Thursday, February 03, 2005

BLA Prepares for Showdown Over Sui Residents


Special SAT Report

SUI, DERA BUGTI, Balochistan, February 3: The Army authorities have sent Captain Hammad, the officer accused of raping the PPL Lady doctor at Sui, on forced leave prior to his permanent transfer to a unit deployed in NWFP Tribal Areas, PPL sources here have revealed.

“The officer has not been arrested and will not be arrested. He was seen performing his duty in his uniform as late as evening of January 30,” the sources said although the official believed that if any political dialogue begins, the authorities may announce that he was under detention, though this would be a deception.

The PPL official talked to the South Asia Tribune correspondent shortly after some reports had referred to the arrest of the main accused along with two doctors of PPL and the company’s executive who were accused of obstructing police investigations by falsifying and hiding evidence.

The SAT correspondent, whose identity is not being disclosed because Army authorities would immediately arrest or deport him, also talked to several militants of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) who have taken up positions in the Dera Bugti area, waiting for the Army operation to begin.

But now their biggest challenge is the announcement by the Army that Sui was being turned into an Army Garrison and the residential colony of thousands of Bugtis and local workers would be bulldozed in the name of protecting the Sui Gas installations.

A BLA source in Dera Bugti disclosed that all BLA men have been put on red alert since January 31 and if Pakistan Army starts any activity to demolish or bulldoze the houses or colonies, BLA would retaliate furiously. The source warned all outsiders to take the warning seriously but also cautioned that the Army itself may attack some of the outsiders to blame the BLA. “Before putting the blame, all concerned must find out who was behind any provocative move,” the source emphasized.

The SAT Correspondent talked to a number of ordinary Bugti tribesmen, the so-called common man in the Dera Bugti area to get an idea of how he looks at the Army decision to set up a Garrison.

Mehar Ali, sitting under a tree watching his kids playing around, observed: "I don`t know what will the Army give us in the form of a cantonment. We are already under pressure by previously stationed Bhambore Rifles, a wing of Frontier Constabulary stationed there.”

Then Mehar Ali made a startling disclosure: “We cannot even go to get waters from Peer Chata spring, the major source of drinking water in the town, just few meters away from the FC Cantonment. If someone tries to go there the Bhambore Rifles take him into custody for days and and interrogate him. The BF Troops have blocked the main entrance of the City Bazar for several years and if we have to meet our relatives out of town or have to travel for some other reason we have to use a diversion of 2 kilometers to pass a distance of just 500 meters. They want to torture the people, even kill us if they can but ask them what they will get in return.”

In the caves of nearby hilltops our correspondent met a group of BLA militants, who were taking rest and passing their time, hiding their presence in the day light and becoming active in the dark.

Ameer Din, a former school teacher was one of them. On the issue of setting up a Garrison, he responded: "No doubt it will bring the concept of development in the area. They will surely set up a CMH, and an Army Public School for the families of officers and troops, from which a small number of local people may also benefit. A few people will get proper education and better medical treatment, but what we are going to lose really matters to every Baloch: our sovereignty.”

He continued: “We are already treated like slaves of dark ages, as there will be a huge occupying force present. The outsiders will snatch our last loafs of breads, even our respect and honor which have ever been a matter of life and death in our society. We will never be protected any more. We expect the worst. Whatever happened to Dr. Shazia Khalid in Sui will happen to every woman of our tribe. Every uniformed soldier may behave like Captain Hammad. This is what we fear. Therefore in spite of being a teacher, I have thrown away the pen and picked up this gun. I know blood comes out of this barrel, but it is now necessary to shower this blood around."

Ameer Din was a school teacher but now he leads a patrolling team of BLA militants, in a desert near Sui. One of his team members was Allah Bakhsh, who got a Masters Degree from Balochistan University in Quetta and belongs to the Marri Tribe, a strong and close ally of the Bugtis. Bakhsh was reading a book, titled: "Some Reasons For War." Our correspondent asked him a few questions:

SAT: How is it that you are carrying a gun and a book together?

AB: I feel proud that I did not quit my habit of reading even in such a difficult time. Fortunately this time the Baloch fighters are educated, they can understand the environment and war strategies are no more a secret. Sure General Musharraf was right: This is not the era of 70s.”

SAT: You could have better life opportunities in the urban centers of Karachi and Quetta, so don`t you think you are wasting your energy and time on hilltops?

AB: You are right, but can you give these arguments to the citizens of Fallujah in Iraq or Gaza in Palestine. They have even better opportunities than me, as America will open the doors of New York to traitors of Iraq and Palestine. Just try to convince them. I am not mad. I can understand what is going on, though I am afraid of snakes, afraid of thirst in the desert, afraid of breathtaking cold, but all my fears go away when the fear of facing humiliation like slaves hovers around. I know the human life is precious, but honor and respect is more precious than life.”

SAT: BLA fighters are believed to be backed by Sardars and Nawabs so are you not working for their vested interests?

Ameer Din: Vested interests of Sardars and Nawabs? We are working and sacrificing for the interests of every Baloch individual. We are working for all those who are under the slavery of Punjab and its Army. Our cause is not different than the cause of any "Mazloom" (subjugated) nation on earth. Thanks to the Sardars and Nawabs who support us morally and present our point of view on political forums. And thanks to those Sardars and so called chiefs as well who are strictly against us as they have exposed themselves at this point and we will not be trapped by such traitors any more.

The SAT correspondent also approached a police official in the town. ASP Moeen Khan is in Sui for a special task and posted in a nearby district. His views: "Bugti is a wild tribe, they are emotional and extremists in their traditions. We cannot handle them through conventional ways so if there will be a cantonment of regular Army troops, it will be easier for us to crush this tribe."

SAT: Why to crush? Why not to reform to bring this wilderness into civilization?

Moeen: Crushing the wildness is the first phase of reforms.

SAT: As per our knowledge 97per cent of the population belongs to the Bugti Tribe. If you crush the tribe then for whom you are going to bring reforms?

Moeen: (laughing) What if a tribe is crushed and eliminated, Pakistan is well populated so we won’t face any difficulty in civilization.

SAT: Do you mean you will sweep out the entire population and bring people from other areas of Pakistan to live here?

Moeen: Not exactly, I want that locale people must be given a chance. We will crush only the militants but if their claim that every man in the tribe will resist is right, then we have little choice.

Shahzada Khan works as a mechanical helper in the PPL inside the Purification Plant. His home is just a few meters away from the fencing area. When SAT correspondent talked to Khan, he was bitter: "They have the force, the might, so they will bulldoze our home, though I have built my house on my own property. It matters little for the Government. But I am worried where to live, if I move to the proposed "Mut" deserts how the kids will manage to go to the school, Traveling 34 kilometers a day for a kid is not sensible."

Amanullah, a mess waiter says: "They just want to take away the facilities we can use here. How will I manage to bring my 70-year old father to the field hospital daily, as he is a chronic diabetic and cannot survive without insulin."

Mureed Bugti, an "Arzee nawees" (Application writer) who sits in front of the Town Administration offices says "people were already in trouble to access the local administration offices, due to the deployment of security agencies in the area. Now if they are moved far away, no one will be able to come over. They have to move the local administration offices as well.

What will be the role of Levies, the alternate to police force in the area, if the residents are moved away from their present location. Rawat Khan, a levies man responded: "At least Levies will not interrupt, we are all local and we can never be the part of outside force. They (the Army) have already arrested some of our Levies men because they refused to obey the orders to kill. We have been given the guns to protect our people, not to kill."

Shah Dina of Dinari Colony was asked what will be the shape of resistance if the Army forces the residents to shift permanently. "Nothing,” he said. “They don’t respect women and kids. So we won`t take the path of democratic agitation. No protest marches or shutdown strikes but our sympathies will be with the freedom fighters."

An old man, Jamal Khan, who is well known for his knowledge about the boundaries between different tribes and often resolves the intertribal border conflicts, claims that the piece of land the Army has acquired for the Garrison belongs to Haji Manoo Kalpar, not to any tribe.

Khan says there is no land belonging to any individual in the area. All the property belongs to tribal sub-castes. We divide the property between families on a 10 year basis. After every ten years the division is reviewed. So it is absolutely wrong that this land belongs to any individual."

In fact this land is the property of Bakhilani Bugti tribe and all the Bakhilani tribe is owner of the land. As this area has never been cultivated it was never divided according to the 10-year formula. This is the reserved land of this tribe."

Explaining the claims of the Army that payment of Rs 100 million had been made for the land, an official of the local administration said: "In fact Government paid a handsome amount to some people of Kalpar Bugtis in the regime of Benazir Bhutto, to develop a counter force against Nawab Bugti. Some 20 families including Haji Manoo were funded by ISI, through Zakat and Bait ul Mal Funds. This was admitted by Mr. Asif Ali Zardari as well. These funds caused worst bloodshed among the tribes in the area and right now those families are scattered in Punjab and Sindh due to their tribal enmities. Once again Government is playing the same game."

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