Friday, September 01, 2006

The Murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti

A very simple adage to keep in mind about Pakistan is that if it cannot export violence to other countries, it will implode.

And that is what is happening in Baluchistan.

The Pakistani Army's decapitation strike on Nawab Bugti's command complex has succeeded. Though it is increasingly becoming apparent that Nawab Bugti was shot before he was buried in the cave, we must all remember that in Pakistan they shoot first and then arrange everything for a photo op later.

The assasination has left the Balochis seething. There has been rioting in many parts of the Balochistan and in the past the Pakistan Army has proved incapable of preventing attacks on the Sui gas production facilities. A Baloch strike on the Sui facility had successfully managed to cut the supply of gas to parts of pakistan and forced several steel mills in Punjab to close down. The anger among Punjabi steel barons had encouraged Gen. Musharraf to take a harder line on the Balochis and consequently a cantonment had been set up in Kalpars with the help of Khan Mohammed Kalpars, who is a Bugti chieftian opposed to Nawab Akbar Bugti.

It may be recalled that a number of oil companies such as Occidental Petroleum, had expressed interest in being able to carry out prospecting for oil in Bugti and Marri dominated areas. The companies were unable to carry out prospecting as the local Bugti and Marri Sardars had made additional demands on the companies. One report suggests that a Bugti chieftian had quite bluntly lectured an American oil company representive on the need to give greater revenue and benifits directly to the Baloch people. The company representative was unhappy, to say the least.

By having a funeral for Nawab Bugti attended only by members of the Kalpars and Masuri clans, the sworn enemies of the Nawab, the Pakistan Army is now rubbing salt into the Nawab's family's wounds. This may seem highly offensive to you all, but its all par for the course in Pakistan.

Every Pakistani politician has taken it upon himself or herself to rail in the media about the negative impact of the murder of Nawab Bugti on the longevity of Pervez Musharraf's reign. Given how many people are running around helter skelter, screaming on top of their lungs in Musharraf's controlled media, that the end is near, you can be certain of one thing...

Nothing is going to happen.

By making a major show of their grief at the Nawab's death at Musharraf's hands, the Pakistani political elite are divesting themselves of the cost of actually having to do something politically about it.

What rankles among most of them, is not that a veteran political leader of the Baloch people has been killed, but that a member of the RAPE (as they are called on that disreputable forum) has been murdered in broad daylight. Despite all his connections to Eton, and his British Nanny, and good friends like Mary Anne Weaver of the NYT etc... the good Nawab has fallen to the Pakistan Army's bullets. Neither the US Ambassador nor the State Department spokesman is willing to say a harsh word to Musharraf about this. After all Musharraf helped the world so much by wiping out that planned terrorist attack on US bound airplanes from Heathrow.

The RAPE aren't shedding a tear for the Baloch people, they are in fact crying about the current American induced pecking order that places Musharraf far above them. This pecking order allows Musharraf to get away with murder, not just of random homeless men accused of being Al Qaida, if Musharraf desires he could pick any member of his choice among the RAPE and simply shoot them. He could order that their bodies be arranged with a few rocks in the middle of Wana somewhere and then the BBC and CNN will dutifully report that the Pakistan Army has used their brand new F-16s to kill "Al Qaida Terrorists plotting to attack America".

Fed rich on the trickle down from the drug trade of the roaring 80s and 90s, the RAPE now whines about the death of Nawab Bugti in the hope that their plea to their western sponsors will save them from Musharraf's bloodlust.

A large number of people are talking about how India should support the Baloch insurgency. These ideas are premature. Among those that are angry over the Nawab's death, perhaps a recent event has gone unnoticed? the surrender of a large number of Marri forces to the Pakistan Army. Also unnoticed was the surrender of a number of Bugti warriors to the Pakistan Army in Quetta.

The analogies between the Baloch insurgency and 1971 are largely based on hype. The Baloch people are too thinly spread to mount the kind of effective resistance that the Bengali speaking East Pakistanis put up. Unlike the Bengali speakers who were the majority in Pakistan (45 million Bengalis v/s 25 million west Pakistanis), the Balochis are a minority. Their only tactical advantage so far has been their command of the terrain and the PA will soon overcome that with their use of the American supplied helicopter gunships. Also after 1973, the Pakistan Army mapped out all the major water sources in the region. They are now in a position to deny Baloch populations access to these at will. This tactic was very effectively used to bring Bugti to the negotiating table last year.

All things taken into consideration, the essential core of a real freedom struggle is missing in Balochistan and consequently there can be no real movement towards that goal.

A year or so ago, I was asked to comment on the security situation in Sui after the Kalpars Cantonment had commenced building. I was specifically asked to evaluate the threat to the Sui fields and to the pipelines and generations stations in the Rajanpur area. I concluded that subsequent to the deployment of a large number of Pakistan Army units, and the institution of a punitive artillery shelling policy by the Pakistan Army, any further attacks on the Sui complex or the pipelines themselves would be severely disincentivized. I stand by that assessment.

It is difficult to assign such an assessment to the security of Gwadur or other nodes in the Balochistan road network.


At 12:26 AM, Blogger Apollo said...

Excellent analysis maverick. it is very clear who runs pakistan. It is the three A's and musharraf's A is the closest on the ground.

At 7:56 AM, Blogger maverick said...


A key point that is often missed by Indians keen to urge support to the Baloch Sardars, is the feudal nature of Baloch society.

Because of this feudal nature, the Sardars get the biggest cut and that often tends to alienate the lower echelons of their society.

This makes it easier for the Pakistanis to subvert the system. They simply walk up to the next deputy Sardar they meet and offer him a larger amount of money than what the Sardar has offered him. If the deputy sardar does not refuse the tribe splits into two factions.

Most Sardars know that the Pakistani government only intends to rape the Baloch nation, so they tend to ask for a higher cut from the Pakistani government in the hope that the Pakistani government will not have the ability to pay the deputy sardar more than he pays.

An interesting case study in this style of functioning is the ongoing conflict between the Pakistani Army and the Kalpars Bugti tribe. The Army successfully canvassed the support of the Kalpars leader, Khan Mohammed but just last month they managed to get the support of the Kalpars elders in Quetta. This undermined Khan Mohammed's bid to put his nominee on the gaddi. My guess is that when it comes time for Khan Mohammed to "retire" the Pakistanis will successfully impose their choice on the tribe.

As we have seen in India, this kind of strategy only yeilds limited dividends. The British once upon a time subverted the Indian princely states in this fashion, by doing this they managed to turn India into a colony.

However the with the princes out of the way, new leaders emerged who based their appeal on issues that actually affected the common man. These leaders were able to more effectively exploit the economic outrage in the population and eventually kicked the British out of power in India.

Today, by undermining the Sardars, the Pakistanis are digging their own grave.

Baloch Sardars traditionally made money by participating the narcotics trade. They would host all sorts of guests, mostly westerners and arabs and sell them large quantities of Heroin. A number also participated in the arms trade at the behest of the Pakistani government. That is why India doesn't have to supply them arms.

Nawab Bugti's antics at Sui allowed the RAPE folks that offered to mediate between him and the Army a lot of leverage. There is a minor cottage industry of sorts that prides itself in this "communication" work. This industry is now officially closed.

We are seeing one of the final acts of consolidation in the Musharraf regime.

With the assasination of Nawab Bugti, the door to oil and natural gas prospecting in Bugti and Marri lands is finally open.

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent post. I really admire your concern and knowledge of Pakistan politics. But its not just the pakistani army but also the war lords who are responsible for the periculous situation there. Here is my short analysis

At 7:36 AM, Blogger maverick said...


In Pakistan, feudal politics and identity politics tend to mix. Sardars like Nawab Bugti use their social capital to bolster their standing as feudals.

This is natural in Pakistan where the feudal system prevails. The Pakistani government's program of land reform and social reform has failed. Even after 50 years of independence, the Pakistani society is still dominated by feudal interest groups, the so called Biradari system.

The Pakistani Army itself is dominated by Punjabi biradaris. So any claim that the Pakistani army makes that it is attempting social reform in Balochistan by undermining the Sardars, lacks credibility and sure to provoke a response from the Balochi feudals.

The sardars are only behaving the way their society is structured, and the Pakistan Government should have been more careful if it wanted to achieve a peaceful settlement.

I doubt the Pakistan Army ever wanted peace, from my readings last year, it appeared as if making harsh, hostile and offensive statements was considerable fashionable among senior FC(Balochistan) and Army personnel. Additionally the tactical conduct of a number of Pakistani military officers on the ground appeared to be identical to that of an occupying army - deliberate attacks on civilian targets, denial of water sources, shelling on civilian areas, the use rape as a weapon of war etc...

The prevailing command culture in the Pakistani army places great emphasis on re-enacting the behavior of Timurlane's horde in Ishfahan. Pakistani officers are indoctrinated with a mixture of concepts that stress racial superiority and complete disregard for human life. They are continously fed ideas of plunder from the tales of Muslim armies of yore. They think and act like animals because they are trained to do so and because they are told idolize men that did so.

This is not the way the governing authority of the land behaves. If it behaves this way, it loses the moral authority that comes with its social capital. The Sardar's behavior is a direct function of their treatment at the hands of the Pakistani Army.

You can't blame the feudals for this mess. The blame rests purely on the Pakistan Army.

At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have really done lot of reading in this field. I really appreciate this. I am ignorant of many facts you pointed out in your article especially the Pakistan army one. I never knew they were so barbaric in their approach. could you share your sources of information?

At 1:20 PM, Blogger maverick said...


The sources of information are too many to detail. Pakistan is something that interests me deeply and I am continually learning new things about Pakistan.

If you want to start learning, I can provide you with some sources to start.

At 2:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maverick: fascinating analysis. Your comment on the indoctrination of the Pak army is an eye-opener. It partially explains why their army starts wars it has no *hope* of winning. Musharraf's "dining in Srinagar" (as end-game for Kargil) idea smells of the same baseless bravado. Of course, that bloodlust is often turned inwards as well - with devastating results. And with the feudals in tow, there's no hope for a better tomorrow.

At 1:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah sure share with the sources

At 6:08 AM, Blogger maverick said...


There is no single source for these views.

I recommend that you start by reading, Reassessing Pakistan by A. K. Verma, Political History of Pakistan by Lawrence Ziring, and Pakistan Army by Stephen Philip Cohen. You can read this in no particular order.

These should give you a base of information on which to read more advanced materials.

I doubt you will find these in the IITM library, one of the drawbacks of an IIT education is the deliberate exclusion of branches of study unrelated to the technology arena.

Yes I still call it IITM and I still call it IITB.

At 7:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you have researched on me :) anyways i do agree that they won't be available in our libraries but you can't the kind of education iits promote. The are science centric and there are many other libraries that cater to these subjects. BTW they are still called IITM and IITB. So u also an iitian?

At 2:51 PM, Blogger maverick said...


My connection to IIT is a long story.

I will tell you some time.

If Vermaji's book is not in the library, it is a shame.


Post a Comment

<< Home