August 26th, 2020

                                          By Ahmad Saeed


LAHORE

Fourteen years after the cold-blooded assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti, the future continues to be bleak for Balochistan’s people, for today there are few in the troubled province who present a forward-looking leadership. Only recently, the death of Mir Hasil Bizenjo has left the Baloch people bereft of a sane voice that spoke of the power of electorates being greater than an armed struggle.

After Akbar Bugti’s murder, a slew of separatist movements sprung up in the province. They claimed that if the state could kill Bugti – one who had helped in the creation of the country – there was not much future left for the others. An armed struggle seemed to be the only way out.

Brahmdagh Bugti, the grandson of Akbar Bugti, once tried to voice the sentiments of his people but eventually had to go into exile due to a hostile environment. In 2007, the killing of Balach Marri worsened the already precarious situation in Balochistan. Akbar Bugti’s son Talal Bugti and grandson Shahzain also came to the fore but failed to garner a respectable public following.

The gap in leadership was filled in by a young and educated Dr Allah Nazar Baloch. He gained the admiration of the Baloch youth especially through his BSO-Azad but as the state hardened its stance towards Baloch dissidents he too had to choose gun over dialogue. Eventually, he took refuge in the mountains as many leaders had done before.

Today then, who are the present leaders of the Baloch people remains a question with no explicit answer.

Senior analyst Rashed Rehman is of the opinion that the present political dispensation in the province lacks the trust of the people because it is ‘backed by the military’. “The issues in Balochistan are of a political nature,” he says adding that the resolution of these lay with the politicians. “The military has to alter its strategy.”

“Akbar Bugti and Ataullah Mengal often said that if the federation that did not accept Baloch demands, the next generation would refuse talks,” says Quetta based journalist and President of the Pakistan Union of Journalists (PFUJ) Shahzada Zulfiqar. “The next generation of Baloch believes that the federation and other provinces want to usurp Balochistan’s resources. Neither do they believe in the political process nor the politicians.”

Meanwhile, Malik Siraj Akbar, editor of The Baloch Hal, Bugti’s killing was ‘a turning point’, in that it steered Baloch youth away from those leaders who called merely for provincial autonomy and pushed them towards those talking of independence.

“Absence of a popular leadership has created a chasm that not only harmed the Baloch people but the federation as well,” he says.

Akbar Bugti’s killing and the deaths and exiles of other Baloch leaders has created a leadership vacuum in the province. Now the next generation abhors the parliamentary politics.

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