A Leader of Baloch in Pakistan.

by Mureed Bizenjo

It wouldn’t be wrong to acknowledge Brahimdagh Bugti the grandson of Nawab Akber Khan bugti, founder and chief of Baloch Republican party one of most loved leader of Balochistan amongst many others. After the assassination of Tribal chief Nawab Akber Khan bugti of Jamhoori Watan party, Brahimdagh Khan bugti emerged on the scene and started to gain immense popularity when he joined the freedom struggle and in no time became the icon of Baloch freedom movement.

In the past Mir Bugti eloquently supported the Baloch armed resistance however his recent interview with the New York Times witnesses unprecedented views of Mir Bugti’s ideology regarding the Baloch cause which gives rise to some questions in the minds of Baloch and answers quite a few.

Pakistan’s Bitter, Little-Known Ethnic Rebellion: (Cross posted from New York Times)

GENEVA — A slim figure in a dark suit, Brahumdagh Bugti, 30, could pass for a banker in the streets of this sedate Swiss city. But in truth he is a resistance leader in exile, a player in an increasingly ugly independence war within Pakistan.

He has been on the run since 2006, when he narrowly escaped a Pakistani Army operation that killed his grandfather and dozens of his tribesmen in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. And since then, the government’s attempt to stamp out an uprising by the Baluch ethnic minority has only intensified, according to human rights organizations and Pakistani politicians.

The Baluch insurgency, which has gone on intermittently for decades, is often called Pakistan’s Dirty War, because of the rising numbers of people who have disappeared or have been killed on both sides. But it has received little attention internationally, in part because most eyes are turned toward the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas.

Mr. Bugti insists that he is a political leader only, and that he is not taking a role in the armed uprising against the government. He was caught up in a deadly struggle between his grandfather, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a former minister and a leader of the Bugti tribe, and Pakistan’s military leader at the time, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, over control of Baluchistan’s rich natural resources and the establishment of military bases in the province.

Baluch nationalists have never accepted being part of Pakistan and have fought in five uprisings since the country’s formation. Their demands range from greater control over Baluchistan’s gas and natural resources, fairer distribution of wealth (Baluchistan suffers from the lowest health, education and living standards in the country), to outright independence.

When the Pakistani Army shelled their ancestral home in Dera Bugti in December 2005, Mr. Bugti took to the hills with his grandfather, who was 80 and partly disabled, and they camped for months in mountain caves. Then, in August 2006, the military caught up with them. “I escaped, but he could not,” Mr. Bugti said.

From a hide-out two miles away, he watched the military assault, a furious three-day bombardment by attack jets, helicopter gunships and airborne troops. On the evening of the third day, the government triumphantly announced that Nawab Bugti had been killed. Thirty-two tribesmen died with him, Mr. Bugti said. The day after learning of his grandfather’s death, Mr. Bugti gathered his closest tribal leaders, and they urged him to leave and save himself, he said.

Pakistan and neighboring Iran were hostile to the Baluch, and the only place to go was Afghanistan, though it was consumed by the war with the Taliban. It took 19 days, on foot, to trek from a mountain base near Sibi to the Afghan border. But he had an armed tribal force and scouts with him and made the escape without incident, crossing into Afghanistan along a mountain trail, he said.

Although he had few contacts there, tribal links and traditions of hospitality assured him a welcome. He sent for his wife, his two children — a third was born in Afghanistan — and his mother, and after an elaborate dance to confuse government watchers, they crossed the border to join him days later.

Yet Afghanistan was not a safe haven. The family moved about 18 times over the next 18 months, and despite never going outside, he said, they became the target of repeated suicide bomb attacks by the Taliban and Qaeda militants, who they believe were sent by the Pakistani military. At least one bomb attack, in the upscale residential Kabul neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan, was specifically aimed at Mr. Bugti, a Western diplomat and an Afghan intelligence official said.

The Pakistani government has branded Mr. Bugti a terrorist, the leader of the militant Baluch Republican Army, and has made no secret of its desire to kill or capture him. It has repeatedly demanded that Afghanistan hand him over and has accused India of supporting Baluch rebels through its consulates in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s remonstrations over Mr. Bugti became so insistent that the United States and other NATO members urged Afghanistan to move Mr. Bugti elsewhere, Western diplomats and Afghan officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the politics involved. In October 2010, he and his family arrived in Switzerland and sought political asylum.

 Though Mr. Bugti says he supports only peaceful political activism rather than armed resistance, he does share the rebels’ demand for independence for the Baluch. “I support the political struggle and the idea for liberation because the Baluch people demand it,” he said.

He formed a political party shortly after his grandfather’s death, distancing himself from the established parties. The manner of his grandfather’s death, his call for political opposition to the government and his youth have won him broad support beyond his own Bugti tribe, among the educated Baluch middle class and student movements and appointed representatives in every district.

“We got a very good response from all the Baluch,” he said.

It proved to him that people in Baluchistan still hoped and believed in political change, he said. Yet government retribution was swift. Eight members of his political party in Baluchistan have been killed, five members of its central committee are missing since its formation in 2007 and the top leaders have been forced into exile. Even the party’s 76-year-old secretary general, Bashir Azeem, was detained for two months in 2009 and tortured — including being beaten and hung upside down, in a case documented by Human Rights Watch.

It is part of an increasingly deadly government crackdown on political and student nationalist leaders in the province over the last 18 months, politicians and human rights officials say. “They are trying to kill the activists, anyone who is speaking out,” Mr. Bugti said.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented a rising number of abuses by the Pakistani security forces in Baluchistan. Amnesty International describesthe use of “kill and dump” tactics, under which activists, teachers, journalists and lawyers, even teenagers, have been detained and their bullet-ridden bodies dumped on roadsides at a rate of about 20 a month in recent months.

Human Rights Watch says hundreds of people have disappeared since 2005 in Baluchistan, and it has documented 45 cases of enforced disappearances and torture by Pakistani security forces in the province in 2009 and 2010. Human Rights Watch has also reported a growing trend of retaliation by armed rebels on non-Baluch settlers, including the targeted killings of 22 teachers.

Despite the end of General Musharraf’s rule and Pakistan’s return to a democratic government in 2008, military repression of the Baluch has only increased, Mr. Bugti and others say. Members of the civilian government say they have no power over the military, and the army is obsessed with crushing an uprising that it sees as an effort by India to undermine Pakistani sovereignty.

Mr. Bugti has called on the United States to end aid to the Pakistani Army, which, he said, was diverting resources from intended counterterrorism goals and using them to suppress the Baluch. “If the U.S. stopped the military and financial assistance, they could not continue their operations for long,” he said.

The increased violence has pushed the Baluch far beyond their original demands for greater autonomy and recognition of their rights and toward an armed independence movement. “Ninety-nine percent of the Baluch now want liberation,” Mr. Bugti said.

“The people are more angry and they will go to the side of those using violence, because if you close all the peaceful ways of struggle, and you kidnap the peaceful, political activists, and torture them to death and throw their bodies on roadsides, then definitely they will go and join the armed resistance groups,” he said.

He sees little hope of change from within Pakistan and seeks intervention by the United Nations and Western nations. “We have to struggle hard, maybe for 1 year, 2 years, 20 years,” he said. “We have to hope.”

One Comment to “A Leader of Baloch in Pakistan.”

  1. The End of Insurgency?
    AUGUST 24, 2011 ⋅

    Baloch nationalist leader Bramdagh Bugti, 30, has spoken for the first time since fleeing from Afghanistan to seek asylum in Switzerland. The New York Times has not only run a fresh profile-like story about Mr. Bugti but also shared an unseen picture of the popular guerrilla leader.

    In the fresh get-up, Mr. Bugti looks like a Citibank executive.

    There was nothing new in the interview except one striking quote:

    “Though Mr. Bugti says he supports only peaceful political activism rather than armed resistance, he does share the rebels’ demand for independence for the Baluch.”

    In the past Bramdagh clearly supported the Baloch armed resistance movement by justifying it under the umbrella of “self-defence” although there is no public evidence of his direct association with any armed groups.

    The Baloch Republican Party (BRP), a political outfit which was founded by Mr. Bugti rejected parliamentary politics but always offered unconditional support to the Baloch armed groups locally known as sarmachars. [Freedom fighters]

    Bramdagh’s BRP had recently pulled out of the pro-resistance-until-independence Baloch National Front (BNF), a group of different political organizations and civil rights groups because of latter’s scathing and consistent criticism of the Balochistan National Party.

    We also know that Bramdagh has disowned some of his interviews in the past. He may say he’d been misquoted again if his fresh interview generates a new wave of restlessness among his followers.

    However, if Mr. Bugti decides to publicly support peaceful struggle over the armed resistance in the future, this will tremendously upset the ongoing Baloch insurgency mainly in Jaffarabad, Naseerabad, Kohlu, Sibi and Dera Bugti districts on the borders of Sindh and Punjab provinces.

    Bramdagh’s charisma is more widespread than his grandfather’s, Nawab Akbar Bugti. He is extremely loved by middle class educated youth all over the province. His withdrawal from supporting the armed resistance, if it ever happens, will be a crucial milestone in the current movement?

    We have to wait and see whether it was a misquote or a policy change from Mr. Bugti, a message for which he chose a major global publication like the New York Times as the channel.

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    About Malik Siraj Akbar
    Malik Siraj Akbar is based in Washington DC as a Hubert Humphrey Fellow at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a project of the Center for Public Integrity. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Baloch Hal, the first online English newspaper of Balochistan.
    View all posts by Malik Siraj Akbar »
    « Perils of reporting in BalochistanA Talk-Show That Resembled an India-Pakistan Cricket Match »
    6 Responses to “The End of Insurgency?”
    Its a big news. A retreat by Bramdagh Bugti would de-escalate the ongoing insurgency in Baluchistan. It would be a hopeful sign for the peoples of Baluchistan. But, the Baloch grievances must be addressed at any cost by the federal government and military establishment including its notorious secret agencies. Otherwise, the Baloch insurgency would still be an unfinished episode.

    POSTED BY CHANGEZI | AUGUST 24, 2011, 11:50 PM
    salam dear so nice pic jan Azhad balochistan

    Asylum in Europe is never given to those who are actively involved in supporting, directing or having participated in an on-going armed conflict. Under such conditions, do you really think Bramdagh Bugti would be able or stupid enough to openly associate himself with the Baloch armed-struggle of the liberation movement while having sought asylum in Switzerland? Of course he can not do such a thing while based in the West. He has given a very vague but nuanced response to the New York Times.

    POSTED BY FREEDOM | AUGUST 25, 2011, 9:33 PM
    well he is beloved all around the world in baloch communities and he is a brave baloch sarmachar , I think he is smart enough not to break the hearts of specially baloch youths who admire him more than any one except sardar marri, and giving their lives for baloch cause but its too early to judge him we should wait and see what really he is coming up with for future .i am just glad to see him in such a great look he deserves it and hoping for his well being .

    POSTED BY RAJKAROK | AUGUST 25, 2011, 11:45 PM
    Bramdagh Bugti is real hero of Baloch history and I agree with him to 99% Baloch need freedom

    Dear Malik ! i am very optimist about your stay in US after this flattery of your pakistani masters but it is completely an unsuccessfull attempt to distort the image of our leader Mir Brahumdagh bugti. try next time with a better one after recieving a good lecture from ur pakistani masters,he would only be a stupid who would not understand why “Mir Brahumdagh” said that he do not support violent struggle….Baloch are simpleton but not fool that you will make them fool by such disgusting conversation



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