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Nawab Bugti: maligned, but widely respected

August 28, 2006

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QUETTA, Aug 26: Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was born on July 12, 1927 in Barkhan. He remained an outstanding political personality of the country and dominated the political scene of Balochistan for over 60 years.

He received his early education at Allama I.I. Qazi School in Karachi and Karachi Grammar School. Later, his father Nawab Mehrab Khan Bugti sent him to Chiefs College in Lahore from where he did his senior Cambridge.

Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, who also studied in Britain started his political career in 1947 when he cast his vote in favour of Pakistan in the Shahi Jirga held in Town Hall, Quetta. He took part in active politics and contested an election against Dr Khan Sahib, elder brother of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, in 1950 but lost by one vote. However, he returned to the Constituent Assembly and joined the Republican Party and became minister of state for defence in the cabinet of Feroz Khan Noon. Earlier, he also served as minister of state for interior.

Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was arrested by the Ayub Khan government on charges of murder of his uncle Haybat Khan and a military court awarded him a death sentence. But later Ayub Khan commuted the sentence and released him.

He could not contest elections in 1970 as he was disqualified by a military court for holding any public office in 1960. However, he did play an active role in the election campaign of the National Awami Party of Wali Khan and his younger brother Mir Ahmed Nawaz Bugti was elected member of the first Balochistan Assembly in 1970.

However, he developed serious differences with the NAP government then headed by Sardar Ataullah Mengal and governor Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo. Later, after the dismissal of the Sardar Ataullah Mengal government, he was appointed governor of Balochistan on Feb 15, 1973 by the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He remained provincial governor for nine months and tendered his resignation as governor over differences with the federal government on handling of Balochistan affairs.

During the Zia martial law period, he remained a political recluse. He did not take part in the non-party elections held in 1985. In 1988, he formed the Balochistan National Alliance and took part in the general elections. He was elected member of the Balochistan Assembly and when the Balochistan High Court restored the Balochistan Assembly that had been dissolved by the then Chief Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, he was elected provincial chief minister till dissolution of the assemblies in 1990.

He formed the Jamhoori Watan Party in August 1990 and was again elected member of the provincial assembly and despite obtaining a majority, his party was not allowed to form government in Balochistan. He was elected leader of opposition in the provincial assembly.

Nawab Bugti became an MNA in 1993 and supported the Benazir government but later his differences with the prime minister forced him to play an active role against Benazir Bhutto. He was again elected MNA in 1997. He formed a coalition government in Balochistan with the Balochistan National Party of Sardar Akhtar Mengal but later on differences forced him to withdraw his party’s support.

After the murder of his son, Nawabzada Salal Bugti, Nawab Bugti seldom ventured out of Dera Bugti. His difference with the present government deepened when he raised voice for the rights of Balochistan and opposed mega projects, including the Gwadar Port and establishment of new cantonments in Sui, Gwadar and Kohlu.

He held talks with Pakistan Muslim League leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain following a confrontation between the paramilitary forces and the tribesmen in Dera Bugti. But many events – especially an attack on President Gen Pervez Musharraf – caused the breakdown of the peace talks.