Friday, 3 June 2011

Bugtis & Balochistan: the games people play

Recent events and the blackout in Balochistan have reminded me about this article from around 2006 by writer Gulmina Bilal.

Dera Bugti post-Nawab

Gulmina Bilal

The story goes that the elder had some guests. He asked his son to go inside and ask for tea to be sent out for the guests. The son went inside and found his stepmother in the kitchen and told her to make tea. After half an hour, the father sent the son inside again wondering how long it was taking the women to make tea. The son and the stepmother had a hot exchange, the result of which the son shot dead the stepmother. An hour later, the father shot the first wife, i.e. the son’s mother. The reason given was that to avenge the death of my wife, I shot your mother. Now we are even and can continue to be father and son.

This is not some story of a B-grade movie. This is the story of a man who is actively working with the government intelligence agencies in Dera Bugti following the death of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. This gentleman eventually married a Phoolan Devi-type character who used to organise highway robberies in Southern Punjab. This gentleman, Khan Mohammad Kalpar, is one of three tribal elders who is being supported and cultivated by the intelligence agencies. Khan Mohammad Kalpar is the chief of the Kalpar clan who were brought back to Dera Bugti by the government itself, as the cameras looked on. Even President General Pervez Musharraf on numerous occasions has declared that the Kalpars and their chief are essentially the victims and that is why they were rehabilitated. A victim who is wanted in a number of cases, but let’s not split hairs over that.

The other two chiefs that are being propped up by the agencies nowadays is the chief of the Masouri clan, Kadir Masouri, and the chief of the Rahejas, Amndan Bugti. Amndan Bugti is also a cousin of sorts of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. The Kalpars are based in Sui, the Rahejas are based in Dera Bugti, and the Masouris are based at Bekar, which is near Dera Bugti.

The three musketeers on whom the intelligence agencies are spending taxpayers’ money to prop them up in Dera Bugti are all wanted men. As I have written previously, Nawab Bugti was first a darling of the establishment and then became a pariah. The stories of G. M. Syed, Nawab Bugti and even Nawaz Sharif are no different. With the death of the Nawab and the resultant tribal power vacuum in Dera Bugti, these three musketeers are being ‘empowered’ and flushed with funds to consolidate and broaden their power base.

Given this background, let’s understand what are the immediate problems occupying the boys right now in Dera Bugti.

Right now the battle that is being played out in Dera Bugti post-Nawab is the battle for the post of the District Nazim. Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti had installed a Nazim, Kazim Bugti, against whom a no-confidence motion has been approved by the District Assembly. So now the three tribes are in the running for the Nazim’s position, each declaring that by virtue of their power, the intelligence agents should ‘approve and support’ their respective clan’s nominee. Why are they interested in the position of the District Nazim? It is certainly not for any deep conviction in devolution or local government, but because of the fact that as compensation for all that has occurred in Dera Bugti, the federal government has announced a relief and development package which is to be spent through the district government. In a nutshell, it is big money which the three elders – duly supported by the agencies – are after.

This is the issue that Dera Bugti is faced with now. Each of the clans is demanding that they should be ‘rewarded’ by the government for their respective part in helping the government against Nawab Bugti. All three elders are proclaimed offenders, but all that is being conveniently pushed under the carpet. The intelligence agencies have asked them to decide among themselves who the Nazim should be. The elders decided on Anwar Bugti, who is the son of Wadera Sher Mohammad who was very close to the Nawab. It is said that Wadera Sher Mohammad was the only man allowed to go inside the Nawab’s room apart from his personal valet. This consensus candidate of the three musketeers caused trouble in paradise between them and the agencies. The agencies reportedly rejected the nomination and were very upset that they had nominated someone close to the Nawab. Consequently the nomination was withdrawn. Thus, it is back to square one as far as choosing a Nazim is concerned. Needless to say, electing the Nazim through simple fair voting did not occur to anyone as a serious option. The District Coordination Officer Mr Sarmad Lasi, perhaps the most photographed and interviewed government servant, is also flirting with the musketeers and the agencies. On paper he has been transferred out of Dera Bugti, but he has managed to stay put because there is big money rolling about in Dera Bugti.

Like the other day’s newspaper, Dera Bugti has receded from our minds. The place that grabbed headlines three moths back does not even make it to the most obscure of the inside pages. Rhetorical statements have been made, limelight stolen, resignations given and taken short, other places and people grabbed the headlines and Dera Bugti is the last thing newspaper readers have on their minds. This suits the interests of certain sections quite well.

The government is entering into alliances and arrangements as described above with the result that not one, but three potential Nawab Akbar Khan Bugtis will be created and 40 years down the line will be bombed because they challenged ‘the writ of the state’. I fail to understand that when you enter into alliances with proclaimed offenders, why is there an expectation that they will not challenge the writ of the state?

Did I hear someone ask what about the people of Dera Bugti? Well what about them? Since when have they counted as important? If the people were considered important, then would an election of the District Nazim be as problematic as it is now? If the people were considered important, then would the intelligence agencies be having free use of the people’s money to dole out? The people of Dera Bugti, of WANA and indeed of Pakistan do not count at all.

The writer is an electoral reforms and gender mainstreaming consultant based in Islamabad

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