QUETTA, Dec 22: In a deve- lopment with far-reaching implications, paramilitary troops arrested on Wednesday Nawabzada Shahzain Bugti, a grandson of the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and president of the Balochistan chapter of Jamhoori Watan Party, along with several personal guards, after finding a huge quantity of illegal arms and ammunition in vehicles of his convoy coming from the border town of Chaman. The arrest of one of the high-profile Bugti heirs on charges of possessing and smuggling arms and ammunition sparked tension in Quetta and other parts of the already volatile province, with people fearing a negative political fallout and a possible violent backlash.
Inspector General of Frontier Corps Maj-Gen Obaidullah Khan, addressing a press conference along with Inspector General of Police Malik Iqbal, said that acting on information provided by security agencies, FC troops intercepted the convoy of Shahzain Bugti in the Baleli checkpost area in the outskirts of Quetta.
He said that FC personnel informed the JWP leader that they wanted to check the vehicles but he allowed the checking of only three vehicles of the 16 vehicles in his convoy. He said Mr Bugti refused to allow them to look into other vehicles.
After three hours of negotiations the FC personnel took all the vehicles into custody and detained Nawabzada Shahzain Bugti and his guards after disarming them. He said that during the search of the vehicles a huge quantity of illegal arms and ammunition was found in the smuggled vehicles.
Gen Obaid said that the arms and ammunition recovered from the vehicles included anti-aircraft guns, rocket-launchers, mortar guns and other advanced weapons.
“Mr Bugti and his armed guards did not offer any resistance when security forces took them into custody,” General Obaid said, adding that the JWP leader could not produce licences of the vehicles and permits for carrying such a huge quantity of arms and ammunition.
“Such a huge quantity of arms and ammunition cannot be carried for personnel protection,” the FC inspector general said, adding that Mr Bugti and other arrested people would be handed over to police for legal action.
Balochistan IGP Malik Iqbal said that Interior Minister Rehman Malik was closely monitoring the situation and ordered formation of a joint investigation team.
“A joint investigation team headed by the DIG investigation will conduct a probe into the recovery of illegal arms and ammunition from Mr Bugti's motorcade,” he said, adding that the accused would be given full chance to prove their innocence.
The arms and ammunition recovered from the 16 smuggled vehicles included 50 SMGs, 4 LMGs, two 12.7mm AA guns, two 14.2 mm AA guns, one SPG-9, one 9mm pistol, one AUG, 46,000 rounds of SMG, 1,600 rounds of 12.7/14.5, 570 rounds of AUG, 880 rounds of sniper rifle, 39 rounds of 9mm pistol, 17 mobile phones and 16 vehicles.
DIG Operation Hamid Shakeel, DIG Investigation Wazir Khan Nasar and DIG Frontier Corps Brigadier Shahzad also attended the press conference held at the headquarters of Ghaza Band scouts (A wing of FC).
Meanwhile, JWP's central President Nawabzada Talal Bugti, termed the allegation of smuggling of illegal arms and ammunition a conspiracy against his son and demanded an independent inquiry by a tribunal of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Addressing a press conference, he claimed that the case against Shahzain Bugti had been registered at the behest of Interior Minister Rehman Malik because Shahzain had unveiled his corruption.
He said that Shahzain had gone to Qila Abdullah for party work and when he was returning to Quetta three vehicles of secret agencies carrying arms and ammunition joined his motorcade. He said it was a big conspiracy hatched against his party.
However, Talal Bugti said if his son was found guilty by an independent inquiry tribunal set up by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, he would oust him from the party. “I will oust Shahzain Bugti if he was found guilty for smuggling arms and ammunition,” he told reporters while replying to a question.
He said he had no confidence in inquiries conducted by secret agencies, FC and police investigation teams.
He said his party would resist attempts to produce Shahzain Bugti before an anti-terrorism court.
“We are looking at all legal aspects of the incident and will fight against this conspiracy at all forums,” he said, adding that the JWP would not abandon its mission.
Meanwhile, Shahzain Bugti said that the drama of arms smuggling had been staged to stop him from holding a march to Dera Bugti on January 28.