Modi has raised Balochistan's hopes. Now he must deliver

Baloch Republican Party president Brahumdagh Bugti has appealed to India to open its door to refugees.

 |  9-minute read |   06-09-2016
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A young and dynamic leader of Balochistan freedom movement Brahumdagh Bugti, president of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP), on Monday tweeted: "Happy Ganesh Chaturthi to the great people of India and all Hindu brothers across the world."

Bugti's tweet was in line with a flurry of activity since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic speech from the ramparts of Red Fort three weeks ago - from a Baloch female activist’s Raksha Bandhan appeal to Modi to slogans of "har, har Modi".

Now imagine March 17, 2005, Dera Bugti - stronghold of the largest Baloch tribe called Bugtis in Balochistan. The Pakistani Army launches a massive attack on the home of Baloch statesman Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, 79, former governor and chief minister of Balochistan.

The orders for the attack came from Pakistan coup leader and military dictator General Pervez Musharraf. According to the Baloch Republican Party, the Pakistani Army used gunship helicopters, mortars and rocket shells in the attack, with the plan to eliminate Nawab Bugti. The martyrs included as many as 72 innocent Baloch civilians, including 33 Hindus.

More than 100 Baloch were wounded and the attack destroyed a mosque and a Hindu temple. Quite a few members of Nawab Bugti's family and close companions were wounded, but the Nawab miraculously escaped harm. Earlier this year, the BRP appealed to civilised nations and countries, particularly the US and neighbouring India, to play their role in ending escalating human rights violations in Balochistan and support the oppressed Baloch nation’s struggle for justice, equality and freedom.

Fast forward to August 15. India’s 70th Independence Day is being celebrated at the Red Fort in New Delhi. Here, Narendra Modi, the leader of the world’s largest democracy, is addressing at least one-sixth of humanity.

His speech brings hope in the hearts of more than 25 million Baloch people in Balochistan and the diaspora - residing mostly in the Gulf nations but also some who have found refuge in Europe and North America, to escape imminent death in Pakistan - that seven decades of blood and tears of Balochistan may soon be replaced by the dawn of independence. There are no two views among the Baloch that their free country was annexed by Pakistan at gunpoint.

American historian Professor Chris Mason agrees with this view and writes about the Partition holocaust, "Amid all this chaos and bloodshed, it is often forgotten that another new independent country was born in Partition, not just Pakistan and India. On August 12, 1947, the Khan of Kalat declared the independence of Kalat, or Balochistan. The front page of The New York Times of August 15, 1947, clearly shows both Tibet and Balochistan, then better known as Kalat, as independent countries. For seven-and-a-half months, Kalat-Balochistan remained a free and independent country. But on March 27, 1948, Pakistan invaded and occupied Kalat."

According to Mason, there is evidence in historical record suggesting that the aging Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmadyar Khan,was negotiating at that time with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India to seek Indian protection from any Pakistani territorial aggression. But Kalat-Balochistan may have been betrayed by both Nehru as well as the British, as Nehru took no action.

Mason further says that regardless of the political machinations taking place, it is a matter of historical fact that the nascent Pakistani Army invaded, occupied and annexed Kalat-Balochistan. "It is also not in dispute that there was never a referendum, and to this day the people of Balochistan have never been polled on whether they wish to be incorporated into the territory of Pakistan," he says.   

The faulty logic of Pakistan to invade Balochistan was that the Baloch were Muslims, just like it lays claims on Indian Kashmir, the cradle of Hindu and Buddhist civilization. One of the most powerful voices for an independent Balochistan at the time of the 1947 Partition holocaust was Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo, a former governor of Balochistan and family friend of this writer.

modi-pti-embed_090616025416.jpg Was PM Narendra Modi's Independence Day statement on Balochistan simply sound and fury? (Photo credit: PTI)  

Bizenjo famously said in his speech against accession with Pakistan: “We are Muslims but it did not mean (it is) necessary to lose our independence and merge with other nations because of the Muslim faith. If our accession into Pakistan, being Muslim, is necessary then Muslim states of Afghanistan and Iran, should also merge with Pakistan.”

Four decades later, in 1988, the late Bizenjo personally narrated to this writer what happened at the time of Partition. Bizenjo said he along with other leaders of the Kalat State National Party, the main Baloch political party at that time, went to Delhi and met with All India Congress leaders to warn them about Pakistan's evil designs and seek their help in case of war with that country.

However, Congress leaders refused to support Balochistan against an impending Pakistani occupation. Viewed in this context, Modi's speech on Independence Day may be a sign that India, with eyes assuming the role of a major superpower this century, is all set to correct the Nehruvian blunder of 1947.

Almost all Baloch leaders and activists welcomed Modi’s historic statement; Pakistan lodged cases against Bugti, London-based Hyrbyair Marri and Toronto-based Karima Baloch, president of the Baloch Students Organization Azad.

Islamabad singled out Bugti for vicious attacks, however. The Army and Inter-Services Intelligence's (ISI) hand-picked chief minister of Balochistan Sanaullah Zehri, who reportedly killed his elder brother Sardar Rasool Bakhsh Zehri and also allegedly killed scores of his tribesmen with his own hands, addressed public meetings and press conferences with pictures of Modi and Brahumdagh Bugti marked with a big “X". Effigies of Modi were burnt at a rally staged by ISI stooges in Khuzdar, the same district where mass graves were discovered in early 2014.

Undeterred by Islamabad’s attacks, Brahumdagh Bugti addressed the 10th anniversary to commemorate the August 26, 2006, assassination of his grandfather Nawab Bugti. The event entitled 'Americans Remember Shaheed Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti' was organised by American Friends of Balochistan at the National Press Club in Washington DC.

Bugti said winds of change are blowing across South Asia and Southwest Asia and that he was “thoroughly indebted” to Modi for openly condemning Pakistan for atrocities in Balochistan and for acting “to fulfil his international role of responsibility to protect, commonly called R2P, under the new norms of international law".

He added: "States do have the right to intervene, by all possible means when a hapless people, in this case the Baloch of Balochistan, are subjected to war crimes, crimes against humanity and are facing a genocidal situation.”

Last week, Balochistan home minister Sarfaraz Bugti revealed that Islamabad was seeking an Interpol red warrant for Brahumdagh Bugti’s arrest. The minister, who is a member of the Bugti tribe but has no political following or tribal standing among the Bugtis, has been posted by the infamous ISI and the Pakistan Army's southern command, that is holding Balochistan under military boots, to help crush the Baloch movement for freedom and justice.

However, encouraged by Modi’s overture to end the plight of the Baloch people, in the same way slain premier Indira Gandhi had acted to end the plight of Bengalis of the erstwhile East Pakistan in 1971, Brahumdagh Bugti came out with an appeal to India to open its door for Baloch political refugees.

On Sunday, Brahumdagh Bugti re-tweeted a tweet by Brajesh Misra, editor and broadcast journalist, who works for ETV and is host of @PrimeDebate: “Now @PMOIndia shud open door for #Baloch people President of #BRP @BBugti deserves asylum in India like @DalaiLama.”

It is pertinent to point out here that more than six years ago, when this scribe first spoke with Bugti while he was in Afghanistan, the young leader had revealed that his preferred destination for asylum was India but New Delhi was not amenable to his request.

Brahumdagh Bugti was personally groomed by the late Nawab Bugti, who had a very interesting personality. Former Pakistan ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, who is these days one of Pakistan Deep State’s (ISI and the country's army together) most hated men, in his tributes to Bugti called him a Baloch icon and lion of Balochistan.

The no-nonsense and secular Nawab Bugti's killing was in fact a tragedy. Emma Duncan, in her book Breaking the Curfew, recalls what Nawab Bugti told her about heaven for Muslims after death - “I don’t believe that stuff. After death, there is earth. Then the maggots get you. But my nephew… he believes in paradise. He has been on hajj twice. You know what he is promised in paradise? Houris, ghilmans and sharab. Prostitutes, little boys and wine. Very special prostitutes and boys…. They have no openings.”

Brahumdagh Bugti, like his grandfather, rejects Islamic radicalism and his party, like other pro-independence Baloch parties and organisations, is a bulwark against spread of Islamic radicalism in Balochistan. However, like all brown people of South and Southwest Asia, Bugti seems to have become a victim of Swiss white racism, compounded by Pakistani machinations.

Though he arrived in Switzerland almost six years ago, Bugti's asylum petition is still pending which makes it almost impossible for him to play his role freely for the independence of Balochistan.

Bugti’s appeal is a big test whether India is sincere towards Balochistan's freedom and will go the whole nine yards to reclaim the Baloch waters of the Gulf as part of the Indian Ocean, in her own long-term national interests.

Or if Modi's speech was simply sound and fury, signifying nothing, as tit-for-tat to Pakistan’s incitement of violence in Kashmir and India will forever remain the castrated elephant when it comes to facing Islamabad.

Also read: By raising Balochistan issue, Modi may have walked into a trap

Also read: How Balochistan gave birth to the best of Bollywood

Also read: Pakistan stands exposed. Even UN recorded its brutalities in Balochistan

Writer

Ahmar Mustikhan Ahmar Mustikhan @mustikhan

Ahmar Mustikhan is a senior Balochistan journalist based in Washington DC area.

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