Bugti Checkmated In Balochistan

August 28, 2006

In the dangerous game being played between the Baloch tribals and the Pakistan Army, Nawab Akbar Bugti, 79, was reported killed by an Air Force missile.

Bugti, as he was generally known, was a tribal chieftain of the Bugti tribe in Balochistan.

Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan bordering Iran and Afghanistan, is sparsely populated and has major gas and mineral resources. Pakistan has also developed a strategic warm water port at Gwadar with the help of Chinese that sits atop the Straits of Hormuz.

Bugti was reputed to be a backer of and a spokesperson for the banned Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). It is reported that BLA chief Balach Marri was also killed with Bugti.

At its web site, the BLA speaks of the inequality and sufferings at the hands of "Pakistan and its tyrant Punjabi institutions." The same sentiments are echoed by another site, BalochWana, representing the Baloch Youth, which goes on to call Balochistan "Pakistan occupied country."

BLA and other guerrilla groups seeking justice in Balochistan have been actively involved in blowing up natural gas pipelines, refineries, train lines, electricity grids, service facilities and government installations not only in Balochistan but increasingly in other provinces of Pakistan to press for their demands.

The Pakistani Army is strained and stretched in fighting terrorists and talibaan supporters in the North West Frontier Province, bordering Afghanistan and in trying to curb ethnic and religious violence in its major cities of Karachi, Sind and Lahore, Punjab. And with India it has a festering dispute in Kashmir.


Nawab Bugti belonged to one of the three main tribes of Balochistan. Educated at Acheson College, Lahore and at Oxford, he was once a part of the Pakistan Administration in the 50s and 60s. In the 90s he was in the vanguard confronting the Pakistam Administration and the Army, both as an eloquent elder statesman and as a warlord with his own missile equipped army.

Along with Khair Bux Marri and Ataullah Mengal, the other two prominent and powerful Baloch Sardars, he was a constant thorn in the Pakistan Army's designs.

According to journalist and author Ahmed Rashid, the manner in which Bugti was killed would not serve the Pakistani Government. It was portraying Bugti as an "anti-government renegade" and warlord. Instead Nawab Bugti will end up as a "martyred hero" not only for Baloch Nationalists but also other minority groups and nationalists who complain of the Pakistan Army's high handedness.

Following the announcement of Bugti's death the government moved quickly to impose a 24 hour curfew in Quetta, Balochistan's main city. Thousands ignored the curfew and demonstrated against the government as reported in the Washington Post today.

There are reports of widespread rioting that have also spread to Karachi, Pakistan's main city.


Since independence in 1947, the federal government has been hampered in its efforts to impose federal laws over extended areas of its border in the west and north-west of the country. In the provinces where it had ostensibly more support it tended to neglect popular opinion and showed a readiness to accommodate the powerful zamindars (landlords with vast holdings lording over peasants) and regional power lords such as Jamiat e Ulema e Islam (JUI) a fundamentalist group in Balochistan and NWFP and Muttahida Quomi Movement (MQM), ruled by Altaf Hussain from self imposed exile in London. The leaders of the two main opposition political parties in Pakistan the Muslim League and the People's Party also live in exile. (Both face corruption and abuse of power charges while in power in the 90s.)

It belies President Musharraf's much publicized stand of enlightened moderation.

The Bush Administration considers Pakistan as a front line ally in the fight against terrorism. But historically, despite all the talks about democracy and reforms, almost all the previous Administrations have shown a preference to deal with dictators and autocrats rather than democratic leadership in the the third world. Bush Administration is no exceptions to this.

President Musharraf's term as President expires next year. He is reported to have indicated a willingness to stand for another term. And to be successful, he needs the support of the same religious parties that are an anathema to the Bush Administration.

The President walks a tight rope. Internationally he has succeeded in playing a secular moderate leader. But nationally, he needs the support of the fundamentalist parties. This dichotomy is overlooked by the Bush Administration much to the chagrin of political parties in Pakistan and by her neighbor India. The Indians allege that the Army is not doing enough to curb terrorism and its breeding grounds.

With this killing, President Musharraf may have been sending signals to nationalist movements within Pakistan and to neighbouring India and Afghanistan whom it holds responsible for funding, arming and training Baloch guerrillas.

It should be noted here that India and Afghanistan in turn accuse Pakistan, and its notorious Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of fomenting and supporting rebels in their countries.

All countries named here deny these charges.

The moderate majority thinks President Musharraf's flip-flops over major problems and issues facing the country and appeases the fundamentalist parties. They cite his indecisiveness over Hudood Ordinance as an indicator of his lack of resolve to right a wrong and accuse him of giving in to the fundamentalists.

The ex-commando is known to lead his country into and out of messes of his and his army's creation. Time will tell if and how he will extricate them both this time.

love people who are in awe of words. words are the sole arbiter and the final survivor. desicritic editor, slave and slave-driver.
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August 28, 2006
02:34 AM

sounds like the beginning of Bangladesh -part 2 to me.

August 28, 2006
03:05 AM

Pakistan facing a long term armed insurgency which is probably supported by it's enemies?

What can I say? Karma's a bitch.

August 28, 2006
07:41 AM

Bah, India doesn't even have a border with Baluchistan, so there's not much they can do.

The Americans and the East Asians(ASEAN, Japan) on the other hand, are very upset at the prospect of Musharraf building a Chinese naval base on the Baluchi coast, near the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz, where 90% of oil from the Gulf flows through. That is a very big deal for them, since it would give China the ability choke off the entire world's oil supply, even as China recieves oil transhipments directly by rail from the Pakistani coastline.

Sitting directly over the Straits of Hormuz itself, Iran fancies itself as being the dominant power in the Gulf -- they want to be the ones to choke the world's oil and not be stuck watching the Pakistani-Chinese axis do it. So they too are now supporting the Baloch, because the Iranians do indeed have a direct border with the area, across which to smuggle arms. The Russians likewise want to be the main exclusive suppliers of oil to China, and not be bypassed by the Gulf.

Musharraf is extraordinarily foolish to be taking on all the big powers in this way. Didn't some guy once say, "he who rides the tiger reaps the whirlwind?"
Through his aggressive brinksmanship, Mush-head has invited all the world's powers into Baluchistan.
What a moron. Doesn't he remember what happened to General Zia?
Mushy thinks that he's protected because he's the indispensable man for fighting the war in Afghanistan. Zia thought that too.

August 28, 2006
01:43 PM

karma indeed!

August 29, 2006
12:16 AM
Beau Peep
August 30, 2006
05:42 AM

From an Indian's viewpoint I would like to say that it is such a shame that India decided to voice its concerns on the Balochistan issue. It is very embarrassing indeed.

August 30, 2006
12:28 PM

(long post)

the political game and gamesmanship being played out in pakistan is no different than anywhere else

musharraf is not a fundamentalist...we see him as president of pakistan...but his real constituency is the "army"... every one of his action (in pakistan and abroad) can be viewed through this prism and when done so will give an added clarity to western political pundits

his single agenda is to perpetuate and enhance the army's stranglehold over pakistan's affairs

power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely said lord makes one less responsive to the demands of the citizens... political problems need political solutions...we see this played out in other areas of the world all too vain, sadly

the bomb is not a factor in internal politics

without mentioning his backers in the west...if 'they' facilitate (insist) on a change in the pakistani power structure - meaning clearly spell out that the army should have a hands-off policy and let the civilian leadership breed and grow ...nothing will change on the grounds there

the above is also fraught with danger... the civilian leadership has not shown any spine either...both nawaz sharif and benazir bhutto had had two spells in power...and whatever they may say while in exile....each one of them was worse than the earlier one


one can hope for a civilian leadership to grow and mature and the army back into barracks

what did they say about wishes being horses?

August 30, 2006
07:55 PM



and write here

August 31, 2006
05:24 PM

Here comes Temporal's favorite -- The Phoren Hand:

As we all know, the more flak a Pakistani leader takes for any screwup, the more likelihood that they will blame it all on The Phoren Hand.

It's another Great Saffron Conspiracy! Part of their Final Solution.

August 31, 2006
05:27 PM






September 1, 2006
03:38 AM

What can I say? You learn new things everyday :)

September 3, 2006
02:01 AM

After having assassinated an elderly Baloch leader, Musharraf is killing children now:

Is there nothing this dictator won't stoop to?

September 3, 2006
10:00 AM


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