• Friday 22nd January 2021

How Pakistan Negotiates With Balochistan By Malik Siraj Akbar

The Baloch narrative is loaded with stories recollecting how Islamabad took their willingness to negotiate for granted and converted those occasions as excellent opportunities to humiliate them.

How Pakistan Negotiates With Balochistan

Malik Siraj Akbar

Disclaimer: The title of this article has been inspired by the remarkable book How Pakistan Negotiates With the United States by Ambassadors Teresita C. Schaffer and Howard B. Schaffer. Pakistan has a distinct way of dealing with different countries and it also applies divergent methods while tackling internal conflicts and crises. Islamabad, for instance, is more likely to forgive the Taliban and negotiate with them in the north than to talk to the separatist Balochs in the Southwest.

The Baloch narrative is loaded with stories recollecting how Islamabad took their willingness to negotiate for granted and converted those occasions as excellent opportunities to humiliate them.

For example, when veteran Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, who had formerly served as the governor and the chief minister of Balochistan but had developed sharp differences with the then military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, had agreed in 2005 to negotiate with Islamabad, he had been promised that the army would send a special plane to pick him up from the nearest airport in his home district. The Nawab reportedly waited for several hours. However, when General Musharraf, who had unleashed a military operation against the Baloch nationalists who sought maximum control over the province’s mineral wealth, learned that the seventy-nine year old Nawab, the leader of the Baloch insurgents, had agreed to visit Islamabad and negotiate, he purposefully instructed his juniors not to send the plane to fly the opposition leader to Islamabad. Musharraf’s apparent motive, some say, was to humiliate the old Baloch leader and bring him to his knees.

When Musharraf’s ego prevailed and talks between the Pakistan army and the Baloch never took place, the senior Bugti was eventually killed in a military operation in 2006 and the insurgency in Balochistan turned into such a conflagration that it has continued for one decade and even worsened.

Only last week we witnessed a stunning change in the situation when Brahamdagh Bugti, a prominent Baloch separatist leader, took the media by storm with his staggering announcement to relinquish the demand for a free Baloch state if the people of Balochistan wanted to remain a part of Pakistan. That sounded like a lame excuse to give up his position because he has been the leader of the Baloch people and has had the authority to lead the public opinion. The people would do only what he would tell them to do because he began to lead them at the time of chaos, conflict and uncertainty in 2006. Leaders across the world emerge when people look up for some authority figure to lead and protect them at the time of threat and hopelessness. Mr. Bugti’s interview with the BBC was the most dramatic change of mind ever seen in one decade by any key player from both sides of the conflict.


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