An Insightful Indication of How Much Things Have Changed in Baluchistan
By Malik Siraj Akbar
Daily Times, July 1, 2007
QUETTA: Former Balochistan corps commander-turned-governor Abdul Qadir Baloch announced on Saturday that he intends to contest the upcoming general elections to “carry on the message” of the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.
“Bugti is my hero and his vision is my vision,” Lt-General Baloch said in an exclusive interview with Daily Times.
He said he could not stay silent watching the “exploitation” of Baloch resources by the establishment that mainly comprises senior Punjabi bureaucrats, military men and journalists. “We [the Baloch] should not live in isolation. We have to unite to forcefully snatch our rights from the centralised federation,” he said.
Gen Baloch, who has also served as director general of Rangers, said his political aspirations were inspired by the late Nawab Bugti, the Baloch tribal chieftain who was killed last year. “He is the martyr of the Baloch nation and the icon of resistance. He gave an ideology to the Baloch youth of fighting for their sahil (coast) and washail (resources). Until we fight for our rights, we will remain backward,” he remarked.
He said he had not decided which party he would join, though he was in touch with Baloch nationalist parties and two leading national parties. “I have put my demand before the two main parties. If the acquiesce to my demand of accepting the Baloch right of ownership of our coast and resources, then I will join them,” he said. “I have been repeatedly offered by Jam Sahib [the chief minister] to join the PML, but I declined the offer.” He hopes to stand for election in constituencies in Panjur-Kharan or Quetta city.
A commander at the Gurdaspur front in the Indo-Pak war of 1971, Gen Baloch condemned repeated military operations in Balochistan. “They carry out an operation against the Baloch people after every ten years. Why don’t they conduct an operation in Sindh? Why don’t they launch an operation in Punjab? Why is there no need for a military operation in NWFP? Why Balochistan each time?” the general asked.
“A national commission should be constituted to find out why there is a need for a military operation in Balochistan all the time. The intelligence agencies have been given a free hand to harass the people of Balochistan and interfere in the matters of the province. They come in plain clothes and pick up the people to take to torture cells.”
Gen Baloch said he was very concerned about the mounting anti-military and anti-federation sentiments among the younger generation of the Baloch.
He said that President General Pervez Musharraf had planned to kill Nawab Bugti much earlier. But he had warned the president of the dire consequences of such an act. Gen Musharraf did not like the advice and consequently fired him from the governorship, he said.
“As a corps commander, I was General Musharraf’s darling. But when I resisted his plans of launching an operation in Balochistan as the Balochistan governor, he suddenly turned against me. By then, he thought it was not safe to keep a Baloch as the governor,” he said.
Qadir said intelligence agencies, “influenced by the Pashtuns”, had played a decisive role in ousting him. He said Gen Musharraf was “very upset with me, cecause I call Nawab Bugti Shaeed. They [colleagues in the army] have no complaints against me but they hate me when I call Nawab Bugti a martyr.” He said he had been very embarrassed on a number of occasions over the “irresponsible actions’ of Gen Musharraf, which had turned the public against the army.
“Let me be very clear: It is just a handful of generals who have usurped power. The rest of the army, which comprises half of a million people, is purely serving professionally. The army must not have a political role,” he said.
He said he did not believe that the expression of trust in Gen Musharraf’s leadership made by a corps commanders’ conference actually came from the corps commanders themselves. The corps commanders are purely professional people and they don’t endorse the military’s political role, he said.
Gen Baloch expressed dissatisfaction over the appointment of Owais Ahmed Ghani as the governor of Balochistan. The main problem with Balochistan, he said, is that the province is directly controlled from Islamabad. The governor and the chiefs of various services are all imported. “All these people are brought to Balochistan to pave the way for military operations and the exploitation of the Baloch resources,” he said.
“It is not as if I support the Baloch insurgents. I totally denounce violence. What saddens me the most is the fact that each time the military operations culminate in the death of innocent children, women and elderly citizens. Except Nawab Bugti, no sardar has ever been killed in a military operation,” he said.
He said a fifth military operation was currently underway in Balochistan. “The first military operation was launched in 1948. Then they carried out a similar operation in Mengal and partially in Marri tribal areas in 1962-67. The same thing happened in 1973 and in the 1980s. Now it is the fifth military operation going on.”
Gen Baloch rejected the impression that the Baloch sardars were the main obstacle to Balochistan’s development. He pointed out that of the 16 MNAs from Balochistan, there was only one sardar, Yar Mohammad Rind, and out of more than 50 members of the Balochistan Assembly, there is only one sardar, Chief Minister Jam Mohammad Yousaf.
“The rest of them come from the middle class. It is the government itself supporting the sardars. The old sardari system has totally collapsed in Balochistan now. It is nonexistent. Sardars no longer enjoy extreme powers or possess their own armies. They are all democrats,” he said.