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Sunday, Nov 28, 2021
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Balochistan

An Insurgency Falters

But General Musharraf's bravado notwithstanding, there is obvious concern in the Pakistani establishment about the widespread retreat of the state across an extended swathe of territory.

An Insurgency Falters
An Insurgency Falters
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

The 'terrorism' in Balochistan, President Pervez Musharraf informs us, has been 'wiped out'. At Gwadar in Balochistan he stated, "We have been able to destroy over 50 per cent (terror) networks. We are also committed to wipe it out from the country." He stated, further, that a handful of elements involved in disruptive activities consider themselves to be strong but they are not. "I am not a person to be subdued by cowardly attacks," he declaimed, warning that if they fire "one rocket they will receive 10 hits."

General Musharraf's bravado notwithstanding, there is obvious concern in the Pakistani establishment about the widespread retreat of the state across an extended swathe of territory. Musharraf had himself conceded that "increasing dissatisfaction in smaller provinces was a major problem facing the country when he took over in October 1999." A scrutiny of the conflict in Balochistan indicates that it has, since then, in fact becoming increasingly difficult to manage the rebellion in the province.

Has the province calmed down after the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on August 26, 2006? Are the tribal chiefs ready to throw in the towel and settle for 'more autonomy'? These and related questions will be a matter of interest in the immediate future.

After the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on August 26, 2006, and till November 16, 2006, thirty-two people, including 24 civilians, have died in 83 insurgency-related incidents in Balochistan. Before this, between January 1 and August 26, 414 persons, including 198 civilians, 134 insurgents and 82 soldiers, had been killed in at least 644 incidents. The insurgency evidently continues to simmer and there has been a steady stream of bomb and rocket attacks on gas pipelines, railway tracks, power transmission lines, bridges, and communications infrastructure, as well as on military establishments and governmental facilities. Acts of violence are, according to Pakistani news reports "not confined to a few districts but are taking place in practically all the Baloch districts including Quetta." Indeed, violence in the provincial capital, Quetta, has increased in the recent weeks, with as many as 14 explosions recorded since October 1, 2006. Landmine blasts continue to affect normal life in the province. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), there were 121 landmine blasts in 2006 (till September). At least 78 civilians and 28 soldiers were killed and over 150 people injured in these incidents. Farid Ahmed, HRCP coordinator in Balochistan, indicated that "All these incidents have taken place in the Kohlu and Dera Bugti areas."

President Pervez Musharraf is reported to have met only "notables" from five Districts during his visit to Gwadar, rather than addressing a Jirga (assembly) of the Sardars (tribal chieftains). These notables were from Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur, Awaran and Lasbela. The Government had earlier announced that it was convening a Jirga of Baloch tribal elders in Islamabad on November 8, but it was subsequently postponed till November 17 and the venue shifted to Gwadar. Sources indicate that this was due to the unwillingness of some Sardars to attend the Islamabad Jirga. The eventual decision to allow only elders from five Districts to meet the President, as against the convocation of a Jirga, manifestly reduced the significance of the meeting at Gwadar. News reports indicate that the Sardari system in the old Makran division — which comprised Gwadar, Turbat and Panjgur — was abolished decades ago, while Awaran and Lasbela have a semi-sardari system. Pakistani columnist Amir Mir told SAIR that Islamabad even dropped the honorific 'Grand Jirga' and instead relabeled it as a meeting of 'notables'. No Sardar is reported to have met the president, according to sources in Pakistan. It is also a clear indication that Islamabad will not negotiate with the existing leaders of the insurgency, suggesting the persistence of a hard-line approach against them. This is entirely in line with Musharraf's stated position that only three (Nawab Bugti, Sardar Attaullah Mengal and Nawab Khair Bux Marri) of the 78 tribal chiefs were "troublemakers."

A Jirga has a unique position in the Baloch society, and there appears to be a competing facet to it now. Mir Suleman Dawood, the Khan of Kalat, (his grandfather Baglar Begi had signed the accession of what is present-day Balochistan province with Pakistan on March 27, 1948) called a Grand Baloch Shahi Jirga (grand meeting) on September 21, 2006, to protest against Islamabad's policies in Balochistan. With 95 tribal Sardars and 300 other 'notables' reportedly in attendance, it adopted a resolution condemning the killing of Nawab Bugti and Pakistan's "colonial occupation" of Baloch land. The Jirga, said to be the first of its kind bringing together so many chieftains under one platform in more than 100 years, adopted a resolution condemning what it called the "violation of its territorial integrity, exploitation of Balochistan's natural resources, denial of the Baloch right to the ownership of their resources and the military operation in the province." They also decided to move the International Court of Justice over what they said was the violation of an agreement between the former Kalat state, the then British Raj and Pakistan at the time of India's Partition. The Shahi Jirga was also an indication that the largely reclusive Khan of Kalat is still a respected figure and may emerge as a future player in Baloch politics.

General Musharraf's visit to Gwadar comes at a time when Bugti's Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) is reported to be 'falling apart'. Pakistani news reports attribute this to the "disruptive interference of Pakistan's intelligence agencies." While the JWP obviously faces a leadership crisis, sources in Pakistan told SAIR that secret agencies have gained control over the party. After the Bugti assassination, JWP members wanted to resign from their legislative posts but the Quetta Corps Commander threatened them with dire consequences, and they backed off. The party was weakened further after a few members, including Secretary-General Shahid Bugti, resigned from their positions after reportedly developing differences with Bugti's son Jamil Bugti. However, recent reports now indicate that some rapprochement has occurred, and Shahid Bugti and others have declared that they would carry on with Nawab Bugti's 'mission'.

Writing in the Lahore-based weekly Nida-e-Millat on September 20, Maqbool Arshad notes: "Brahamdagh Bugti and Meer Aali Bugti [grandsons of Nawab Bugti] are viewed as strong candidates to become head of the Bugti tribe. Jameel Bugti and Talal Bugti [sons of Bugti] cannot be ignored — though they don't have the majority on their side. Brahamdagh is a strong candidate because Nawab Akbar Bugti wanted him to be his successor, though some influential sardars of the tribe are opposed to his leadership, arguing that Aali Bugti has the right to become the sardar of the Bugti tribe because he is the son of the eldest son of Nawab Bugti i.e. Saleem Bugti. Reportedly, "The Bugtis are divided over the issue of succession. Nawab Akbar Bugti's supporters want Brahamdagh Bugti to be the sardar. But another group wants to follow the traditions according to which the eldest son is sardar always. Saleem Bugti has died. According to tradition, Saleem Bugti's son i.e. Aali Bugti has to become sardar… Akbar Bugti had three wives and six sons. His Baloch wife gave birth to four sons — Saleem, Talal, Rehan and Salal. Three sons have died. Talal is alive. Akbar Bugti's second wife was a Pathan. She gave birth to Jameel Bugti. The third wife was Iranian and she gave birth to Shehzore Bugti. Thus there are five candidates for the office of sardar — Talal, Jameel, Shehzore, Aali and Brahamdagh."

There is evidence of some disarray in the leadership of other Baloch nationalist formations. While Khair Bux Marri is silent, Attaullah Mengal has been vocal after Bugti's death. The provincial assembly members from Mengals' party have resigned their seats. He had been issuing strong statements but has abruptly become quiet. Noted Pakistani writer Mohammed Shehzad told SAIR that "Agencies are talking to him. His son Akhtar Mengal has been offered the 'job' of Balochistan Chief Minister provided he stopped creating trouble for Musharraf."

There has been a momentary dispersal of the insurgents into the largely inaccessible hills, according to sources. While there are some preliminary signs of their regrouping — they continue to attack a variety of state installations with impunity — a clearer post-Bugti strategy is yet to crystallize, though they are receiving instructions from Brahamdagh Bugti regularly and working accordingly. Reports of November 3 said Pakistani intelligence agencies have claimed that Brahamdagh is in Kabul and demanded that the Afghan Government extradite him. Brahamdagh, who was reportedly formally designated by Bugti as his successor, is accused of orchestrating the insurgency. There is no extradition treaty between Pakistan and Afghanistan.


Kanchan Lakshman is Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management; Assistant Editor, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution. Courtesy, the South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal

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