Saturday, July 16, 2005

Balochistan is not a signatory to the Constitution

HARDtalk; “The talk about development is a diversion” —Akbar Bugti, chief of Jamhoori Watan Party: Part two, concluded

* Balochistan is not a signatory to the Constitution
* [BLA] struggle is for Baloch rights
* [Gas] is Balochistan’s produce, not ‘national’ asset
* Pakistan is a product of the law of necessity

Daily Times: You say you were the target?

Mr. Akbar Khan Bugti: Yes. Look, there were seven points from where intense fire came that day. From four of these, they were firing at my house, my bethak, my kutchery. Over 600 shells were fired, plus hundreds of thousands of machinegun bullets... large caliber, small caliber, everything. Over 600 mortar, cannon and RR shells. They also shot at us from helicopters.

DT: All that, according to the government, happened after your people created a serious law and order problem. Sui was attacked and supply of gas was disrupted for several days.

NABK: That is standard procedure for them (army). As they say, ulta chor kotwal ko dantay. Dr Goebbels said bigger the lie, the better chance of its being believed.

DT: The clashes must have been followed by arrest of your people.

NABK: Arrests are a routine thing...

DT: Have they released some or all of them? As a goodwill gesture?

NABK: No. There’s no goodwill. Or any other will.

DT: One assumed that release of your men must have been the first thing the government did as a result of the visits by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain Syed to Dera Bugti to reach an understanding with you.

NABK: Not me, with people of Balochistan. They thought they could do that through me. I told them I had no mandate. That was their main concern... their Parliamentary Committee report or their recommendations... that I also should go along with it. I told them: “Sorry. That doesn’t concern me.”

DT: President Pervez Musharraf says that you, Mr. Mengal and Mr. Marri are the three Sardars opposing him; that the rest of the Balochistan is with him.

NABK: Quite right actually. Absolutely, 100 percent right. He said 70 Sardars were “sarkari” Sardars. They were with him. Then he amended that, saying it was 76 sardars. He can claim 200 and we will not object. But those who want their rights; those who are fighting for their rights; naturally, the government will call them the enemy.

DT: But there is a perception that the Sardars are responsible for the backwardness and poverty of the Baloch people.

NABK: Are we? Quite right. We are struggling for their rights all we get from the government is bullets and the shells. The plight of the people is borne out by government actions.

DT: Why don’t you seek a solution for your problems within the parameters of the Constitution?

NABK: Which Constitution?

DT: The 1973 Constitution.

NABK: According to international law, the 1973 Constitution does not apply to Balochistan. Why? Because Balochistan then had five elected members in parliament and three of them did not sign it. Two did. The majority did not sign the Constitution. The Constitution does not apply to Balochistan because Balochistan is not a signatory to it. Whatever they have been doing all along is unconstitutional, illegal and unlawful.

DT: Do support the demand for a constituent assembly to frame a new Constitution?

NABK: No. We had a Constitution Amendment Bill pending in the Senate for four or five years. We told Chaudhry Shujaat and Mushahid Husain there would be no need for a new constitution if they support the amendment. But they want to make some superficial changes and demand its acceptance at gunpoint. The Mushahid sub-committee report has come, but the Constitution sub-committee report is still awaited. They said certain changes could be made to the Concurrent List. We said Concurrent List was obsolete. It was finished 20 years ago. They wanted to give us some rubbish we don’t need but would not concede what we asked for. You will notice that when the Constitution sub-committee report comes out.

DT: The principal criticism of the Parliamentary Committee Report by Baloch leaders has been that it took over 270 days instead of the stipulated 90 days.

NABK: That doesn’t matter much. If you can’t do it in two months, you can take 10 months as long as something beneficial, something cogent comes out.

DT: Dr Abdul Hayee has said the committee took longer than the stipulated time.

NABK: That is Dr Hayee. He’s stressing the time factor. I am stressing the substance of the matter. The report lacks substance.

DT: President Musharraf says the government is focusing Balochistan. It has allocated Rs 10 billion in projects like
Mekran Highway
, Gwadar Port and Mirani Dam.

NABK: His focus is on Balochistan. But to destroy Balochistan and its people. To destroy those raising a voice for their rights, for what they produce. The focus is on destroying all this. That is true.

DT: Don’t you see the Baloch benefiting from the development plans for Balochistan?

NABK: What development plans? The talk about development plans is meant to divert people’s attention. We want them to agree to what our needs are. If you concede that, then you can say here are 20, 10 or five billion rupees. If you continue to deny the fundamental rights, and offer a few rupees “ham tumhari hathely par bhikarion kee tarhaan rakhtay hain” then nobody is interested in it.

DT: What about the BLA and the BLF?

NABK: (Smiling) Go out [anywhere in Balochistan] and you will find them.

DT: Meaning?

NABK: Hold a placard inscribed with a message that you are looking for the Baloch Liberation Army; that you want to meet them; they will meet you. Yes, they will (sarcastically).

DT: I don’t understand.

NABK: If Jam Sahib [Chief Minister Jam Yusuf] can find them, why can’t you.

DT: Do you support them and their activities?

NABK: They are Baloch. They are my brothers. Every Baloch has sympathy for them. Their struggle is for Baloch rights. They are sacrificing their lives... What foolish Baloch will deny them and say: “Ham tumharay dushman hain.” Woh ya tau bohot bara gadha hoga ya ghaddar hoga.

DT: Even when they are destroying national assets and installations...

NABK: What installations?

DT: Sui installations, for example.

NABK: Sui installations are ours. Assuming, we destroy our own wealth, what business of yours is that? You are giving it a false name. We call it ‘national’ because it is ours. This is our produce. You have been stealing it. You are taking it [gas] by force. It is ours. Whatever name you give it — national installations, national asset, national museebat, national bala — doesn’t concern us. It is mine. It is ours.

DT: Are the proceeds from the sale of natural gas the real bone of contention between you and Islamabad?

NAKB: Payment of royalty is a constitutional requirement. Besides this, there are two other heads — development surcharge and excise duty. The proceeds from these come to five to six billion rupees. The largest amount is generated by development surcharge, followed by royalty and excise duty. These all go to the province or the provincial government. There is no question of these going to anybody else – me, for instance. We have never demanded any part of these three revenue heads. Our claim is that we, the Baloch, own the gas.

DT: Some Baloch leaders have said the government is trying to pitch the Baloch against the Pushtoon.

NABK: I don’t know. Ask them. Put this question to Mengal, Dr Abdul Hayee and Mahmood Khan Achakzai. They are the major parties [in PONM].

DT: Is there a Baloch versus Pushtoon conflict in Balochistan?

NABK: These are small things. Nothing in particular. But government is trying to.... unki koshish hay. Look, we believe the Baloch are living on their land, the Pakhtoon are living on theirs. There’s hardly any dispute until you come to Quetta and its surroundings. Beyond that go to the east or the west, everybody has been on the same land for hundred of centuries... there’s no dispute. The dispute is about Quetta and around it. That is the bone of contention.

DT: And it is going to be resolved?

NABK: I can’t say. Who is going to resolve it?

DT: The Pushtoon and the Baloch themselves.

NABK: Resolve what?

DT: The differences...

NABK: There are others who are there to make sure that there is no resolution. The government and government agencies, which are very powerful; they want to make sure that it is not resolved. The dispute remains and its intensity increases... That is their strategy.

DT: What about your opposition to government plans to set up cantonments in Balochistan? There have been reports that the government has reviewed its decision of delaying the construction of cantonments in Sui, Kohlu and Gwadar.

NABK: They have started preliminary work in Sui. There are reports that they are erecting pillars and putting barbed wire to isolate 200 to 300 acres.

DT: Does this violate the understanding resulting from your talks with Chaudhry Shujaat and Mushahid Hussain? Didn’t they assure you the construction of cantonments was being delayed?

NABK: Which month or year are you referring to?

DT: Last year.

NABK: Chaudhry Shujaat and Mushahid Hussain didn’t say it. It was Tariq Aziz [the National Security Council secretary]. He had said: “we are for the moment deferring the construction of the cantonment”. That was last year. Since then they have started the preliminary work.

DT: How have you reacted to that work?

NABK: People don’t accept it. They don’t like it. This is [being done] by force of arms. Not by people’s consent. Not by dam, dalasa. Like Dr Shazia Khalid. She was raped. She did not consent to it.

DT: in her case, you wanted an army captain to be arrested and punished?

NABK: He should have been. I heard what she told BBC the other day. When she talked to a meeting in Houston, she wept. She was crying, saying she didn’t get justice. She was thrown out of the country while the rapist is in the country enjoying his life. She has confirmed what I have been saying. That he is the rapist. She couldn’t say this here. She was too frightened. Here, there was nobody out there for her. Any woman would be afraid of military goons. And she was sent packing. General Musharraf said the man was 100 percent innocent. We said he was 2,000 per cent guilty. But he was in uniform, a “paity bhai”... Now Mukhtar Mai, she was also raped; gang-raped by a number of men. They were arrested and sentenced. Because they are ordinary people. She’s from the Punjab and they, too, are from the Punjab. But here this woman is from Karachi, Sindh, a Memon. And the rapist is from the holy land of Punjab, the holy of holies of armed forces, a “paity bhai”. That is the reason. Was anybody punished for the rapes in Dhaka? Sheikh Mujib told me that over 100,000 women were raped. Did you catch anybody and put him in jail?

DT: in his recent interview to Daily Times, President Musharraf accused you of gross human rights violations, particularly against Bundhlanis, a sub-tribe of Kalpars. He said you have forced them to live in tents in inhuman conditions subsisting on a few hundred rupees a month the government doles out. He holds you responsible for their plight.

NABK: Has he said that?

DT: Yes. He said it on record in an interview with the DT Editor.

NABK: Generals are known for lying. Every general, particularly the Pakistani generals. They tell the baray say bara jhoot. They don’t even blink their eyes while leveling false allegations against people. This is their preserve. There is nothing new about it. You can go there and see. They are living in houses. May be rented ones, may be purchased ones. Some in better houses; some in bungalows. And they are getting their allowances.

DT: But the allowances are paltry.

NABK: In the days of Gen Babar — another general — they got about 60 to 70 million rupees from the Baitul Maal. It’s on record. We have got the photocopies. We produced these documents in the assembly where they hushed up the matter. Certain Baitul Maal officials had provided us the photocopies of cheques and other documents. They are also provided funds from the ISI budget. They are living comfortably. They are to be used when needed. Twice before, they have tried to use them. They are their weapon. These people are under death sentence from superior courts. They are proclaimed offenders. The government is providing shelter and paying allowances to those sought by the higher courts. Where is the rule of law? Where’s the General’s own rule of law? For one thing, he lies claiming they are in distress. They are not in distress.

DT: in your view, what is the future of this country?

NABK: The country has no future. Pakistan came into being under the law of necessity. Then in the ‘70s it broke up under the law of necessity. Today, it is struggling along under the law of necessity. It finally will come to an end under the law of necessity.

This is the second and concluding part of Nawab Bugti’s interview that he gave to Sarfaraz Ahmed, resident editor of Daily Times in Karachi


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