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This article was first published 17 years ago  » News » The man who challenged Musharraf's might

The man who challenged Musharraf's might

By K J M Varma in Islamabad
August 27, 2006 21:48 IST
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A photograph of Nawab Akbar Bugti sitting with a gun in a well-guarded cave in Balochistan and vowing to carry on an armed struggle against Pakistan's military to achieve autonomy for his over-exploited province sent shock waves across Pakistan and world early this year.

That picture perhaps symbolically announced to the world that the decades-old movement demanding autonomy for Baloch people to end years of exploitation by the dominant Punjab province has taken the inevitable turn towards militancy, said Sanaullah Baloch, a Senator of Balochistan National Party in a rare interaction with the media in Islamabad.

Bugti, along with nearly 40 associates, was killed on Saturday by the military in missile attacks on his cave in the southwestern province, ending the legend of perhaps one of the most charismatic regional leaders in recent times.

In the past few years Bugti, a British educated tribal chieftain, emerged as a 'big thorn' in President Pervez Musharraf's scheme of 'modernisation of the much-neglected' province with heavy investment, specially his plans to build a Chinese-aided strategic port at the sleepy coastal village of Gwader near the Iranian border.

Displaying his irritation over Bugti, Musharraf in one of his recent addresses to the nation told Bugti that 'you won't know what hit you'.

Bugti, in his inimitable style, replied through satellite phone that, "Now, we've gone into the guerrilla mode of warfare. I'll give you a war, you won't forget and send you back to the barracks where you belong."

The tribal leader also joined issue with Musharraf over the General's allegation that his movement received support from India. "I will take the support from devil if necessary to get the rights of Baloch people," he retorted.

Born on July 12, 1927 at Barkhan in Balochistan, Bugti was the grandson Sir Shahbaz Khan Bugti. A former governor and chief minister of Balochistan, he was educated at Oxford in England and as well famous colleges in Lahore and Karachi.

Considered an educated feudal, legend has it that he killed his first man when he was only 12, and another 100 men to avenge the assassination of his son Nawabzada Salal Akbar Bugti.

Head of Balochistan's prominent Jamburi Watan Party, Bugti's authority and influence over a well-armed tribe of 250,000 people in Balochistan Province, specially in the gas-rich Sui and Dera Burgti, worried Islamabad.

Enjoying absolute loyalty from so many tribals, he ruled in Balochistan for many decades with an iron-fist and was considered to be running a parallel government.

Musharraf had accused him of being a warlord and owning a well-organised militia running dozens of militant training camps directing a Fidel Castro/Che Guevara-style guerrilla warfare.

He is known by most people as The Tiger of Balochistan, The Trade Unionist or Gas Man, because he had ownership of many gas fields.

Bugti was also believed to have mentored the Balochistan Liberation Army, a banned guerilla organisation, which fought for the rights of Baloch people.

Besides demanding autonomy for Balochistan, Bugti also actively opposed the construction of military cantonments by the Pakistan Army in the province.

While fighting the military, he enjoyed a great deal of political support from mainstream political parties in Pakistan as well as leaders of Sindh province.

His demand for autonomy and fair elections was backed by mainstream political parties which said the military action in Balochistan had alienated Baloch people and revived the memories of the creation Bangladesh in 1971 due to alienation of Bengalis under the then military rule.


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K J M Varma in Islamabad
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