Sunday, April 10, 2005

Bugti a greedy thug

Following is an excellent piece from Anwar Syed in the Opinion section of Dawn on the self-centered greedy slave mastering bandit Akbar Bugti.

What Pakistani government needs to do with such two penny thugs in the greater interest of public, poor Balochs, Pakistan, and in the interest of humanity is to have them quietly and mysteriously liquidated instead of giving into their bottomless greed by negotiating with them.

Wouldn’t it be much better to distribute the millions of Rupees per year freely to the general public/local Balochs than paying it to the terrorists like Bugti in a naïve hope that his greed has a limit? Pakistani government should guarantee to the Balochs the first right for the jobs in Balochistan for lets say next 100 years. Jobs in Balochistan ranging from labor to the ones requiring higher education and skills should be first opened up to the Balochs and if there are no takers then to the rest of Pakistanis so the Balochs will also have a fair chance to catch up with the prosperity rest of the Pakistanis enjoy.

There should be absolutely no giving into the demands of terrorists or extortionists like the terrorist Bugti.

Adnan Gill
Conflict in Dera Bugti

By Anwar Syed

Conflict between tribal chiefs in Balochistan and the government has erupted periodically in the past. Of late armed men under the control of Sardar Akbar Bugti have been attacking federal agencies and infrastructure in the province. One cannot be sure that their operation is now over and durable peace assured.

The "sardari" regime in Balochistan is a system of indirect rule in which the central authority chooses to leave certain areas of the country to be controlled by local chieftains, who profess allegiance to the state and acknowledge its "suzerainty." They raise revenues, apply local custom to settle disputes and dispense "justice," and maintain order to the extent they can or deem expedient. They live well and, as one might expect, they have developed a strong vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Many observers are inclined to attribute Balochistan's relative underdevelopment to the tribal chiefs' determination not to let forces of modernization, such as education and economic diversification, enter their areas. They fear that the resulting enlightenment will arouse their hitherto oppressed tribesmen to self-assertion. Tyranny of the feudal lords in Sindh and southern Punjab has likewise been blamed for the stark poverty and backwardness of the peasantry in these regions.

Twice during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's rule, newspaper headlines declared that the "sardari system" had been abolished. Actually, no such thing had been done. Similar claims were made concerning feudalism. Announcing his land reforms on March 1, 1972, Mr Bhutto claimed that the measure would eradicate "the curse of feudalism and man's unjust overlordship of the good earth." It would enable landless peasants to "lift their heads from the dust and regain their pride and manhood."

Great words these, as the words in his orations often were. The Sindhi hari's head remained in dust; manhood and honour continued to elude him. But these words were spoken more than 33 years ago. It is depressing as it is surprising that his successors have done nothing to abolish feudalism in Sindh or the sardari system in Balochistan.

We will have to contend with some fundamental issues, which our governments have been evading, if we are to remove the sources of the current turbulence in Balochistan. Some of them, such as that of provincial autonomy, agitate most politicians regardless of their tribal or ethnic affiliations. Then there are issues and problems that are specific to a certain tribe or region within the province. The present conflict in Dera Bugti would appear to belong to this second category.

The fields where natural gas is extracted, treated, and pumped out to much of the country are located in Bugti territory. A report in a recent issue of a Karachi newsmagazine has it that Sardar Akbar Bugti receives about 120 million rupees a year from Pakistan Petroleum, Limited (PPL) as "rent" for the land it occupies. In addition he gets two million rupees per month for providing security for the PPL pipelines and operations, and another one million rupees per month for contracting vehicles out to the company. Apparently, he thinks that all of this is not enough. According to some commentators, this is the basic issue in his confrontation with the government.

In a recent interview with newsmen at his home he is reported to have claimed that the land where the gas fields are situated is "his" land. This claim is open to question. A reference to the Constitution may be useful in this regard. Article 172 provides that "any property which has no rightful owner shall, if located in a province, vest in the government of that province."

Article 24 allows the state to take possession of private property for public purposes under law that provides for compensation. It allows the state also to take over any property which has come into the possession of any person by "unfair means, or in any manner contrary to law." Part II of the federal legislative list (fourth schedule) authorizes the federal government to make laws with regard to mineral oil and natural gas, and the development of industries where the law declares federal control to be expedient in the public interest (items 2 and 3).

Any settlement with Akbar Bugti must be one that the law permits. The same must also apply to similar situations elsewhere in the country. Let us suppose that one morning the owner of a tract of land in Lahore sees oil seeping out of a hole in his vegetable garden. Excavation reveals an oil well down below. In my understanding of the law, this oil well and the land containing it become the property of the state and the original owner ceases to have any right thereto except compensation for the acreage at the going rate. If that is what the law requires in Lahore, how can the gas fields in the Bugti area be regarded as belonging either to Akbar Bugti personally or to his tribe as a collectivity?

The tussle between Akbar Bugti and the government have gone on for quite some time during which he has been hiking his price for letting the PPL work the gas fields unmolested. His bargaining ability does not consist of rights under the law; nor does it consist of mere sticks and stones. It is made of modern weapons with which he has equipped some of his tribesmen, and got them trained in their use.

Most of us can only speculate as to the source of these weapons. But one can be sure that they have not all come in one sweep; they have been coming in over a period of several years. It is then most unlikely that our numerous intelligence agencies have been unaware of this infiltration. Unless we assume utter incompetence, or a most reprehensible kind of self-indulgence, on their part, it is difficult to understand how they could have allowed this operation to proceed to a point where the Bugti tribesmen can frustrate the Pakistan army or the paramilitary forces.

Some observers suggest that the "crisis" in Dera Bugti arose from the government's virtual indifference to the rape of a woman physician in a local hospital, and then from an attack on Bugti tribesmen on March 17. These incidents may have fanned the fire that was already simmering, but if it is true that the fire had originated in Akbar Bugti's covetousness, one may wonder why other Baloch organizations and spokesmen, even unrelated opposition politicians in the National Assembly and elsewhere, are supporting him.

They are speaking and acting as if the government had been the aggressor, and he the innocent victim. They allege, notwithstanding the government's repeated denials, that it has launched a military operation in Balochistan. They commend "dialogue" as the appropriate way of resolving the "crisis," without spelling out its nature or the terms for settling it. This mode of speech is of a piece with their broader posture as opponents of the present regime. Mr Bugti, having emerged as a forceful "enemy of their enemy," is to be befriended. The merits of either side's case are irrelevant to the opposition's overall strategy.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and other government representatives have had several negotiating sessions with Akbar Bugti, but they have told the nation nothing as to what exactly he wants and what they have been offering him.

If the Balochistan "problem" is to be met, its nature should first be understood and its ingredients identified. Three sets of issues are involved and, even if they are related, each of them may have to be handled separately. In the short run, a deal may have to be made with Akbar Bugti that will increase his allowances so as to make him peaceable. But in the longer term perspective, a larger issue has to be settled.

Balochistan is said to be well endowed with mineral resources. Who will direct and manage the extraction, processing, and disposal of the various deposits when they have been located? The federation, the province, or the tribes and sardars under whose ground the deposits lie?All sides agree that Balochistan has been neglected in the past and the way must be opened for its socio-economic development and modernization. But who is to be the agent for initiating and carrying forward this process? There is much opposition to this role being assumed by the central government. It would then be both more sensible and expedient to entrust it to the provincial government, except in relation to projects that are located on federal land. But even here it may be advisable to provide for the provincial government's participation in their planning and execution, especially to dispel suspicion or fear that the resulting advantages will go to outsiders at the cost of the local people.

This matter of initiative and responsibility for development and modernization is a part of the broader issue of provincial autonomy. There is agreement at all hands that the provinces should be allowed a larger scope for their powers and functions than they have now. There are different prescriptions relating to the needed measure of autonomy, ranging from a stricter implementation of the provisions in this regard in the Constitution of 1973 to schemes that will convert Pakistan into a confederation.

We will leave the quantum of provincial autonomy for discussion at a later date. But it should be emphasized here and now that in this respect the other three provinces of Pakistan must be treated the same way as Balochistan is.

Balochistan has been treated as a special case long enough both before and after independence. Talk of constitutional amendments to address Baloch grievances is subversive of our national solidarity and integrity and it should cease. Similar grievances exist elsewhere in the country, even if their scale and intensity are not the same. Any amendments that are made must apply equally and uniformly to all four provinces.

The writer is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA.




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