Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Bugti Wars

Aug 2, 2013#1

Aug 2, 2013#1

August 2, 2013

The problem with the Bugtis can be viewed in isolation from the problem of Balochistan. It will not be wrong to say that Dera Bugti and Sui were the most peaceful regions in Balochistan, in fact more peaceful than the rest of Pakistan in the last six to seven years. However, this peace will not last long if our short-sighted and incompetent politicians make silly decisions without understanding the dynamics of these regions.

The Bugtis are divided into various different sub-clans, which include Rahija, Mandwani, Kalpar, Nauthani, Masuri, Ferozani and some dozens of other clans, numbering around 300,000. Furthermore, they are further divided into political and social domains. It is nearly impossible to unite them under one umbrella of unity because of the violent history of these clans. It was only Nawab Akbar Bugti (former chieftain of Rahija clan) who was able to establish his monarch-like control over their native lands. Akbar Bugti used the state’s assistance to keep his rival clans weak and insecure.

It was not long ago when the Rahija Bugti clan killed Amir Hamza, son of Kalpar leader, Khan Mohammad Kalpar in May, 1992 in Dera Bugti, allegedly killed by Akbar Khan Bugti as Khan Mohammad refused to vacate Dera Bugti. About one hundred thousand Kalpar and Masuri (another Bugti subtribe of which Akbar Bugti did not approve) were expelled from their native lands by Nawab Akbar Bugti, and they later settled in different parts of Sindh and Punjab.

Akbar Bugti justified the killing of Amir Hamza by saying that he was attempting to forge an alliance between the Kalpars and Masuris, and although he never claimed the act itself, but all the evidences are traced towards him.

The Kalpars retaliated in June 1992 by killing Salal Bugti, son of Akbar Bugti. This started another civil-war-like situation in the region, where just like in the past, Baloch society has indulged in various civil wars, including the most famous one of Lasharis and Rind tribes where thousands were killed. This feud had also seen an almost similar scenario when hundreds and thousands were brutally murdered and displaced from their homes. The Rahija clan was always stronger due to Nawab Akbar Bugti’s links with provincial governments.

When Akbar Bugti was alive, he ran the political and tribal affairs of the region like a monarch. He had his own code of conduct, complete with imprisonments and punishments. Not only did he carry out atrocities against Kalpars and Masuris but also against fellow tribes like Marris from Kholu with whom he had strain political relations.

The state of Pakistan, at that time, remained blackmailed and reluctant to stop Akbar Bugti’s mayhem against the natives. But it was a matter of time when the overall dynamics of the Pakistani state changed under Pervez Musharraf’s rule, who would not be letting anyone in Balochistan to be more superior than the state itself. This is something the Baloch nationalists are not familiar with.

Over the years, the Baloch nationalists have never recognized the strength of the state; the same was the case with the Britishers, who despite of granting Balochistan the status of a princely state (in the attempt to use Baluchistan as a buffer state between Afghanistan and India), the Baloch nationalists had weakened that very princely state into further feudatory states where they were not negotiating with the so called head of their princely state to any extent. This practice of not acknowledging any law or any state authority is injected in Baloch nationalism. If you read about Baloch nationalism and if you listen to their poets, you will come to the conclusion that this nationalistic behavior is of the view that there is nothing superior enough to control the Baloch, and just like any other senseless nationalistic theories, you need a bad guy and this bad guy is dubbed as an “authority”; hence, in accordance with their sacred nationalistic history, any authority is a bad authority, thus, it should be fought.

This mentality was very much inherited by Marris and Bugtis. Coming back to the topic, when Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti realized that the new head of the state is trying to enforce some sort of authority in the lands contrary to his de-facto authority, Mr. Bugti launched an anti-State movement in the name of Baloch rights; on the other hand it was never argued on the state level regarding those Balochs who faced atrocities at the hands of this champion of Baloch rights?

Following the sacred nationalistic nature of the movement, Rahijan Bugtis started attacking the development projects and law enforcement agencies. In all this time it was not accounted for where the royalties given to the late Nawab Akbar Bugti were being spent, as the region remained extremely under-developed and any attempt to bring prosperity was being resisted by Akbar Bugti’s armed militant tribal force.

However, history took an interesting twist when the Pak Army successfully defeated the miscreants from Dera Bugti and Sui and discarded the influence of Akbar Bugti who allegedly got killed during the military operation, the state government resettled the Kalpars and Masuris back to their native lands and made them part of the developmental projects. The government then formed a tribal force out of the same Bugti clans, in order to let them guard their own economic and social interests. This tribal force was named as Bugti Aman Force (Bugti Peace Force), which has worked effectively well to ensure peace and stability after the Army vacated the region. This time, the followers of Akbar Khan Bugti had to leave their areas, fearing the retaliation from their previously victimized sub-clans, and the region saw another migration of at-least 170,000 people due to the intra tribal animosity and clashes with the state.

After the death of Akbar Bugti, a vacuum was created in the leadership and there was a time when people feared another clash among the Bugti family members. Talal Bugti, son of Nawab Akbar Bugti, took the opportunity and hijacked the political party of Akbar Bugti – “Jamhoori Watan Party” – by using his influence, although it is on record that Nawab Akbar had expelled Talal Bugti from his family and also from Dera Bugti due to mutual differences.

On the other hand, Bramdagh Bugti, the grandson of Akbar Bugti, received very little support from Bugti tribesmen to become their chief, as the majority of the Bugti tribesmen were in favor of his elder brother Mir Aali Bugti. This pushed Bramdagh Bugti to establish his own militant group, which today is known as “Baloch Republican Army”, under the banner of his newly formed political party “the Baloch Republican Party”; he announced war against the state of Pakistan for independent Balochistan. This decision was not approved by other elements of the Bugti family.

Even though Nawab Akbar Bugti’s actions were opposed to the state, he had never in his life ever opted for separation from Pakistan. His militant wing did carry out criminal and terrorist activities by targeting civilians and infrastructure, but he never geared them up against the Federation of Pakistan. Many in Pakistan see him as a separatist leader, which actually he was not.

It could be said that Akbar Bugti did not have this special affection towards Pakistan nor he loved to remain united with it, but he knew that the struggle for an independent Balochistan is not only impractical and impossible but, even if it were to become a reality, he would not be able to survive as an influential leader of Balochistan as there would be dozens of other equally arrogant and powerful tribal chieftains wanting to grab ultimate superiority.

This was the case when Akbar Bugti sided with the Pakistani government, during the 1970s insurgency by Baloch nationalist forces consisted of Marris and Mengals, backed by the Soviet led Afghan government. Akbar Bugti personally volunteered in military operations conducted by Pak Army by ordering his followers to join the army. He was also the Governor of the Province during the military operation; hence independence from Pakistan would also not have suited him in his desire to remain powerful.

Even today, the vast majority of the Bugtis do not favor Bramdagh. The corrupt and troublesome Talal Bugti follows the steps of his father Akbar Bugti for the same reason, by distancing himself from the call of independence by Bramdagh Bugti. On the other hand, Mir Aali Bugti, the current chieftain of Rahijan Bugti clan is a strong supporter of the Pakistani state and has been notably working for the development of his areas. This leaves Bramdagh Bugti in isolation with some hundreds of his followers and militants.

There have been many unsuccessful attempts by Bramdagh Bugti’s B.R.A (Baloch Republican Army) to capture their previous strongholds over Dera Bugti and Sui, which has not succeeded due to the people’s much favorite pro-Pakistan militia – Bugti Aman Force.

The war is not over as yet, and the way I see it, it will not be over until there is an actual reconciliation process being initiated on the government level between all the sub-clans of the Bugtis. Today, those displaced tribesmen of the Rahijan clan are finally allowed by the federal government to resettle in their areas. This is great news, considering the fact that thousands of these people were in a constant protest in Islamabad since months.

These people are poor, their women and elders had no place to live while their leaders, who instigated them to fight these tribal wars for years, are living a luxurious life in Europe and the Gulf countries. The reason that they were denied to go to their places before, was that the government was fearing more bloodshed, but since things have changed now in favor of peace as compared to the past, it was a right time to resettle these poor people and their leaders back to their areas.

There are wide chances that some elements among this displaced tribe may go back and join Bramdagh’s B.R.A for his separatist motives against the state, and may disrupt the peaceful environment of Dera Bugti. This is what the current government needs to tackle with extreme sensibility, and not just leave things as they are, by giving a popular decision for the prevailing status-co. The state of Pakistan must learn from their previous mistakes by not letting groups to exercise more powers than the state. Uniting these tribes together once again is a challenge, but the government is the only institution which can take this challenge and resolve it.

The separatist insurgency is weakened in most parts of Balochistan, particularly in the Bugti dominated areas, but what is even more challenging now is the internal tribal conflicts that have resulted in the loss of thousands of lives.

Nauroz Baloch - is a civil rights activist from Balochistan and works to highlight Balochistan issues on different forums





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