Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Humiliation at Gwadar





In reply to the well attended anti-regime Baloch Jirga at Kalat on 21st September, Islamabad haughtily proclaimed a counter pro-regime Baloch Jirga scheduled for 8th November.

At the time a federal minister openly boasted: ‘that the number of invitees would run into hundreds. It could be 400 or even more as "Mirs, Sardars and other notables from all districts" would attend the 'jirga'.-The News, 2 Nov. 2006

Shortly after this rather pompous announcement officialdom strangely began to dither about the location, as well as, the participants.
It would be either Islamabad or Quetta, an official told this correspondent. However, he said, its holding in the federal capital would not send out a good message. He said the president was being counselled to chair the Jirga in Quetta…Invitations are unlikely to be issued to chieftains confronting or criticising the government. All guests would be supporters of the government. However, the official effort is to wean away maximum number of tribal heads,who had attended two Jirgas, hosted by the Khan of Qalat, Mir Dawood, in the wake of killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti in a military operation in Kohlu mountains on August 31.-The News
While the venue of the counter-Jirga remained unresolved, apparently it had been decided that every effort would be made to commandeer a ‘maximum number of tribal heads, who had attended two Jirgas, hosted by the Khan of Qalat’.

Shortly afterwards it was declared that the counter-Jirga would be held in Islamabad and
Sardars, nawabs and tribal elders would be arriving in Islamabad on November 6 via a special plane from Quetta’.

Amazingly for Islamabad the truth of the situation only dawned after Shaukat Aziz’s brief visit Quetta. As one commentator noted:
The prime minister's two-day visit only revealed that no notable Baloch sardar was willing to attend the pro-government jirga, although Musharraf claims to have the support of 72 out of 75 Baloch Sardars….
Now confronted with reality, the date and the location of the counter-Jirga were suddenly changed.
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Mohammad Yousuf has said that the venue and date of a tribal Jirga of Baloch sardars and tribal elders convened by the government has been changed and now it will be held in the coastal town of Gwadar on November 16. Dawn, 4 Nov. 2006
With the postponed date and relocation of venue, all that was left of the original model was the hosting of the Grand Jirga by Musharraf. Even that was now fraught with indecision.

On 12th November a humiliated regime facing a complete boycott of the Jirga backtracked completely and the Jirga was finally scrapped.

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Mohammad Yousaf disclosed on Sunday that President General Pervez Musharraf would only meet with “notables” from five Balochistan districts during his scheduled visit to Gwadar on November 16, rather than addressing a jirga of Baloch sardars…The chief minister told reporters at Quetta Airport that Gen Musharraf would speak to notables from Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur, Awaran and Lasbela. (Daily Times, 13 Nov. 2006).
Last night PTV showed Musharraf addressing a small gathering of local ‘notables’ among whom your Blogger spotted one or two PML(Q) politicians imported from Sindh. That made him wonder as to how many others might also have been ‘bused in’ to add to the scanty number.

To add to the embarrassment, all of Balochistan came to a grinding halt in protest to Musharraf’s presence within the province.

Balochistan observed a black day and went on a complete shutter-down strike on Thursday as President General Pervez Musharraf paid his first visit to the volatile southwestern province since the killing of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti…“The call for the strike was meant to protest General Musharraf’s visit. His hands are red with Baloch blood. We can’t welcome him amid relentless military operations against our innocent people,” said one National Party leader. (Daily Times, 17 Nov. 2006)
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Nearly three months after Nawab Akbar Bugti’s slaying it becomes more than obvious that the regime badly miscalculated its consequences.

Musharraf reportedly once confided to an associate that he had no intention of making Akbar Bugti ‘another Nauroz Khan’ (Nauroz Khan was idolized by the Baloch for his resistance against Ayub Khan’s regime). Ironically for Musharraf the dead Bugti is now a much bigger hero among the Baloch than Nauroz Khan ever was. The sardar of the Mengal tribe, Attaullah Khan, recently told Newsline magazine that while he lived Akbar Bugti had been the Nawab of the Bugti tribe, and now by the manner of his death he has become the Nawab of the whole Baloch race.

Reports from Balochistan suggest that the vast majority of Baloch (both Balochi and Brauhi speaking) hold Musharraf personally responsible for Bugti’s killing. And any Baloch who carries on dealing with the general is in jeopardy of being vilified as a quisling by his compatriots.






3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Onlooker,

One would think that Musharaff would have had the ISI see to it that his Jirga is well attended by lining up the tribal chiefs in advance of making any public announcements about the same.

Apparently not. A private head-count following the usual inducements and/or threats and Musharaff would not have ended up with a very public egg on his face.

Whose bright idea was this anyway?

Onlooker said...

Anonymous

It is highly unlikely that the idea came from Balochistan - the governor and chief minister of the province would be well aware of the widespread resentment.

Similarly the 'agencies' would also be cognisant of the current political realities in the province.

So by process of elimination one may well suppose that the originator of the Jirga idea was probably Musharraf himself...

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