People & society - In Conversation With

In conversation with Brahamdagh Bugti

Updated Dec 19, 2015 04:38am


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Illustration by Aan Abbas Illustration by Aan Abbas
The recent comments made by Brahamdagh Bugti, the exiled leader of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP), suggest that the long-standing insurgency in Balochistan might see a peaceful resolution through dialogue. The Herald interviewed Bugti to find out why the same state that he previously vowed to fight till the bitter end is now offering an olive branch — and what he expects from any potential negotiations.

Herald. How has this potential dialogue process with the state/security establishment come about? Do you think it is because the state sees the economic investments being channelled through Balochistan as vital to its own self-sustenance? Or do you think it is because Baloch resistance movements are something the state cannot afford while being engaged in a war in Waziristan?

Brahamdagh Bugti. I think the state officials could better answer this question about what made them come to the negotiation table with the Baloch. The things that you mentioned could be a reason, but I believe it was a new tactic by the state to offer negotiations with the Baloch and anticipating a negative response from us, they could conveniently label and present us as terrorists, locally and internationally. Our willingness to negotiate thwarted that attempt and their plan has backfired. As far as our stance is concerned, we are political people and believe in peaceful resolutions to all political problems. It is the state that has been using force to crush the political demands of the Baloch.

Herald. Do you think, after spending so many years in exile, you are in a good position to be the figurehead and spokesperson for this potential dialogue?

Bugti. The BRP is the largest pro-independence political party in Balochistan, with a significant presence internationally. Its leadership is in a good position to negotiate on behalf of the Baloch people. Certainly, there are also a number of other political parties in Balochistan with a good following among the Baloch masses, but they share the goal of an independent Balochistan with BRP. There might be some differences among these parties on certain policies, which is true of every struggle, but we share the same objectives and it will take no time to be on the same page on any issue — including negotiations with the state.

Herald. A lot of people argue that it is not just the state that has to change its oppressive ways in Balochistan, but that local power structures also have to change; that the Nawabs and Sardars with their fiefdoms have to let social development happen. Do you agree with this?

Bugti. Most of the Nawabs and Sardars appointed to key positions in Balochistan are state stooges; the likes of Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, Nawab Aslam Raisani and Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind, to name a few. Do you spot any differences between the development of the areas under the control of these ‘patriotic Sardars’ – as the state would call them – and the non-tribal belt or the areas like Dera Bugti and Kohistan Marri?

The state, on one hand, blames the tribal system and Sardars for backwardness in Balochistan, but, on the other hand, uses its favoured Sardars to counter the Baloch national struggle. I would give a small example: There were more than a hundred primary schools, 19 high schools and a college, for both boys and girls, built under the supervision of my grandfather Nawab Akbar Bugti in Dera Bugti, up until 2005. Half of the schools had no teachers, which was the responsibility of the state to provide. The truth is that the state doesn’t want the Baloch to be educated and informed out of the fear that if the Baloch are more educated and informed, they will be more powerful in demanding their rights from the state.

Natural gas was discovered from Sui in 1952, but the majority of the local population still uses wood-fire 60 years later, while the gas has been pipelined to every corner of Pakistan. Now, if we oppose further exploration and extraction of gas – which my grandfather did because of past experiences – they label us tribal lords and blame us for hindering development in the area.

Coming back to the question of the tribal system, I remember the tenure of General Pervez Musharraf when he announced to abolish the tribal system after the martyrdom of Nawab Akbar Bugti. But when he failed, he brought Mir Aali Bugti to Dera Bugti and announced him as the new chief of the Bugti tribe, under the supervision of army. He failed to deliver as the locals opposed the army-imposed Sardar and Musharraf threw him out and carried on with his previous policies.

The question then is: who are the Punjabi elite to decide for the Baloch what is good for them and what is not? They cannot impose their exploitative policies on us and call it development. Take the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) as an example: name a single Baloch who has been taken into confidence before deciding or even announcing the agreement with China. The answer is: No one. The Baloch are their own masters and they can decide their own fate. Punjab and its representatives cannot forcefully impose unjust policies on us as they have been trying, and badly failing, for the past six decades. It is high time that the state accepts its defeat and respects the rights of the Baloch, before it has to face a more embarrassing defeat like the one in what was once East Pakistan.

Herald. Do you trust the military establishment's word? If a resolution is reached through dialogue, will you come back?

Bugti. The question is not whether I will come back or not; the question is how sincere is the military establishment in resolving this conflict. I have been living in exile because it was made impossible for us to politically struggle on the ground as a result of military operations, crackdown against political parties, and abductions and killings of political workers.

Our houses were bombarded and my grandfather was assassinated. My people sent me abroad to better inform the world about what is happening in Balochistan. As I have said before, the military establishment is not sincere in negotiating with the Baloch. Their word cannot be trusted because there is a long history of deception by the state in Balochistan. They have been playing the negotiation card only to intensify oppression in Balochistan, and our willingness to talk has put them in trouble.

Herald. Will the return of missing persons and a reversal of sectarianism be part of any potential agreement? Or is the current goal more short-term, and these decades-old problems to be tackled later?

Bugti. The military operation, missing persons and extrajudicial killings of Baloch political activists are very serious issues but they are not part of the problem. The problem is the conflict between the state and the Baloch people. These are only the outcomes of that conflict. For instance, there would be no military operation, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial murders if the Baloch stop demanding their rights from the state.

If the state is really serious in resolving the conflict through political means, then the ongoing military operation and human rights violations in Balochistan should be stopped in order to create a friendly environment for negotiations. The insincerity of the state is visible in the fact that, on one side, it claims to hold talks with the Baloch and, on the other side, it continues military operations in every corner of Balochistan. Dozens of innocent Baloch civilians, including women and children, have been abducted from the Dera Bugti and Bolan areas during military offensives during the past few days.

Same is the case of sectarian violence. The state has been using it to counter the Baloch national struggle, on the one hand, and to promote religious extremism in Baloch society, on the other. The Baloch are historically a tolerant people when it comes to religion, and this is highlighted by the fact that religious minorities in Balochistan, such as Hindus, Sikhs and Christians, have been living there in peace and harmony for centuries.

The peaceful resolution of all this conflict is not possible until the state realises the failure of its policies in Balochistan and makes serious efforts to hold fruitful negotiations with the Baloch. We are not going to fall into their trap this time.

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Comments (57) Closed

CYRUS Dec 15, 2015 12:10pm

"Might" is the operative word.

Hussein Dec 15, 2015 12:17pm

It is my opinion that the Baloch got a raw deal. For 65 years colossal amounts of premium quality high BTU gas has been pumped out and shipped to Punjab and Karachi where most of it has been wasted as cheap CNG and cooking gas. Our industries, geysers, cooking stoves, co-generation plants are some of the most inefficient in the world and practically waste gas sometimes upto 95%. Unaccounted for gas (UFG) which is a fancy name for leakage has been high as 35% in some areas which is unheard of in Western countries were it is around 1-2%. And the Baloch got peanuts in return. Imagine if the Baloch had exported their gas to Punjab and Karachi like Qatar is doing now, Balochistan would be another Kuwait now.

A Pakistani Dec 15, 2015 12:21pm

As a Pakistani, I respect his views and would like to offer my apologies for what happened to his people. Each and every word this man has spoken is utter truth. There are mass graves in Balochistan and they were only killed because they asked for their rights. The establishment of Pakistan has made a lot of mistakes in the past, it is time they bring themselves to the accountability just like they are on a rampage to do the same to the civilian crooks. Balochistan is the backbone of Pakistan, the largest province with huge potential. We can neither use force to tame the Balochs nor we can trick them any further, remember the old lot is dead (killed) but the new lot is much more educated and accustomed to establishment's dirty tricks.

Khan Dec 15, 2015 12:30pm

Since the independence our largest province has been ignored fully agreeing with B. Bugti . Only way forward will be with dialog nothing else. Peoples of Baluchistan need better life to live, education system, school, hospitals, roads, public transports, jobs. We should welcome abd support young Bugti for his idea of peace full negotiations with the govt.

Ujjwal Kumar Ray Dec 15, 2015 12:46pm

Government machinery of Pakistan should rethink their Baloch policy. All problems resolved under discussion. Otherwise big powers will interfere in this issues like Bangladesh.

Dr. Samira Jameel Dec 15, 2015 12:47pm

"My people sent me abroad to better inform the world about what is happening in Balochistan." What a joke. All these 'self exiled leaders' of common people need to be brought back, made to clean up the mess they left and brought to justice.

Fact Dec 15, 2015 12:57pm

Musharraf wasn't a Punjabi, neither was Bhutto.

PakPower Dec 15, 2015 01:17pm

Well something he says are correct, but the whole interview has a ballooned feel to it - too much exaggeration on Brahamdagh's part.

Ali Dec 15, 2015 01:30pm

Jiye Bugti. Don't give up the struggle for the oppressed. I would love it if the people of Pakistan are united but not at the expense of the people. Pakistan will collapse without the Baloch.

Kamal Pasha Dec 15, 2015 01:34pm

He should have known that the talks are the only solution for peace and not terrorism.

GS Dec 15, 2015 01:38pm

"It is high time that the state accepts its defeat and respects the rights of the Baloch." Spot on!

M Rafique Dec 15, 2015 01:38pm

One question: how is he being able to afford to live in such a costly country and for such a long time?

Pravin R Dec 15, 2015 01:47pm

Hope sanity prevails in Pakistan and local demands are looked at. You may be able to control the land by using force but never the people living on that land. Someday in the future they will rebel and the oppressor will lose control. Posting of this article on in itself, is a good start that Baloch leadership wants.

M Khan Dec 15, 2015 03:01pm

The fault in this matter lies with the military establishment as most of the people of Pakistan have been led to believe that it is the Baloch Sardars who do not want to see Baloch people prosper, and yet after killing and exiling Sardars the state still has not brought peace to Balochistan. Why is it that a common Balochi is still willing to hold onto his Sardar rather than the ones appointed by Islamabad. Clearly the people have more trust in them unlike what the state keeps telling its people.

M Khan Dec 15, 2015 03:02pm

There is alot that needs to be corrected in Pakistan but more than anything it would be great to see our so called educated Pakistani put a side their prejudice, and start respecting all Pakistanis as equal. Balochistan is a political issue with political solutions which can be solved easily if we are willing to treat them with decency and respect.

TM Dec 15, 2015 03:30pm

The script has been written elsewhere, not by a young Baloch leader. The articulate and politically comprehensive answers are clearly the work of an institution, not a rebel leader. Anybody's guess.

Rashid Sultan Dec 15, 2015 03:45pm

@M Rafique His people support him. Not very different to MQM's Altaf Hussain now, is it?

Usman Dec 15, 2015 03:56pm

A fair solution is simple but not easy:

Roll-out a full-scale and sustained development for the Balochistan people with all the resources but at the same time completely abolish the Nawab/Sardar/Tribal system! Give the money and power directly to the Balochi people.

The better scenario is to make 3-4 provinces out of Balochistan - and the same goes for for Punjab, Sind, and KPK.

yasir Dec 15, 2015 03:58pm

The question also is "how sincere are you, Mr Bugti?", the gentleman you call a stooge is none other than your own cousin... Will you deny your party's militant wing's involvement in the killing of the so-called "Punjabi settlers" in different parts of Balochistan. It takes two to tango and while the state and the military apparatus does bear blame for the situation in Balochistan, equal blame lies with the Sardars and Nawabs.

Saagar Dec 15, 2015 03:58pm

Well done Bugti sahab. At least he stood to something right. The state should give them the rights they deserve.

Haider Dec 15, 2015 04:04pm

Since when did Musharraf become Punjabi?

Ab.Shakoor Dec 15, 2015 04:36pm

The military establishment of the state of Pakistan have totally failed in its policies of use of military force against its citizens voicing for their rights . Such voice for rights neither have been suppressed nor would be stopped . It is time to adopt rational approach for solution of the problem.

Ahmed Saeed Dec 15, 2015 05:58pm

Indeed a sorry state of affair. I can see very interesting comments from those who have not seen Balochistan and are hardly aware of the 'Sardari' system. Had these Sardars and chieftains been loyal to their people, the province would have no doubt been a paradise. But these so-called chieftains exploited the poverty of their people and did nothing. None of them live in Balochistan; how could they say that they would fight for the peoples' rights?

Baloch Dec 15, 2015 06:24pm

Name any Baloch leader who has ever done anything good for the poor people of Balochistan!

Tango Dec 15, 2015 06:43pm

As far as I know Akbar Bugti has served as the Governor of Balochistan. What development work had he initiated? It is the Baloch leaders who do not want any development taking place in their areas. They are afraid that development work might raise the standard of living of the Baloch people and they would not listen to these so-called Sardars anymore.

Houlbelat Dec 15, 2015 07:40pm

Why was Bugti killed? Why didn't Sui gas never reach all of Balochistan before other parts of the country? Why was Nawab Bugti left behind by his kin, while they escaped from their hide-out cave? Why was Bugti not given the family funeral that he deserved? Why do all the Bugti's talk in different tones? Who is the present Nawab of the Bugtis?

Gul Dec 15, 2015 08:47pm

@CYRUS That's how Islamabad and Army thinks messing the country.

Mustafa Dec 15, 2015 09:50pm

@A Pakistani;

'I respect his views and would like to offer my apologies for what happened to his people.'

His people? Does he represent Balochistan? Why? Was he elected?

Masood Hussain Dec 15, 2015 09:53pm

It is in the interest of Brahamdagh Bugti to understand the real situation and come to terms with the federal government.

Uzair Dec 15, 2015 10:42pm

His family has ruled the province for 40 years, what was the outcome?

Osman Dec 15, 2015 11:16pm

To all those arguing that Musharaf is not a Punjabi, technically, you're correct: Musharaf is from an Urdu-speaking family; nevertheless, the institution he represents is pretty much a Punjabi institution. We would do well to listen to the voices of the Baloch resistance rather than dismissing their arguments on technical grounds. The state has failed the Baloch people (and the rest of us) miserably. It is high time we focus on peace and prosperity for all.

f Dec 15, 2015 11:30pm

I have seen some video interviews of his. This man is so intense, incredibly intelligent and focussed. Nobody can stop him achieving his goals.

Omar Dec 15, 2015 11:52pm

The is an urgent need of population control as well as as ethnic homogeneity. Unfortunately people are exploited because of their ethnicity by the very people who claim to be their biggest advocates. Let it be Karachi or Baloch, the same formula is used.

honey Dec 16, 2015 12:55am

Of course it is true that the Baloch people have suffered. But this suffering is very much because of the same Baloch Sardars who think it is their birth right to represent Balochistan. It is easy to play the game of oppressed and wear a coat made of sheep wool on wolves' skin and look away from the atrocities that have been imparted on the poor labourers and people from other ethnicities in the Baloch province. These very Sardars have ruled and sold these poor Baloch people and even now they claim to be their saviours. They are part of the oppressive system and have their own vested interests and can in no way represent the proud Baloch people. The nexus between sectarian outfits and these so-called messiahs in terms of killing of Hazara people must also be independently investigated and justice must be served to the Baloch people.

Shahid Dec 16, 2015 12:56am

He is asking for the authorities to stop operations so that negotiations can start, but he does not call for the Baloch fighters to stop their attacks. How should then the military stop the operations if the attacks are still being carried on? He is rightly complaining about the lack of development in Balochistan, but after the 18th amendment, Balochistan has a much bigger budget to spend and ironically even Dr Malik, an honest man and a nationalist, could not use his development funds and returned about 32 billion to the federal government. Now think if this amount was used in 32 different small towns, then how big a difference it could have made. Lastly, some of their demands are totally unfair, one being not allowing any army cantonment in Balochistan. How can they justify it that military should stay in all other 3 provinces but not in Balochistan?

Mehkan Dec 16, 2015 12:59am

I am from Balochistan. As much as the federal government has failed to provide for us, our local leaders are no less. Yes maybe schools are constructed, but who will provide answers regarding the safety of newly-appointed female teachers? Baloch leaders themselves do not want the common Baloch man to rise in wisdom and logical thinking. Because that would mean that these Nawabs will have to let go off their power and land and live like a democracy. They are scared of this. Yes Punjab has been making many decisions for Balochistan, but even if the power came into the hands of Brahamdagh or the likes, nothing will change. In fact the Bugtis are just one example who will educate their kids, but will never allow a common worker to educate his kids. They will use force to keep them under their thumb. I wait for the day when neither the Nawabs nor Punjab decides for us. I wait for the day when we, the common people of Baluchistan, will have the power to decide for ourselves.

Qadir Baloch Dec 16, 2015 01:20am

They use "wood fire" not merely because of mis-appropriation but because the Nawabs want to keep us backwards and control everything - no wonder they live lavishly in Karachi while talking about so-called "Freedom".

Dr. Malek Towghi (USA) Dec 16, 2015 05:52am

Brahumdagh's responses are brilliant and statesman-like. Thank you, Herald.

Zak Dec 16, 2015 06:01am

Every time that the federal government sent in the army, it was the local Nawabs and Sardars who would unite to prevent schools, clinics, roads to be built. It was a systematic effort to keep their people backward.

Mustafa Dec 16, 2015 06:12am


Weather Musharraf is a Punjabi or not is not the issue. The fact that the Baloch people have been deprived of rights to their own resources is also beyond question. The question is do these Sardars represent the Baloch people.

Akil Akhtar Dec 16, 2015 06:17am

This is only possible in Pakistan that a person involved in militancy against Pakistan and responsible for killing innocent citizens is given such respect.

Ajaya K Dutt Dec 16, 2015 06:18am

@Mustafa - Then why an "olive" branch to him. Why is the Herald interviewing him for "possible" dialogue?

MALIK Dec 16, 2015 06:35am

@Fact And neither was Zia, as he had a domicile of Peshawar throughout his life.

Dr. Malek Towghi (USA) Dec 16, 2015 06:37am

A sincere thank you to @Hussein, @A Pakistani, @Khan, @Ali, @GS, @M Khan, @Saagar, @AB Shakoor, @Gul, @Osman and

The more people like you, the more Balochistan will be encouraged to remain in Pakistan — voluntarily!

James Dec 16, 2015 06:49am

In the 1980s, a Baloch Sardar who had been Governer of the province lived in our neighbourhood in London. What amazed me was the life of luxury that he had: a fleet of servants and big gatherings were the norm. London is an expensive city, so one wonders where the funding comes from. This is the story of other leaders as well when they are in London, there is no shortage of money which they can spend. In my view corruption and absolute control is all that the leadership in Pakistan wants. The poor Baloch, the poor Muhajir, the poor Sindhi, the poor Pathan and the poor Punjabi are a reality, but the leadership of each of these ethnicites is just living in luxury.

karachi wala Dec 16, 2015 07:05am

What is he trying to say? No doubt Balochistan has been neglected but the sardars of Balochistan act like kings, they are are the ones who don't want the Baloch to be educated. All they want is royalties from gas for themselves. People have no idea how much royalties they got but greed got the best of them, they wanted more and thats when things got ugly.

Zubair Ahmad Dec 16, 2015 08:17am

Balochistan is Pakistan. Mr Bugti, think and behave like a good Pakistani. Ask the people you are representing to act as decent Pakistanis. Show respect and loyalty to all the government institutions including the Pakistan Army. It is the fact that the Baloch Regiment is one of the most praise-worthy Regiment of the Pakistan Army. Till the time Mr Akbar Bugti thought of himself as a Loyal Pakistani, he enjoyed his powers as governor, chief minister, a respected sardar and a sensible political ;eader of Pakistan. But when he got bewildered locally and didn't feel comfortable in the mainstream, he gratified himself in confrontation, then what happened is all evident.. So now take the corrective measures yourself, don't blame others and be kind to the people of Pakistan

Zahir Shah Dec 16, 2015 09:26am

@Dr. Samira Jameel 100% agreed

Saqib Dec 16, 2015 09:59am

What childish and negative line of questioning, I expected more from Herald. At least ask some questions asking him to justify his actions.

Saqib Dec 16, 2015 10:04am

Gwadar was paid for by the Pakistani state and bought from Oman. There is a sizable Pathan population in Balochistan, plus other communities as well, so Baloch are around, if not less than 50%. We are all brothers and sisters, lets grant all what they need and fulfill demands so that all of us live as a happy family.

goldconsumer Dec 16, 2015 11:16am

A few points that I read in an article and have never been able to get answers from these so called Baloch sepratists.

1) Nawab Akber Bugti was the governor of Balochistan when gas was discovered. He was the one to sign the deal to sell gas to Punjab and Sindh instead of setting up an industrial zone in Balochistan. When Punjab utilised this resource and textiles and many other industries flourished there, he realised he sold it too cheap. When he asked to have the rates revised, Bhutto sahib (a Sindhi to the core) ultimately started the army action for the first time in Balochistan. Why hate the Punjabis then?

2) Talal Bugti sahib, who in his words had lost all confidence in the "state" unexpectedly filed a petition in the Supreme Court to have Musharraf's name included in the ECL. He however never filed a petition against the above mentioned gas agreement. Can we assume that the state is biased in that case?

Malik Achakzai Dec 16, 2015 11:44am

Your people sent you abroad for your and their own security; otherwise you are leading the largest political party of the Baloch separation movement. Do you mean that now the situation has changed than the one that prevailed when you left the country and lived abroad? If not is it gonna change? This change was not possible before you left for exile. These are the questions that should be asked: are you now returning with the intention to join the government? Then won't the families who lost their loved ones ask you why you let them be killed if you were going to be peaceful at the end of the day?

Awais Khan Dec 16, 2015 01:58pm

Every other day some international news agency comes up praising and supporting the Baloch movement, while quoting Khan of Kalat to be charismatic and Bugti to be a righteous ma! This whole article has been written over the "rights of the Baloch" yet the only noticeable inequality he could raise was non provision of natural gas, where as a matter of fact, it's known that Pakistan has misused this resource by channelling it to every home rather to limit it to industry... Out of billion dollar CPEC project multi-billion would be spend over the security of the project, because the Baloch will not demonstrate for their rights in front the parliament, yet will plant bombs here and there.. Being a Pakistani with my residential address of Lahore I can't go Balochistan because it is normal to kill Punjabis if spotted.

Awais Khan Dec 16, 2015 01:58pm

Having said all this, I have no intention to prove that the Baloch are not being given their rights. Yet do you media guys think every other Pakistani gets his rights? Yet no body is holding guns apart from Baloch. With deep sorrowed with the current status of Balochi he stated "His grand father made school" can anyone dare to ask him how many Baloch, Akbar Bugti executed for the sake of his Sardari? Even as of today these Sardars are multi billionaires, but at what cost? What industry did they ever build in Balochistan? As far as I can recall multiple businessman from Lahore who are from Blaochistan.. These people should realise that their Sardari days are over, come into politics if the can't live without being rulers. With CPEC, the army would have more resources and reasons to put a few of final nails in the Sardari coffins. Be a politician for a change like Imran Khan, even Punjabis will come stand by your side to fight against the system.

tbugti Dec 17, 2015 01:53am

@Malik Achakzai May be you should re-read his response 100 times more to understand what he actually said, "the state should accept it's defeat and accept the Baloch rights" and what right do you think he has been advocating for? "BRP is the largest Pro-Independence Party" what does that imply? He wants the Government of Pakistan to sit on the negotiating table, withdraw all forces, agree on a referendum under the supervision of UNO, let the Baloch vote/decide their own fate and then accept the results whether its in the favor of Pak or an independent Balochistan, that's what he has been trying to say in his recent interviews and people like you have been interpreting his views as if he has agreed to surrender to Pakistan and come back and do parliamentary politics. Try to grasp the essence of what a mature politician says.

Tahir Baloch Dec 17, 2015 08:37pm

@Hussein The best part is people of Balochistan still don't have gas connections. It can be supplied to Punjab but not Dera Bugti, Nushki, Chagai or any other Baloch area. It's so frustrating!

Tahir Baloch Dec 17, 2015 08:39pm

@Fact Doesn't change the fact of how we are crushed and our resources plundered.