Portrait of a rebel leader
Sitting in a posh hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, the young leader of Balochistan was unwilling to come back to Pakistan, or reconcile. “Nothing short of independence of Balochistan is acceptable,” was his firm reply.
Brahumdagh Bugti is a cool, composed and soft-spoken young man. Talking to him, one does not get the impression of being in the presence of a revolutionary, insurgent or guerilla fighter, allegedly running terrorists’ training camps in Afghanistan. His composure, even when serious and personal questions were asked, was impressive.
His general appearance was also starkly different from what one would have expected. Meeting him was hardly likely. But, he has his own network, which had assured me that he would get in touch. He did, one evening. He walked in — in beret cap, the typical Baloch beard shaven off. Wearing a jeans and shirt, he had no resemblance with any of his common photos available on websites, or seen in newspapers.
Brahumdagh, to one’s astonishment, is a clear-headed person. He seems to have well-thought out all the issues, which he thinks are relevant to Balochistan. What are the basis on which he claims to be representing the Baloch and demanding independence?
He said he did not claim to solely represent the Baloch. However he added, “The majority supports independence. I challenge.
Let there be a referendum under the auspices of the United Nations, only in the Baloch areas. If the people say they want to live with Pakistan, I will have no objection; I will accept that. I will give up my demand.”
He does not speak on behalf of the Pashtun areas. “I talk about the independence of the Baloch people, not about Pashtuns. But that does not mean we have any difference with them. They may decide about their own future.”
Brahumdagh is of the view that the exploitation of the resources of Balochistan and depriving the people of these benefits and their rights are the basic grievances. Gas was first discovered in Balochistan, but the Baloch were not given it, similarly, the construction of port in Gwadar did not benefit the Baloch people, he says.
Brahumdagh blames Gen (retd) Pervaiz Musharraf for worsening the situation. He claims, the general in 2002, wanted to have deep drilling in Bugti areas, but “My grandfather refused to give permission. The government offered a huge amount — four billion or eight billion — but the elder Bugti refused and asked for previous accounts of the gas recovered from Sui”.
Even speaking privately, Brahumdagh is not willing to budge. No talks, no reconciliation, no coming back to Pakistan, are his firm replies, confident, and apparently well-considered. “None. Nothing short of independence,” he says resolutely, when asked at the end of the interview, “Any possibility and any chance of reconciliation.” — Idrees Bakhtiar