Bugti’s Killing Will Change Balochistan's Politics: Mir Hasil Khan Bezanjo
Malik Siraj Akbar speaks to Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, the Central Secretary General of the National Party about the killing of the Baloch veteran leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and its impact on Balochistan.
An outspoken Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo is central secretary general of his father Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo’s National Party (NP). The National Party was generally considered anti-sardari and has elements from the educated middle-class of Balochistan. It also believes, unlike others, in a federal system. However, recent developments in Balochistan have brought the NP closer to elements that are openly opposed to Islamabad. TFT spoke to Bizenjo about the current situation in Balochistan. Excerpts:
The Friday Times: How do you view BNP’s (Balochistan National Party) decision to resign from the assemblies?
Hasil Khan Bizenjo: We never imagined that this government would go to the extent of committing a blunder like killing an elderly, handicapped man who could not even walk without someone’s help. Nawab Bugti’s death has completely changed the face of politics in Balochistan. But this should not surprise anyone; this army didn’t spare the Bengalis nor would it the Baloch. It has always killed its own people. General Musharraf’s militaristic approach towards political problems has disappointed all democratic forces in the country. We, the Baloch leaders, Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy and Pakistan’s Oppressed Nations Movement (PONM) have made up our mind to sit and jointly decide whether or not to quit the assemblies. But the BNP made its own decision; it didn’t consult any of the opposition parties.
Do you think it was a right move?
No. As democratic forces, we need to continue our democratic struggle. What does it mean to quit parliament? Where else can we raise our voice if not in the assemblies? I think we don’t need to act in frustration. Politics requires strong nerves to face the hard times. I am convinced that we need to sit in the assemblies to continue our struggle.
Are you saying that you won’t quit the assemblies at any cost?
No, I didn’t say that. As I told you earlier, NP does not make any decisions without keeping in view the ground realities. We admit that ours, like other Baloch parties, is a small party. The major role in pushing the army back to the barracks can only be played if the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-N join hands with us and quit the assemblies. We need their cooperation. We are in contact with them. If they all decide to quit, that will have an impact. Otherwise, NP’s five seats in the provincial assemblies will not change the status quo.
What if these parties refuse to join hands with you?
Well, frankly speaking, we refuse to take a solo flight. We won’t make the kind of decision the BNP did. We are democratic people. We won’t climb mountains. We are not against Pakistan. The struggle the NP believes in is not that of an armed struggle; our struggle will revolve around the 1973 Constitution. We want greater autonomy, not self-determination.
Do you oppose the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA)?
No. We support them because they are also fighting for the ‘Baloch cause’. But we will not join them. They are fighting on their [armed] front and we are fighting on our democratic front. What is Rauf Mengal or Akbar Mengal’s positions after resigning? Yesterday, they could speak for Baloch rights when they were in the assemblies but today they can’t even do that. It was foolish of them not to take other opposition parties in confidence before taking this step.
What is NP’s take on the treatment being meted out to Punjabi settlers in Balochistan in the aftermath of Bugti’s killing?
Targeting Punjabis’ houses and property is only going to be counter-productive for Baloch leadership and people. I am not very pleased with how some people have been exploiting this situation and undertaking subversive activities. If this continues, we will be the greatest losers. The ordinary Punjabi has done nothing wrong to the people of Balochistan. I think our common enemy is the army. We should fight the army instead of battling poor settlers.
Some say the National Party has always been a pro-establishment party and a deal is currently being struck between it and the government. Even Balochistan Governor told TFT that NP was the real party. So it seems that the government has a soft corner for your party.
If we were pro-establishment, we would be enjoying ministries today. We have never compromised on Baloch rights and interests. The best thing about NP is that it is not an extremist party. We don’t believe in going to extreme levels. We believe in realism; in doing all that we can. It is not possible for us to fool our people by promising them an Independent Balochistan . That is nonsense. Our ground realities and current position do not allow us to dream such things. As for the Governor’s remarks, I think he just wants to prove himself another Robert Sandeman. He is trying to defame our party and create misunderstandings between NP and other Baloch parties. He has been sent here to kill the people of Balochistan. He has been acting on a murderous agenda. We have no problems with him being an ‘imported governor’ because he is the representative of the federal government. The problem is the agenda he is working on. He has paved the way for a military operation in the province.
What will be the impact of Bugti’s death on the future of Balochistan’s politics?
I believe Bugti’s death has given blood to the Baloch national struggle. When we look at Baloch history, there have been four leading politicians: Mir Ghose Bakhsh Bizenjo, Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri and Nawab Bugti. Bugti can be ranked as the fourth among his three contemporaries. As a matter of fact, he was not a very popular leader in Balochistan because he kept changing his loyalties; he also never said he was a Baloch nationalist. But now his killing has made him a hero. Bugti’s death has once again triggered anti-military feelings in the hearts of the Baloch. This hatred is going to have long-term negative repercussions.
This interview was published in The Friday Times, Lahore, in September 2006