Saturday, January 24, 2015

‘Are we children of a lesser God?’An Interview with Mir Sarfraz Bugti, Home Minister Balochistan

Mir Sarfraz Bugti, Home Minister Balochistan

Baloch terrorists should not be romanticised as freedom fighters

Balochistan’s home minister, Mir Sarfraz Bugti, has been prominent in the press since taking office after last year’s election. His family is known for standing up to tribal chiefs, who have literally ruled over the province since time immemorial. Since taking the ministry, he has been vocal against remnants of the old Akbar Bugti empire, and openly blames Indian intelligence for stoking rebellion in his province.

His watch over the interior ministry comes at a time of transition for the province as well as the country. If followed in letter and spirit, the prime minister’s National Action Plan will uproot the present power structure in the troubled province. Religious and sectarian militias, who were allegedly created to suppress nationalist forces, will now face the anvil, as will TTP and al Qaeda elements reportedly sheltering there.

He talked exclusively to DNA about the most pressing issues that cross his desk these days.


Question: The recent review meetings chaired by Prime Minister on implementation of National Action Plan (NA) suggest that Balochistan is lagging far behind other provinces in implementation of NAP. Can you share the steps taken by the provincial government in this regard?

Sarfraz Bugti: The majority of the people of Balochistan are against terrorist elements and they also rejected these forces in the recent general elections. Today, the entire nation is united against the terrorists and the people of Balochistan also have the same feelings. No terrorist can seek refuge among the people of Balochistan.

It’s a shame that the national leadership during the recently held All Parties Conference (APC) gave a clean chit to the Baloch insurgents who are being funded by Raw, Mossad and other intelligence forces and are active to disintegrate the federation of Pakistan.

As far as the action by Balochistan government on the recommendations of National Action Plan is concerned, we have adopted a zero-tolerance policy against terrorism. Security forces have conducted operations against all terrorist outfits across the province. Several terrorists and suspected militants have been arrested during operations in Qilla Saifullah, Zhob, Ziarat, Sanjavi, and other parts of the province. The security forces also killed one of the top commanders of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who was second in command to the chief of the banned outfit in Balochistan.

Moreover, action has been taken against the sectarian outfits as well as hate speech. Operatives of the intelligence agencies and police officials in plain clothes are monitoring mosques and madaris. We have also decided to review the procedure of registration of the seminaries and a committee has been formed to look into the registration of the previous seminaries as well. The committee comprises home secretary, secretary law and secretary industries. The committee would also revisit the procedures involved in registration of seminaries and would come up with its recommendations.

Q: Has the provincial government decided how many cases would be tried by military courts in Balochistan? Also would you explain whether the terrorists of BLA, BRA, and other militant organisations also be tried by military courts?

SB: The Apex Committee for Balochistan has held its first meeting. The meeting recommend the federal government to green-light execution of 14 cases sentenced for capital punishment by anti-terrorist courts here.

However, none of these cases relate to banned outfits and all the accused are involved in tribal feuds. Still it is important to execute the punishment so it could prove a deterrent to curb violence.

We are working on a recommendation for other cases to be tried by military courts in Balochistan, but let me share with you that there are another 99 cases of terrorism in which terrorists of Baloch insurgent outfits are involved.

It’s a shame that the national leadership during the recently held All Parties Conference (APC) gave a clean chit to the Baloch insurgents who are being funded by Raw, Mossad and other intelligence forces and are active to disintegrate the federation of Pakistan. Though I stand by the decision taken by my party, but in my personal view, there should be no discrimination between terrorists.

The question which shakes up the people of Balochistan is when will the romance of Punjabi politicians, media and civil society end with the Baloch terrorists? Why is the blood of a poor labourer, a teacher, a doctor or any other professional so much cheaper? Why do the elites of Punjab have sympathy for Baloch insurgents? Are the leftists of this country waiting for an incident like APS Peshawar to happen in Balochistan? Are you people waiting for another incident in which another 400 kids are slaughtered in Quetta?

I think that a terrorist is a terrorist whether he is Punjabi, Pashtun, Baloch or any other caste, creed, colour or religion. In Quetta, Punjabi labourers were gunned down but no voice was raised. Then teachers, doctors and professionals were gunned down for no crime. What was the crime of Professor Nazima Talib? Why did the conscience of the world not speak up when a woman teacher who was a poet and a preacher of love was brutally murdered?

Though the entire west calls Pakistan a hideout for terrorists, I think that the US, UK, Switzerland and other western countries are actually the dens of terrorists. They have not only funded, nurtured, armed and trained Baloch terrorists but they are also providing them safe heavens despite the fact that these cold-blooded terrorists have ordered killings of thousands of our innocent people.

If the federal government believes that Baloch insurgents have a license to kill poor Punjabi labourers, parliament should also pass a law that killings of dogs and poor Punjabi labourers is legitimised.

There is no better solution to a conflict than talks. I also support the prime minister’s decision to give dialogue a chance. However, there must be some timeframe to this dialogue offer
In my view, wars are not fought by the military alone, rather whole nations fight wars. Unfortunately, the Balochistan issue has been confused in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. No one has ever tried to understand this problem.

You people in Punjab think that only three Baloch Nawabs are entire Balochistan, so you gave power to this trio of tribal chieftains to make decisions for the people of Balochistan on their economic, social and judicial aspects.

However, situation on ground is different. I fear if this mindset of the political and social elite does not change, the people of Balochistan may rise to take their decisions on their own.

Q: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, during the APC, had empowered Chief Minister Balochistan Dr. Abdul Malik to hold dialogue with the estranged Baloch leadership. Is there any development in talks?

SB: There is no better solution to a conflict than talks. I also support the prime minister’s decision to give dialogue a chance. However, there must be some timeframe to this dialogue offer. The chief minister also told the Balochistan cabinet that he was going to hold talks with the Baloch terrorists. We also supported the idea, however, there should be a timeframe. We have no idea on any development yet. Now Dr. Malik is empowered to hold talks and he would tell the nation about any achievement.

Q: The prime minister has failed to finalise the power sharing formula between coalition partners in the Balochistan government and the decision about the next mayor of Quetta has been deferred. Do you think the new Mayor would be from Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) as they have been claiming?

SB: I respect whatever decision is taken by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other leadership of Balochistan province. The prime minister has a visionary approach and he strongly believes in sacrificing personal interests for larger national interests. However, whenever you try to turn a majority into a minority, such decisions would backfire.

The smaller parties in Balochistan were given chief ministership. Later, they were given governorship. Now they want the mayorship of Quetta. But the PML workers here in Balochistan ask whether we are sons of a lesser God? If the mayorship of Quetta is also gifted to the minor party, the Balochistan chapter of the Muslims League may make its own decisions.

Q: Do you think that despite fighting terrorism in a hostile environment in Balochistan, the morale of security forces in high?

SB: Security forces and the people of Balochistan have been fighting against terrorists for long. Their will and determination is strong enough to defeat the terrorists. However, the indifferent behaviour by the federal government and the political elite at times badly hurts their morale.

Forces have been sacrificing their lives but the federal government and the political elites have sympathies with the enemy who kills them. Our media and civil society dubs terrorists as “estranged Baloch leaders”. This also hurts them a lot.

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