Shahzain, I am not in touch with him, but I feel that he too is being used by the establishment.

Q. What is your position on target killings of non-Baloch individuals as a tactic by separatist groups?

A. Target killings are obviously wrong and I am not in favour of them in principle. However, when criticising target killings, people are pointing toward a symptom which obviously has a cause. Target killings are reactions to the ongoing military operation in Balochistan. People should also criticise the army when its gunship helicopters fire on innocent civilians and attack their livestock. In such conditions, how will a victim react? Target killings will only increase if the military operation is allowed to continue and if people like Nawab Bugti and Ghulam Mohammad Baloch [former chairman of the Baloch National Movement] are targeted.

[In a recent incident in which Baloch policemen were targeted] Baloch groups had told non-Baloch workers coming to the area that a war-like situation exists owing to the military operation. People from other regions were warned not to seek employment here for their own security. However, despite being warned several times, they wouldn’t leave. They were then kidnapped by members of an armed separatist group. The Baloch policemen came to rescue them, and they were killed by separatist fighters in the process.

Q. Do groups such as the Balochistan Liberation Army and Balochistan Republican Army enjoy popular support?

A. These are the groups that people now trust. You will be surprised at how their support has increased over the past few years in Quetta, Makran, Mastung, and in many other areas in Balochistan. In Sui and Dera Bugti, too, despite the army, militants can easily operate because they are supported by the local people.

Q. Are you currently in negotiations with the Pakistan government?

A. Not at all. I have no contact with the government. We don’t need to contact them. We need nothing from Pakistan. We want them to leave our land and release our people from their torture chambers.

Q. Do you support the calls by several Baloch politicians and activists to try Pervez Musharraf in the context of the killing of Bugti?

A. Musharraf has been an instrument of the establishment and not an individual who has acted on his own. Simply trying him is not likely to change the overall situation of the Baloch.

Q. On September 8, the government said that work on setting up cantonments in the province has been put on hold…

A. This is simply a case of Islamabad playing to the gallery. We know their modus operandi. They are giving a message to the world community that we are trying to talk but the Baloch do not want to talk. How can there be negotiations while there is a military operation going on? The Baloch have always been betrayed while they struggled politically.

Q. Are you aware of any operational links between Baloch separatists and the Afghan Taliban?

A. There is a sizeable Pashtun population in Balochistan and some Taliban are also rumoured to be in the area. But from what I know there is no operational link between the Baloch fighters and the Afghan Taliban.

Q. What impression did Nawab Akbar Bugti make on you both as a leader and as your grandfather?

A. I stayed with him for a very little time as a child, and then later during the last few days of his life. At that time I grew closer to him. It didn’t feel good to see a man who always tried to seek reconciliation with Pakistan abandoned by the government and forced into the mountains. Nawab Bugti never said no to dialogue, but upon moving to the mountains when the army was unleashed on Dera Bugti, he was labeled a terrorist. That was highly unfair.

Source: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/provinces/04-some-balochis-support-the-sardari-system-others-direct-democracy-qs-10

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