Will Shahzain Bugti’s resignation make a difference to Baloch rapprochement?

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New Delhi, March 29: On the face of it, the resignation by Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) leader and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Reconciliation and Harmony in Balochistan, Shahzain Bugti has left Pakistan’s poorest and least-developed community in the lurch.

Bugti had announced his resignation on Sunday and uploaded his formal resignation letter on Twitter on Monday. He had announced his intentions to quit Imran Khan’s side even before putting in his papers, however, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary was confident that Bugti will not leave Imran Khan’s side.

With fast-paced developments taking place in Pakistani politics and Imran Khan’s shaky position, Bugti joined hands with the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)–the coalition opposing the Imran Khan regime.

While announcing his resignation, Bugti had alleged: ‘The government has failed to deliver in Balochistan. The federal government gave us hope that things will improve with its promise to focus on the underdeveloped areas but the people have been disappointed.’

Admitting that Pakistan has not been fair to the people of Balochistan, opposition leader and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari too sided with Bugti: ‘The people are looking to us to solve their problems. Balochistan’s issues are complicated and our history has not been fair with the people of the province’.

Bugti had been appointed to the special position in July 2021 to bring the alienated Baloch people back into Pakistan’s fold. This had happened in the backdrop of Baloch armed groups increasing their attacks in response to Pakistan’s economic exploitation of the mineral-rich region with China’s support.

India Narrative spoke with different Baloch groups to know more about Bugti’s role in Balochistan’s development.

A UK-based Baloch activist said: ‘Shahzain Bugti was never taken seriously by the Baloch political parties. He has zero credibility in Balochistan as he was brought in by the military establishment. He will always do whatever the military establishment asks him to do. Shahzain’s resignation won’t actually make a difference to Balochistan. It may make a difference for Pakistan’s perspective but to the Baloch people his resignation means nothing’.

On his role to bring about reconciliation and harmony in Balochistan, the activist says: ‘Baloch nationalists are exceptionally critical of Bugti’s role. ‘He wasn’t given any particular task because the military knows that he isn’t able to talk to the Baloch nationalist forces. He was brought because in Balochistan the Military Intelligence and Inter Services Intelligence both want their favourites to win’.

Other Baloch groups harbour similar views about Shahzain. In a separate interview, Kamal Baloch, Central Committee Member of the Baloch National Movement (BNM), told India Narrative: ‘Shahzain Bugti is Akbar Khan Bugti’s grandson, who had sacrificed his life for Balochistan. Akbar Khan Bugti’s role in the nationalist movement is legendary and well regarded’.

Kamal added that Shahzain Bugti is not a nationalist but pro-Pakistan leader. ‘He had earlier been arrested by the Pakistani army on various charges including the supply of arms. In the Baloch nationalist struggle, both Bugti and his party have not played any significant role. The reason for Shahzain being given the federal ministry was to prop him up to counter the nationalist movement instead’, says Kamal.

‘Baloch azadi maang rahe hain, Shahzain has no contribution here. He is a puppet in the hands of the establishment’, alleges Kamal. He adds that in Pakistan, the establishment can choose anyone or drop anyone. He cites an example of former chief minister of Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan, who was dropped from his position after the establishment realised that he was resisting certain ideas and Abdul Quddus Bizenjo was brought in as the chief minister.

Kamal says that during the PPP rule, the establishment had given a package to the Baloch political leaders to bring the Baloch people into the mainstream through jobs. ‘But the Baloch do not want to be mainstreamed. All they want is aazadi. In Pakistan, the establishment thinks that the Baloch are estranged and are angry. We are not angry or estranged. We only want aazadi, for which we are fighting since 1948, and a recognition of our identity. The Pakistani army should leave Balochistan, that is all we want’, rubbishing the role that Shahzain played for Baloch reconciliation during the last one year.

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

–indianarrative

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