Besides the government, the intelligence agencies and the law enforcement agencies, there’s another party that must share equal blame for violence in Balochistan, according to the Bugti tribe leader, Nawab Aali Bugti – national and international oil companies.
Mastan Bugti, a spokesperson for the Bugti chief, told The Express Tribune that besides the Frontier Constabulary (FC), oil companies continue to play a negative role in Dera Bugti as they deprive the Baloch of their legitimate political and economic rights.
Aali’s main complaint is that as the head of his tribe, he has not been paid his due share in the huge income earned by oil and gas companies exploiting the rich petroleum reservoirs of the tribal region, according to Mastan.
The spokesperson added that Nawab Bugti was living in Karachi after being forced by the FC to leave Dera Bugti in 2010. “The Nawab has virtually been pushed out of his native town and Sui by the government and its sponsored waderas …Everyone knows that a wadera is a low-level subordinate in our tribal system.”
According to Mastan, these very subordinates have compromised the economic rights of the Bugti tribes for personal gain. “Such selfish people always suited the establishment and the oil companies as they happily serve their interests for a little money,” he added.
Mastan explained how it was agreed between the federal government and Nawab Aali in 2009 that the chief would provide protection to the oil and gas installations in return for financial perks. The reason that the installations and infrastructure of the companies have been targeted by Baloch militants in Dera Bugti, however, is because the corporations continue to deny necessary job opportunities and perks to the Baloch people, the spokesperson said.
“Oil companies always preferred outsiders while recruiting their personnel,” Mastan said, adding: ‘”Only a few of the locals were given low-level jobs.”
Internal power struggle
The complexities of the Bugti tribe, however, extend beyond the external threats posed by oil and gas companies. Within the tribe, a power struggle continues in spite of Aali’s declared leadership. Nawabzada Brahamdagh Bugti, a key Baloch leader and chief of the Baloch Republican Party, refuses to accept his first cousin’s position as tribal chief. Commenting on reports that some official circles were planning to replace Aali with Brahamdagh as the chief of the Bugti tribes in case of a compromise between Islamabad and the exiled contender for the title, the spokesperson categorically said the clansmen would never accept such a deal.
According to Mastan, this power struggle too is a factor being exploited by the establishment. “The establishment is playing the same dirty game in Dera Bugti that it played before and after the assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti.”
In short, Mastan says, Aali, as a central figure in the Balochistan quandary, is stuck in a catch-22: “He and his people are being targeted by those who are fighting for the liberation of Balochistan (on one hand), and being cornered by the establishment on the other,” the spokesperson regretted.
‘A sensitive issue’
Meanwhile, government officials all appeared reluctant to comment on what many consider to be the eye of the storm in Balochistan – the fate of the Bugtis. When contacted by The Express Tribune to comment on Aali’s views, Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad said, “Keeping in view the sensitivity of the issue, I should not make any statement without proper investigation,” and after promising to collect input from concerned officials, he remained unavailable for comment. Provincial Director General for Information Kamran Assad was unwilling to comment on issues of “a sensitive nature”. Home Secretary Nasibullah Bazai also remained unavailable for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2012.
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