"Bugti’s killing is the biggest blunder since Bhutto’s execution"
Whoever in the national security establishment decided to eliminate Nawab Bugti physically is clueless about the force of politics, history and nationalism. Clearly, this was a politically inopportune moment for it. Most of what the opposition will say about the killing of Mr Bugti is going to gibe with what leading PMLQ politicians have felt: that the deadlock in Balochistan should not be resolved through military action. The ruling party is already bedevilled with rifts that President Pervez Musharraf is hard put to control. With the barrage of violent statements that are bound to come from the opposition these rifts are going to be more difficult to paper over. Nawab Bugti, already 80 plus, wanted a heroic death for many personal, provincial and extra-provincial reasons. Whoever took military action against him has granted him his wish to be a martyr. This is a political nightmare that the PMLQ will find hard to handle here and now and Pakistan in the hereafter.
Whatever his personality and past, Nawab Bugti’s death is bound to become part of the heroic lore of Baloch history of resistance against the state since 1947 and strengthen the separatist emotion in the province. Since much of the Baloch struggle had combined with the all-Pakistan campaign against such phenomena as military rule and the cruel centralism of One Unit, it will find resonance with most Pakistanis — especially in the smaller provinces. His death will put an end to the case building by the government before going for the kill on Saturday. The case built by the state against the rebellious ‘sardars’ was not incredible: their insurgents were blowing up public assets and carrying out attacks against state personnel, they had organised ‘farari’ camps where Baloch warriors were trained and, finally, they were recipients of large sums of money, possibly sent in by India through Afghanistan. But now all this will sound like so much unconvincing history.
Baloch nationalism is based on a number of factors recognised by the textbooks but the most significant component is tribal resistance and honour. The sardari system provided leadership to this nationalism by upholding Baloch honour. While the Baloch politician developed flexible political skills, the Baloch sardar outshone him in the eyes of the Baloch people because of his inflexibility and an implacable assertion of Baloch rights. Of course, the Bugti-Marri-Mengal triumvirate of Baloch nationalism that developed over the years had its internal tensions and there was a tacit struggle for supremacy among the three. Needless to say, only the most radical could have won. It is in this framework that Nawab Bugti’s final choice of death has to be seen. And it is here that Islamabad has erred most grievously and might have to pay a high price for it. It has let Nawab Bugti win the final battle. He will now be the all-Balochistan symbol of resistance to Islamabad. If there is external interference in Balochistan it will only be strengthened.