WEB DESK: Politics is art of the possible, and no one seems to have grasped truth in the adage more succinctly than the self-exiled Baloch Republican Party chief Brahamdagh Bugti. Enraged over the killing of his grandfather Nawab Akbar Bugti in a military operation in 2006 he fled to mountains, then moved to Kabul and finally took asylum in Switzerland.
From there he kept fighting the cause for an ‘Independent Balochistan’. But in the meanwhile ground realities in Balochistan kept changing, as much for involvement of Indian intelligence agency RAW as for the intra-Baloch political rivalries and tribal feuds. Targeted military operations over the last two years have succeeded in taking out a number of separatist leaders and disrupted their underground networks. The widely reported media clips showing fugitives laying down their arms and swearing allegiance to the state – even if made-up a fabricated – should have negatively impacted the morale of the insurgents. Then there were general elections with their inherent potential to often pit friends and allies against each other. Maybe the government moves to bring back the Khan of Kalat Suleman Daud whose leadership of the Baloch across the wide tribal spectrum didn’t sit well with Brahamdagh’s worldview and compelled him to plan his comeback. And perhaps most telling on his mind must be his worry to miss out the rapid development and progress Balochistan is expected to have with the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
So when the security forces have largely succeeded in quelling separatist forces and restored writ of the state for a savvy youthful Brahamdagh Bugti there was no point in missing the bus. The comedown from that ‘Independent Balochistan’ had to be gradual and not a free fall as some others had, and that he ensured. In August, in an interview with BBC, he offered to talk provided ‘Pakistan should recognise the Baloch right to statehood’ and ‘his friends and allies wanted to co-exist with Pakistan’. By taking that position he did shock some of his fellow separatists, but others saw in it the much-awaited possibility to kick-start reconciliation process. The government promptly responded and after his recent meeting with Chief Minister Dr Malik Baloch and Federal Minister General Abdul Qadir Baloch (Retd), he has invited the rebel leaders because “unity is the only way to guarantee resolution of issues”.
It would be a grave mistake to take his move for some kind of surrender; he has acted intelligently, and shrewdly, as he has lobbed the ball in the government’s court. If his move fails he can blame his guests and if it succeeds he emerges as the first among the equals the government should talk for political settlement. From now on it is for the government to see that Brahamdagh Bugti succeeds, firstly by winning support of other Baloch separatist leaders he has invited. He has the apprehensions: “We want to hold negotiations but the process was on several occasions sabotaged by the government and security establishment of Pakistan. We want to end the operation and ruthless killings of innocent Baloch people”. That he wants to hold peace talks with someone who has authority to offer something to the Baloch people – and why not. Not the government in Quetta, but the one in Islamabad makes all critical decisions effecting security situation in Balochistan. So, there should be no problem if Brahamdagh wants to talk to the GHQ people. May be he is driven to reorientate his mindset on Balochistan and he wants a negotiated solution, but should not be treated as surrender on his part. He has extended the hand of friendship; it should be warmly grasped and all possible cooperation be offered to ensure he succeeds in winning the unanimous support of all Baloch leaders. His failure is no option – for him as well as for the Pakistan government.