While Z.A. Bhutto was planning to host an Islamic summit, the situation in Balochistan was deteriorating day by day. On February 14, 1973, the Mengal government was dismissed on the charge of harbouring miscreants who were allegedly struggling to establish Greater Balochistan. The next day the NWFP (now KP) government also resigned. After imposing centre’s rule in both the provinces, Bhutto ordered General Tikka Khan, the Chief of Army Staff, to comb the hilly mountainous terrain to find the “miscreants”. This was a major operation which created fear and hatred against the federal government. The government claimed to have discovered guerrilla camps in Marri tribal areas.

Despite efforts from saner elements, the Bhutto government was not prepared to listen to them or accept the ground realities.

The NAP chief, Wali Khan, termed Bhutto another Hitler. When the opposition pointed out the atrocities meted out to the people in Balochistan, Bhutto address the nation on March 23 where he defended his action. He claimed that he would make the society free of exploitation but insisted that there was no room for subversive activities.

In July, before his visit to the US, Bhutto thought of mending fences with the NAP leadership. Bhutto told the NAP leadership that he wanted to sit together and find a solution, but he insisted that the solution could only be reached after he returned from the US. The meeting took place but proved fruitless as Bhutto was not prepared to move forward for a substantive resolution.

This brought an end to the talks process.

Nawab Akbar Bugti, who had told Bhutto that Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo was leading the Greater Balochistan movement, too could not adjust to Bhutto’s policies in Balochistan and the ‘massacre’ being carried out there, and tendered his resignation as governor of Balochistan in October, 1973. However, for certain reasons Bhutto sat over it till January 1, 1974, when the resignation was accepted. In the hope that Bugti’s replacement could bring peace in Balochistan, Bhutto brought Khan of Qalat, Nawab Ahmad Yar Khan, but to his dismay the uprising continued unabated.

In February 1974, Bhutto addressed the National Assembly and told the lawmakers that Balochistan was an old issue; it was not an army of insurgents waging struggle for freedom but the work of a “handful of feudal lords and sardars” who were exploiting the youth. The army was helping to construct roads and provide power. Nobody believed him. In April 1974, Bhutto convened a meeting of the Army Chief, senior generals and discussed with them the Balochistan situation. Various options were presented but finally Bhutto ordered Tikka Khan to stop military operation from May 15, 1974. It was decided that if all the ‘insurgents’ surrendered before October 15, 1974, and deposited their arms, they would be granted amnesty. The Baloch leaders — Bizenjo, Mengal and Mari — thought that this could be a ruse, and did not accept it. However, the government sources claimed that by October 15, around 5,000 Mari tribesmen had surrendered.

On October 19, the federal government issued a White Paper on Balochistan in which it was claimed that the situation in Balochistan had returned to normalcy and that army units would soon be withdrawn. The White Paper claimed that 5,501 ‘rebels’ had surrendered and 385 had been killed. According to Rafi Raza’s accounts, the Balochs countered that 80,000 to 100,000 army personnel had been deployed out of whom 3,000 had been killed and an equal number injured.

Despite the presence of the armed forces, peace could not be restored; on the contrary it increased day after day. Bhutto also discussed the situation with Shah of Iran who had come to Larkana with his wife, Farah Pahalvi, for rest and recreation. The Shah spent quite a few days hunting the water sanctuaries of Larkana. Bhutto offered the best hospitality he could, for, according to Stanley Wolpert, Bhutto needed spare parts for arms as the United States had not yet lifted the embargo clamped during the Bangladesh war. During his stay at Larkana, the Shah did not pay any attention to the spare parts issue, nor did he show any interest in the Balochistan uprising.

Bhutto knew the potential of the Balochistan movement. On the eve of dismissing the provincial government he thought of bringing the Baloch leaders along with him and hopefully convince them that their problems could only be resolved if they shared provincial administration with the PPP. But the day they agreed to support Bhutto in approving the interim and permanent constitutions, Bhutto’s efforts seemed to be defeated. The pledges made at the Murree meeting and October 20, 1972, accord were never fulfilled, leaving no hope for the future.

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