Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Waziristan the ground situation

By Khalid Munir

Soon after conquering Waziristan in 19th century, the British realized that instead of ruler they are prisoners. The subjects were roaming around freely, while British were restricted to camps. Movement was with heavy escorts and had to be guarded by piqueting the route. More than a century on, it seems nothing has changed. At least that is the impression I got during my few days stay at North Waziristan.
pic via CSIS 

Sitting in Islamabad, Kabul and Washington one can not understand what this rugged area means. Just by seeing the area many questions arising about inaction of army are answered. Terrain is mountainous and unlike Kashmir where peaks are mutually defended, it is impossible to resort to that tactics and as a result wide gaps are left between various piquets and posts thus, making it impossible to stop movement across the border. Roads run in valleys surrounded by the mountains making them unsafe to travel unless peaks are properly guarded.

Who controls North Waziristan?. No one. Army has not exerted its power to take complete control of the agency due to justifiable reasons. Taliban are divided between various groups and even their authority is eroding. People ignored the warning given through pamphlets by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, asking locals not to work on road being built by FWO. Anyone claiming control is over estimating his strength.

Army, restricted to camps, is reactive rather than in proactive role. Unless militants attack the troop. camps or check posts, no action is being taken. Movement from on place to another is in heavily armed convoys and that also once a week for administrative requirements. Curfew has to be imposed on roads from Bannu to Miran shah and Mir Ali Razmak Data Khel during movements. Piquets are in place on the whole route to guard the convoys, yet five IEDs exploded during my travel to Miransha, causing casualties. So movement has become a logistical and tactical exercise. Army is not resorting to operations and an uneasy peace prevails. Taliban’s are unidentifiable. Uzbeks and Tajiks have settled down in Dawar areas, mostly around Mir Ali. So are elements of TTP. Miran Shah has become an international city where nationals from all countries are found. Intelligence gathering is difficult because locals fear Taliban reprisal. So it is mostly restricted to electronic eves dropping and intercepts. In such circumstances, differentiating between TTP and those fighting across the border becomes impossible. Peace committee (newly constituted) is in place. That is the major source of liaison between Taliban and the government. Maintaining peace has been left to the peace committee which moderates between Taliban and the political administration. Army reacts in case it is attacked and that too after political administration and the local Jirga agrees on punitive action. Collective punishment is still resorted to but on a much smaller scale.

Political administration has lost the control it once exercised in FATA. With army calling the shots and defiant militants, administration’s key control tool of levies has become redundant. Maliks are no more effective. After their targeted killings since 2006, this tool of administration has been replaced by peace committee which is more under influence of Taliban than the government.

Unlike Islamabad and Lahore, drone attacks are not an issue, as locals do not fear it due to it’s accuracy in hitting the targets. It seems that army and government has also reconciled with drone attacks and if other problems are solved with NATO, drone attacks will not remain an issue irrespective of what APC or parliament say.

Despite all the difficulties North Waziristan has to be cleared of foreigners and TTP. Sufficient forces are not available to carry out any major operation in the agency. The existing force is barely enough to keep the stalemate working. Last year the concept of targeted operation was being considered but any targeted operation will not remain restricted and the fighting will spread to the whole agency and may be to the adjoining South Waziristan which has not been stabilized so far. With return of IDPs, incidents of attacks by militants have increased in South Waziristan. Any major operation in NWA has to be undertaken from South Waziristan and the prevailing situation does not favor such an adventure. In neighboring agencies to the north like Kurram, Orakzai, Tirah in Khyber, the situation is still not under control. The additional troops required will have to be inducted by either thinning out from other area in FATA or fresh troops from other parts of the country will have to be brought in. Without that thinking of even targeted operation is impossible.

Most of the troops are deployed/busy in internal security so insufficient troops are available for border duty. Crossing points logically have to be near main roads/routes but nothing stops Taliban from crossing over from unconventional, undefined routes. Measures like coloring the fertilizers, which now we are following will not be of much help. They do not require containers of fertilizers. It can easily be carried on motor cycles, the favorite means of transport.

With occasional calls from NATO and USA for action against Haqqani network, and keeping our own interest in mind that the area has to be brought under control, we will have to resort to military operation. For the time being it is impossible to do so.

North Waziristan — a first-hand account Published by Express Tribune: April 29, 2012

The writer is a retired army officer who served in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Art of the day

By S. EsapZai

S. EsapZai is an ethnic Pashtun female residing in Canada.
She is currently pursuing her Ph.D., focusing on gender and economic development of rural Pashtun women.
She is also an artist of sorts. Her love for art started at the tender age of four –
a natural talent that emanated without ever having taken any formal art classes.
Growing up, she was often dubbed as the “little artist” by her peers. Back then drawing and painting was merely a
However, art for her now is a part-time profession, where she hopes to raise more awareness about Pashtuns through her artwork.
Her passion for art can be summed up in the following quote:
"Creating art is like being in love. You and the work become one. You cannot pretend, nor fake it.
There are no rules or formula to follow. You can’t plan it, nor can you control it.
And you don’t formulate it in your head and make it so. It just simply is.” – Unknown

For more information about her artwork, visit her online portfolio
at the following website:
She also blogs at and tweets @Sesapzai

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Garrison province


The Insecurity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ...

They are murdered, tied up in sacks and dumped in Peshawar, Nowshera or Charsadda. Over the last one month, 30 such dead bodies have been found. The police say they do not know the killers. I doubt if they want to know either. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police and by extension the provincial government choose not to speak when the very powerful secret service agencies might be involved. However when the recent wave of murders became too intense, the Peshawar High Court had to take notice. Ironically, the gunny-bag murders became even more frequent as if in defiance.

Swat-Two other militants die in the Armys custody in Swat
14/09/2012 07:13
The High Court was also forced to take suo motu action on another equally shocking chain of dead bodies coming out of jails run by Pakistan Army in Swat. According to one report 128 people have died in Pakistan Army custody in Swat. The reason given for every death every time is preposterous: ‘The prisoner died of illness’. Equally upsetting is the fact that none of those bodies were given post mortem inspection.

Meanwhile, we have witnessed two major bomb attacks (in Mattani and University Town) in Peshawar which killed and injured dozens and traumatized hundreds of families. A visit to a psychiatric clinic in Peshawar revealed the most senior doctor there has patients lined up for the next two months. In the meantime the bombing of schools in Swabi, Shabqadar and Peshawar has become a daily news item. One has noticed that people are expressing much less shock over the bombing of schools than they used to perhaps due to the sheer frequency of these attacks now. All this is happening when the Pakistan Army already controls the security policy of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, even inside the urban centres. The cantonment areas especially in Peshawar, Kohat and Bannu are largely inaccessible to the public. While throughout the rest of KP (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) province, people are frequently subjected to delays and questioning at checkposts. Travelling south on the National Highway you are stopped at least half a dozen times before reaching Peshawar from Bannu. In KP ‘the man of the house’ is the soldier, all traffic must stop when a convoy of the forces passes. I remember one biker shouting to me in response to my surprise at the aggressive behavior of soldiers with the public in Bannu, ‘You have to listen when the Army tells you to stop’. When I saw a convoy of the armed forces driving too fast through a busy market area in Hangu, a man told me, ‘That’s what they do’.

It is not just in Miranshah that the markets close before the evening call for prayers. It is the same in towns of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Insecurity is a fact of life for the average person and most people in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa do not have the luxury of staying out late like you still can in the rest of the country.

The Pakistan Army operation in Swat has been touted as a success on the national and international levels. Keeping aside questions regarding Pakistan Army’s motives behind allowing the Taliban takeover of Swat first and then taking action, the Army has been running the city of Swat like they run a cantonment since the ‘conquest’ of the tourist resort. May I point out that the Pakistan Army already holds strong presence in Abbottabad, another tourist destination in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. But despite all its control over this province, has the Pakistan Army stopped the militants from attacking us? Have the intelligence agencies been effective in thwarting deadly bomb attacks like the ones in a market in Mattani and Kohat Bus Stand? The answer is a lurid red ‘negative'. With respect to security, we need to point out that like the Pakistan People’s Party on the national level, the Pashtun ANP (Awami National Party) has given away administrative authority in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa too easily to the military interest group within Pakistan. The party has failed to rein in or at the least direct the security forces according to its own inherited vision of the future for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the local understanding of Pashtun security issues.

We need to tell the ANP-led government to ‘wake up and inspect the blood stains’ but forensics is where its biggest weakness lies. The police department is not only underequipped but remains severely understaffed. The city of Peshawar provides only 1 police officer for every 520 people with Lahore doing the same for every 291. The ‘police-to-population ratio’ in Lahore of course is not a ratio to aspire to because that too is too imbalanced. In the violence-ravaged city of Peshawar the ratio is nowhere near sufficiency. KP police does not have properly trained and sufficient manpower to gather intelligence and conduct investigation. Both areas need tremendous improvement. The competence of the provincial police was seriously questioned all over the world when hundreds of prisoners escaped from the Bannu jail. Also, can we ask the KP police if they have captured a single school bomber so far? Their answer may well be negative because there is a lot of mystery around this issue too. The KP government have not utilized the civilian peace militias to their better capacity as well. Instead it has managed to make the chief of Adezai lashkar Dilawar Khan and his men quit in anger. The Adezai peace force is now split because of lack of support from the province and the result is renewed insurgency in the outskirts of Peshawar. On the judicial front, the provincial government must support the judicial activism of the Peshawar High Court and help spread this wave down to lower levels of the justice system coupled with administrative support.

For Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to protect itself against the Taliban (and their mysterious backers), it has to become more assertive in regards to Pakistan’s security policy inside the province and at the same time aggressively enhance the capabilities of the police. With no pro-Pakistan government in Afghanistan, the Pakistani establishment is likely to continue interfering in that country’s internal affairs using Pashtun-inhabited areas on this side of the Durand Line. Pakistan’s policy of extending strategic reach into Afghanistan has devastated many lives in FATA and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Therefore, we need a security approach of our own in this province. A distinct policy that ensures better protection for ourselves and at the same time puts pressure on the federal government to change its manner of playing the Great Game.

With a stronger more efficient security system of our own, we will not only be able to better protect the province against enemies in every disguise but also one day help protect FATA as well through a merger with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The writer is a regular contributor to Qissa Khwani he tweets under @AzadPashtun

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Last stop Karachi 1946!

'Last Stop Karachi 1946-47' is a personal narrative of a young Englishman enlisted in RAF finally ending up in Karachi. He was an RAF driver, miles away from his pastoral home who enjoyed the simple pleasures in life in the British India. Edited by Ali Jan

part 2 of 2

Whether these Royal Enfields were sold in great numbers locally or not I’m not sure, but I well remember new Royal Enfields being on sale in Elphinstone Street from one of the shops there.  Later on of course, Royal Enfields were built and produced in India, and in fact they are still made near Madras today.  The Bullet model being one of several very successful machines.

As an MT driver I made many trips around Karachi during my nine months stay.  Regular trips were made up to the large RAF station at Mauripur, a main stopping and refuelling place for aircraft in-transit and also journeys to the RAF station at Drigh Road.

Another daily run was to deliver and collect mail for our office. I remember this mainly because the building was such an architecturally impressive large Victorian style house standing in its own grounds and set back at the end of a drive from the main gateway.  I think it was used as a hospital for service personnel but two or three small rooms had been allocated for service mail operations. 

I have since wondered what the name of the house was and what it is used for now, but all I can remember of the route to get there is that I used to drive straight down the long road from our unit and the boat basin, turn right somewhere near the KPT building and close to where a poor policeman stood on his box in the blazing sun most of the day directing traffic.  It was an anti-clockwise 4 or 5 kilometers from there.

The policeman that I have mentioned who stood on his box at the cross roads was always good for a bit of entertainment.  One day coming back from Mauripur in my truck and waiting for him to give me the signal to turn right up the Keamari road, four flat bed camel carts appeared out of the dock gates loaded with packages. 

The leading driver, followed by the others, ignored the policeman’s signal to stop and in 10 seconds the whole crossroads was in chaos.  The policeman jumped down from his box and tried to remonstrate with the drivers of the wagon-train of camels and the language between the two factions I could guess, was not the sort that would be heard in the Karachi Polo Club, even I could sense that!

A similar thing happened a month or two later when again I was waiting for the signal by the policeman to proceed and a camel cart came out of the same dock gates piled high with boxes of Palmolive soap.  The camel, frightened by a noise panicked and jumped forward and shot the load of Palmolive cases off the flatbed cart and right across the intersection.  The entertainment at these crossroads could be better than a night out at the theatre.

I also made one trip round the coast eastwards to a place called Korangi Creek where the Imperial Airways flying boats and later BOAC (British Overseas Air Corporation) used to call in for refuelling on their way to Singapore and Australia.  I had taken one of our RAF marine engineers with me, who normally worked at West Wharf on the RAF. HSLs (High Speed Launches) and Pinnaces.  The RAF kept a small boat at Korangi which was experiencing engine trouble. The engineer managed to repair the engine and he decided to bring it back himself round the coast to West Wharf by sea.  I returned in the truck alone and got caught in a violent blinding sand storm, quite the worst I had experienced on the way back between Korangi and Karachi forcing me to stop for some time to allow it to blow over.

One other incident that could have had much more serious consequences was in the yard where our mechanic did the servicing of our trucks.  He had two large wooden sheds, one as a store for oils and tins of petrol etc. and the other as his workshop.

We had an old local Muslim man there, who was employed in the MT yard to do lots of odd jobs such as greasing, tyre changing, and generally to help out on anything that needed to be done.  He was a very nice old man of probably 60, spoke very good English and all the young lads liked and respected him and used to call him Pop as they looked on him as a sort of father figure.

He was a most conscientious worker and totally loyal to our unit.  I remember once while talking to him it came up about his very red beard.  As a young 21 year old I was quite ignorant of the reason for this red beard.  He was so very proud to tell me that it indicated he had made the journey to Mecca and had gone by Dhow from Karachi on a pilgrimage.  

One boiling hot day the wooden shed in which the cans of petrol were kept, suddenly burst into flames due to the high temperature in the locked shed, and Pop, being the sort of man he was, tried to rescue some of the equipment when the flames were belching out.  In doing so he got burned on the hands and wrists.

John 'Dusty' Miller, in Sept 2005
We took him up to the Medical officer to dress his burns and sent him home but the next day he turned up as usual and carried on.  By the time we got the fire extinguished the sheds were completely destroyed and the odd thing was that the English 2 gallon petrol cans that were inside had split wide open, but the petrol in the 4-gallon American ‘Jerry cans’ had completely evaporated and were blown up like big round balloons.

Apart from the odd argument between our boys and the local tonga walla over the price of a trip back to Keamari, during the whole nine months of my stay in Karachi I never ever got the feeling that the local population resented us British airmen being there, indeed I think the local shopkeepers in Elphinstone Street welcomed us. 

Whether South African Europeans felt quite as secure I am not sure, as just near the boat basin at Keamari and on the corner of our football pitch a large notice had been erected by KMC warning them that “South African Europeans would not be welcome to Karachi in view of the racial discrimination made in their country and the anti-Indian legislation passed by them”.

Saturday night visiting restaurants, bazaars, shops and cinemas were an enjoyable and regular part of our off-duty hours and I can still remember in some of the narrow poorly lit streets, stallholders who had only oil lamps or candles to display their goods, with the exotic sweet smell of incense issuing from small smouldering Josh Sticks in the gloom - a truly romantic vision of the East.

On one of these Saturday night visits to the cinema, four of us had booked the best seats for the latest film Caesar and Cleopatra. Starring Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh.  The seats we got, turned out to be upholstered soft two-seater settees and proved so comfortable that I only saw 15 minutes of the show and dropped off to sleep, missing the rest of the performance.

Our boys had a very good relationship with the civilian KPT staff and we worked well together. My memories of these KPT chaps were that most of them seemed to carry a clipboard and pencil, which was understandable as they were mainly engaged in checking goods on and off the ships.

It was now early June 1947 and I would have completed my obligatory 2½-year tour in India the following month.  The date for the handover to self-rule was scheduled for Aug 15th and all British forces were to leave.  The local population was naturally excited and looking forward to this day of Independence from British rule and the chance at last to run their own country since the days of Queen Victoria.

I was told to report to the transit camp at Worli in Bombay by 15th June where I would be boarding a troopship home to the UK.  This of course was going to involve another long train journey right up to Lahore and down.

As it happened I had an old RAF pal who was stationed at Mauripur and who worked on flying control duties there.  He pulled a few strings with an officer friend of his and arranged for me to fly down on the daily Dakota flight to Bombay. The time came to say my good-byes to all my pals and I left Keamari to go up to Mauripur the night before as take off was 7 a.m. the next morning. 

I remember it so clearly, it was a gorgeous warm sunny morning as I boarded the old ‘Dak’ and as we sat at the end of the runway waiting for take-off I was of course happy to be going home after 2½ years away from my family but I was also sad to be leaving a city I had so much enjoyed and of course my unit at Keamari where I had made so many friends in the last 9 months.

As we climbed out of Mauripur I was able to get a last look down at Keamari and the boat basin and could actually see the roof of the living quarters I had just left and thinking that all my mates were down there, lying on their ‘charpoys ’under their mosquito nets.


As I mentioned at the beginning of this diary, I was brought up to the simple, uncomplicated ways of life, working on our little farm in the country in England.  There are times in our lives when opportunities present themselves and we have to make decisions as to whether to take them or not.  As it happens I didn’t have any option in this, other than to follow the course I did, and it is with regret that it took World War 2 to give me this opportunity.

As any sane and normal person will agree, wars between nations are an abomination to mankind but inevitably out of all the ‘fallout’ there will be some winners and some losers.  I count myself as one of the winners. Had it not been for the war I would have probably spent the rest of my life in an insular and narrow existence in the village where I was born.  By joining the RAF in 1944 I was catapulted into a world where I could satisfy my dreams of travel and curiosities of other cultures, and what’s more, the travel and food came free.

Having whetted my appetite by these experiences I have since gone on to travel to other countries whenever funds and time off work would allow, but one of my greatest regrets is that I never made it back to Karachi.  Sadly the political situation there at times made it very difficult for westerners to visit in safety.

I have recently celebrated my 79th birthday and I now find I have a lot of time to just sit and think, and although I don’t have any clinical idea of the workings and complexities of the human brain, in my simple way, I have always imagined it to be a very complex organ, inside which, is a vast array of small cubicles with a small sensor light over each.  Some of these lights are shining bright Green, but some are now only flickering, and some have completely gone out, but one of the lights keeps flashing RED with a notice over the top saying “MEMORY CELLS UNDER STRESS”.  It’s a symptom of reaching 79.

Author with wife on his 80th Birthday

(Editor’s note: Mr Miller, soon turning 87 years of age in Sept 2012, is retired and settled in the village of Forton, county of Somerset in England.)

This is a series which draws out memories of various people from the United Kingdom who lived in different parts of the subcontinent, pre-1947. Most of the memoirs will be published weekly. These people are now residing in different parts of the world. The series was published in print in The News TNS in 2005. It has been arranged and edited by Ali Jan 

Friday, 14 September 2012

Last stop Karachi 1946!

 Part 1 of 2
As the title suggests 'Last Stop Karachi 1946-47' is a personal narrative of a young Englishman enlisted in RAF finally ending up in Karachi. He was an RAF driver, miles away from his pastoral home who enjoyed the simple pleasures in life in the British India. Edited by Ali Jan

by John ‘Dusty’ Miller

Author: John 'Dusty' Miller. Enjoying a game of tennis in Karachi

I had enlisted in the RAF – a raw ‘wet behind the ears’ 18 year old recruit, never having been away from home alone previously - born into a quiet rural way of life and later working on my father’s smallholding in the country.  All the signs were that this comfortable way of life was about to change ‘PDQ’ and I was now in for a few shocks.  My romantic dream of service life was not going to be quite as I had first expected when I first so light-heartedly enlisted. 

Over the next seven months, along with all my newfound mates we undertook the obligatory 6 weeks of training (square bashing) and went on to complete our training as drivers Motor Transport (MT).  At the passing-out parade a particularly sadistic Flight Sergeant old timer reminded us all that we were about to leave the feather bed comforts of Britain’s shores and to get a taste of what life was like in the real world.     

So it was that I found myself in Liverpool docks England on January 2nd 1945 climbing a ship gangplank, kit bag over my shoulder together with hundreds of other Army and RAF (Royal Air Force) personnel.  The ship I was boarding was the peacetime ocean going liner “Caernarvon Castle” which had recently been converted into a troop carrier in US.

We were never given any indication as to where our final destination would be.  It was a policy of the wartime government, for security reasons, not to divulge this information due to troop convoys leaving Britain being targeted by Hitler’s U-boats in Atlantic Ocean shipping lanes.

Of course, this secrecy fostered all sorts of speculation among us lads below deck and various wild forecasts and guesses were made.  As one particularly bright member said, “Well it must be the Orient we’re going to, as otherwise we wouldn’t have been issued with tropical kit” - i.e. khaki shorts, bush shirts and khaki stockings.  But then another ‘bright spark’ announced that issuing tropical kit to embarking troops was just a ‘blind’ and designed to confuse the Hitler spy network.  An older cousin of his had previously gone out on a troopship kitted out the same way and finished up landing in Alaska!  Apocryphal as the story may have been, it was never the less, quite a ‘perishing’ thought - if you really think about it.
 Picnicking with English and Anglo-Indian native friends at Holiday Hut Manora. (Author, 2nd from left in back row)

The following day Jan 3rd we set sail as the winter sun was dropping below the horizon and when we looked out the next morning we had joined five other troopships, an aircraft carrier and two corvettes, the corvettes acting as protection escorts on each flank of the convoy.

Again the speculation among us lads below deck arose as to our likely destination.  Some had tried to determine compass direction and said that we were definitely going west towards America and our hopes were raised that it may be Canada where lots of RAF personnel were serving on aircrew training.  The mystery went on for several days and then it was reported that we were now going due south and soon after this we changed again to due east.  It was only solved when 10 days after leaving Liverpool we anchored off Gibraltar. 

A member of the permanent crew of the ship said that it was common for troop convoys to use indirect routes to Gibraltar from Britain to avoid attack from submarines, and convoys often made big box routes west out into the Atlantic and then east into Gibraltar.  Hence the reason we took 10 days getting there instead of the normal one or two.

We made our way through the Mediterranean unescorted, calling at Port Said then down the Suez Canal into the Red Sea, again stopping for a few hours at Aden before leaving for Bombay, where we berthed on the 27thJan.  I spent a few days at the Worli transit camp there awaiting a posting, which turned out to be Madras.  Off I went by train to join a small unit repairing military vehicles in three civilian garages called Simpson’s.  We employed all local labour in the repair shops and it was my job as a driver to run errands for mail etc.

After three months I was again posted to an RAF station out in the wilds at Kolar, about 80 kilometers east of Bangalore and after several months there I again moved on to Vizagapatam, (now known as Vishakapatnam) a port on the East coast of India where I spent 6 months.

A day after my 21st birthday in late September I got another posting come through from our Group Headquarters down at Bangalore.  It was to join 57 EU (Embarkation Unit) Keamari Karachi.

I collected my railway warrant the next day and left Vizag with some reluctance as despite its uncomfortable sticky climate I had enjoyed my stay there and had made some very good pals in the MT and around the camp.

"Farewell Karachi, I'll miss you": Just before take-off Mauripur Airport 1947
My train route north took me first across to Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh and then further north through Nagpur, Jhansi, Agra and Delhi.  The train made an extended stop in Delhi very early one morning, giving me plenty of time to get breakfast on the station in a Spencer’s restaurant – an excellent chain of eating places that covered most parts of the main line railway network in India in those days.

Logically one would expect the direction of the rail journey from Delhi and on to Karachi would be to the southwest from Delhi and which would be about 1100 kilometers as the crow flies, but the story goes, that for some reason the RAF hierarchy decreed that during the summer months no RAF personnel would be allowed to travel that route due to the extreme temperatures across part of the Thar Desert.  Consequently, all personnel had to go north up to Lahore and then down to Karachi, stretching the journey to a distance of approximately 1650 kilometers.

I arrived on Lahore railway station and had a wait of a few hours before the train left for Karachi in the middle of the afternoon. One lasting memory of this journey was the utter desolation and remoteness of this region with just sand and cacti pushing through the dunes for hours on end.  It was the most uncomfortable railway journey that I had ever made in India to date.  I was in a noisy clattering carriage on my own, with just wooden slatted benches to sit on. Getting any sleep was almost impossible with sand blowing through the compartment. 

One indelible scar of the journey was that during one of the many stops along the way I bought a cup of chai in my mug and stood it on my posh newly purchased green tin trunk.  These metal travelling trunks were an essential part of every service man’s equipment when moving from one station to another.  During the night I must have dozed off despite the discomforts of the journey and when I awoke the chai had spilled all over my lovely new trunk and sand had set in it like concrete – never to be erased again.

I remember pulling into Hyderabad and after a short stop arrived in Karachi later in the day.  An RAF truck driver picked me up from the railway station and I was pleasantly surprised not only by the small number of personnel but the situation of the unit as well.  Although my memory of the road layout after nearly 60 years is a little hazy our Keamari premises were on the right, and at the end of a tree lined straight road up from the large KPT building.  Across the road from our quarters we looked out on to a piece of spare ground which was our football pitch and just to the right a clock tower and small boat basin.  I quickly got the feeling that I was going to enjoy my stay in Keamari, it being a very convenient place to get into town for shopping and to the picture houses on our day off.

Our living quarters were a nice surprise, modern built, two level building, with RAF personnel occupying the upper level and Army boys on the ground floor.  I think the army chaps were engaged on roughly the same duties as we were around the docks with embarkation, loading and unloading freight etc.  Within the compound and through a gateway behind a high wall there was a large building, which was occupied by all the clerical staff both Army and RAF.

The clerical staff was not only Army and RAF personnel but also quite a number of native ladies who were employed and attached to the Services and wore smart khaki uniforms.  They lived at home within the Karachi city area and it was one of my jobs several days a week to go out early with my truck and pick them up from their homes and bring them into work, then later in the afternoon return them.

One of the most striking things I noticed about Karachi soon after arriving was the climate change from what I had left in the ‘sweatbox’ at ‘Visag. The temperature drop at night came as a relief and also the complete lack of humidity during the day.

In our MT section we had an assortment of five or six vehicles ranging from a Ford V8 station wagon, two small 15cwt Ford trucks, a couple of 3 ton Chevrolet trucks and a mobile crane for use in some of the open warehouses around the docks.

One memory of those days of 1946-7 was that while working in some of the warehouses in and around the docks, to see scores of British built civilian Jowett ‘Bradford’ vans being unloaded from the ships and stored in the sheds ready for dispatch to various parts of India.  These Jowett ‘Bradfords’ were a newly designed cheap utility van with a small twin cylinder engine and which proved to be very economical to run.  Other warehouses were full of brand new Royal Enfield motorcycles. To me this was a sure sign that many of Britain’s factories had already made the switch over from military to civilian production, post war.

-to be continued

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Picture of the day: Nehru in Waziristan

In the Autumn of 1946, Jawahar Lal Nehru visited  Khyber agency , Malakand and North Waziristan Agencies. This was an attempt by the Congress party to prove they had support in Muslim majority areas unlike the All India Muslim League. They had reason to feel confident, despite the growing support of the 'Pakistan Movement', the Congress party led by the Khan brothers had won the 1946 election. To counter the
visit the Muslim League enlisted the support of the Pir of Manki Sharif

Olaf Caroe the Governor at the time (described by his detractors as a League supporter) wrote about the Waziristan visit
' The next day Nehru started for Waziristan, where the tribal leaders he saw at Miranshah and Razmak gave him an extremely hostile reception. These were not Jirgas, but the real leaders of the tribes who are of course selected by the tribes on tradition and heredity. Abdul Ghaffar Khan made the usual approach so popular in Congress circles, saying that all had been slaves together and were now going to be free. You can imagine the effect of that sort of talk on a gathering of glowering Pathan tribesmen. The Maliks were further enraged by Nehru losing his temper. '

-Picture via QK contributor Maria
-Reference for above quote The Transfer of Power 1942-7,  Volume VIII The Interim Government. 498 page 786 Sir O. Caroe (North-West Frontier Province) to Field Marshal Viscount WavellGOVERNOR's CAMP, PARACHINAR,
 23 October 1946

Monday, 10 September 2012

Picture of the day: Joining Pakistan

Picture copyright Life magazine. caption directly quoted. Cunnigham gardens is now known as Jinnah Gardens in Peshawar. The Jirga shown maybe an Afridi gathering but we are unable to confirm that.  If anyone has any personal info on the picture do mention it in the comments -ed note

Moslems gathering in Cunningham Gardens at the Khyber House for the first Jirga (tribal assembly) at Moslem League meeting, at which a tribe acceded to the Government of Pakistan

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Bajaur: Lost again?

- for another perspective on the fighting read QK contributor Zia-ur Rehmans latest article 'On the borderline'. For more information on the fighting in 2008/2010 read Ismail Khans article here and for the human impact watch the below video 'Flowers of Bajaur' by Samar Minallah -ed note

What’s happening in Bajaur? Don’t ask the ISPR


Militants have attacked Batwar in the Salarzai area of Bajaur. It has been two weeks Pakistan Military has been doing an operation against reported ‘dozens’ of militants. Within these two weeks, the number of displaced people from the affected places has gone up to an estimated 70,000.

The fighting however continues and it looks like this spate of violence will take over the neighboring districts and Agencies as well. As it appears, Tehrik-e-Taliban- Pakistan (TTP) sleeper cells in northern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have been reactivated.  A suicide attacker attempted to attack the Police in Dir and thankfully was himself the only one to get killed after Police recognized him and fired at him.

Key facts about Bajaur Agency

Area: 1290 sq km
Population: 1.2 million (1998 census)
Till 2010

Houses destroyed: 6000
Loss of property and business: Rs6 billion

Budget allocated for fiscal 2009-10: Rs 970 million

Locals had evacuated in emergency because of the sudden occupation of their villages. They did not get the chance of saving their livestock and bring any material comforts with themselves. They ran off from their ancestral homes to save their lives and have become the latest addition to the internally-displaced people (IDP’s).
The long term economic effects of this fighting on the displaced will be severe. As according to local leaders thousands of domestic animals have been left, crops standing in the fields, what is worse an unknown number of people are trapped inside the battle zone and bodies of civilians are lying in the streets and fields.

Most of these IDP’s are in the city of Khar, the commercial and administrative center of Bajaur. Some have been put up by relatives and friends, others in camps set up by the local Awami National Party (ANP) and the Jamaat Islami (JI). I have not come across any reports of a Pakistan government camp. As for the ANP camp, it is being run without any help from central party leadership based in Peshawar. ANP activists Gul Afzal and Abdul Manan have criticized both the government, MPA’s and MNA’s for not taking due interest. As for the government’s help, the local Political Agent told the media it has sent a (single) truckload of food items to the camps. Now how will a single truckload suffice the thousands of shelterless helpless refugees?

Al-Khidmat (the charity wing of the JI) has sent some help but I have not come across any report of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik e Insaaf (PTI) activities to help the IDP’s. PTI is supposed to have good support among the people of the tribal areas for opposing military operations and drone attacks. But they have been conspicuously absent from relief work for FATA IDP’s in general.

International NGO’s in case of this operation are absent too though it is a fact that they have logistic problems here not to mention Pakistan government has all along discouraged their activities in the tribal areas. We know how the ICRC has had to drastically reduce its staff and relief work due to the hostile environment in the country. So the fresh IDP’s of Bajaur are left at the mercy of a corrupt government and opportunist political parties.  

The IDP’s are getting impatient with the wait for Pakistani forces to clear their area of militants. If these are ‘dozens’ of militants and not ‘hundreds’ then it should not have taken more than a few days. But it has been two weeks and no end is in sight. The militants actually have victoriously released a video in which they viciously beheaded Pakistani soldiers.

The question we must ask is why the Pakistani forces are so inefficient. Even if these militants are highly trained, they should not be able to stand the might of Pakistan Army.

On top of it, Pakistan Army is blocking media access to how the operation is going on. Every other day we hear from the ISPR about how many militants Pakistani forces have killed but not much detail follows. How many militants are left in the area? How much longer will it take? Besides, the Salarzai have an anti-Taliban militia as well. Why are we not getting any reports about their role in the fight? If the Salarzai militia is suffering or getting good results, we must know about it. This is important for the morale of the Mamond militia in Bajaur, the numerous other such militias in the rest of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and of course of the public in general.
ISPR tells us about casualties of militants and sometimes soldiers but we have heard nothing about the casualties of the Salarzai force and civilians.  

Like all military operations of Pakistan in the Pashtun tribal areas, many questions surround this operation as well because once again Pakistan government has pulled a black shroud of secrecy over the war against militants in FATA. After years of military offensives in the tribal land, we cannot call any part of FATA ‘clean’ of the weapon-wielding Taliban. They still attack places in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well. We need better freer reporting of the war because the people of FATA and the rest of the Pashtun population of Pakistan cannot have mysterious battles happening in their homeland and at the same have their right to free information denied as well.  

The writer tweets @AzadPashtun

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Interview with history: Akbar Bugti

-this interview was conducted thirty years ago

 By Najma Sadiq

For quite some time now, there have been seen seemingly inaudible murmurs from Baluchistan. Of late, the voices have become louder, the complaint, among other things, being that its aspirations, views and concerns have not been, or are inadequately, aired in the national press.

To try and right this balance somewhat, one point of view is presented here, that of a Baluch, who has been a part of the political scene more so, of late. The former governor of Baluchistan, Tumandar Akbar Shahbaz Khan Bugti speaks to ‘The Herald’ about his life – and land.

Eight-thirty on an October morning in 1939, in Dera Bugti, Baluchistan, Akbar felt cold as he stepped out of his house into the wild desert-mountain expanses, For days since his father’s death, tribesmen from all corners had been gathering to pay condolences and last tributes to their late leader; since twilight they had been readying for the dastarbandi ceremony to invest their new chief.

His mind still in a whirl with the sudden changes that had been taken place in the space of few days – being whisked back to Dera Bugti, the converging of countless Bugti, on hearing of their chief’s death, and now the investiture – he gave himself up to being directed and lettings things happen without his volition. There was nothing for him to do anyway. He had been coached the previous evening on what would happen and the demeanour expected of him during the proceedings; that was enough.

The tribesmen settled down and now everyone’s eyes lay intently on him. He was turned to face the direction of the rising sun. A Sahanrak – the enormous, round, wooden tray-like Baluchi dining plate – was placed before him. The shallow centre was filled with water; ringed around the water were a handful each of wheat, jowar, bajra and other grains and pile of silver rupee coins. Flicking off his shoe, he placed his bare right foot in the water of the sahanrak and let its significance seep into his followers. The origins of the ritual, probably pre-Islamic, were lost in the mists of time, but there was no doubt about its import – both an affirmation and a supplication that his “reign” or sardari benefit from his cool and collected wisdom and judgement as expressed by the water in the sahanrak; that there there be rich harvests year after year; that there be prosperity, signified by the silver coins and that all these should be taabay or under the chief’s feet, or in his own words. “That they should not rule me, but I should rule them.”
The Sardari sword - known as Wazir-am-Kundi and a much a mark of the victor over vanquished as a symbol since it was captured by his ancestor Mir Chakur from the Mazari tribe – was hung at his waist. It was heavy and too big for him and tilted over as it touched the ground. It was the same sword that reputedly slashed a man into eight pieces with a single stroke as he sat on his haunches, his arms tied around his knees!

Now came the climax of the ceremony.  Fascinatedly watched by then British Political Agent and his retinue, one by one the heads of sub-tribes and their sub-divisions and clans came forward in the fixed order of hierarchy and their status in the tribe, to formally pledge allegiance to their new chieftain. Each one had brought a special length of turban cloth, and each in turn tied the turban around his chief’s head with his own hands. One on top of the other the turbans were tied. When it became too unwieldy, twenty to thirty turbans were removed at a time leaving only the original turban behind, and the ceremony continued. Often, as the wrappings grew, he wouldn’t be able to see anything. His head hurt and he had problems keeping his neck straight, but he had to maintain his strength and dignity before his tribe. Several hundred turbans had been wound and unwound from his head within the space of the morning. Joyful shouts and gunfire filled the air. Twelve-year-old Sardar Akbar Shahbaz Khan of the Rahejas – tribal blue-blood from among whom alone leadership could come – was now the Tumandar of the legendary, indomitable, fearless and death-defying Bugti tribe.

Akbar Khan Bugti betters the imagination of what an untamed tribal chieftain should look  like. Over six feet tall with a tough, well- kept physique, he may well have been sculpted from the mountain faces between which he often roamed. At fifty-six, he was as spry and agile as he was as a youth, an excellent horseman and marksman. The years only seem to have sharpened his mental faculties and added to his imposing mien while the anger over the decades over the cavalier treatment of the Baluchis seems to burn in him with an even greater zeal.

Outside his Quetta house, fierce-looking tribesmen stand guard, bristling with guns and bullets. They are an intimidating sight and there was something incongruous about their ushering us in with so much courtesy and respect. Yet all the neighbors declared they felt safer living there than in any part of the city, and those on whose doorsteps the guards scatter themselves, sitting up all night, consider themselves doubly blessed.

The mornings of tribal chieftains are given up to their tribesmen. They came from near and far, to exchange haal or to prevent problems and seek advise or a solution. But this morning was kept free by appointment.

“How much time do you have?” I ventured to ask Sardar Akbar Shahbaz Khan Bugti, so that I could allot my priorities accordingly.

“I can stay up and talk without break from this moment until the same time tomorrow morning. Can you? Your colleague will vouch for that. He has sat with me overnight a number of times – and has fallen asleep.”

Everyone laughed and relaxed. The day was ours. Outside the rain pelted softly. Before we had even settled down comfortably on the cushions, a traditional drink – the first of an endless round and variety – and a mountainous array of dried fruits were placed before us.

Baluchi custom sends women about to give birth, to her parental family home. Akbar Bugti was born in July 1927 in Parkhan District, Loralai, at the house of his mother’s brother. He grew up in Dera Bugti for the first eight years, attending the local school there as well as being coached by private tutors.

When he was five years old, he was handed his first shotgun. “It was a small bore shotgun – not 12 or 16 but 28 bore – one of the smallest. I sat on my haunches and fired. Immediately I was thrown back and the gun fell from my hands.” But it had not frightened him, accustomed as he was to the presence of guns and gunfire since birth. Thereafter, three Bugti elders began to instruct him on Baluch customs and principles, tribal affairs and how to deal with them. Minor cases of dispute began to be sent to him and the elders would sit with him and direct him on how to question complainants and defendants, and how to arrive at a decision. From the age of seven he sat in on jirgas with his father to listen to cases being conducted and add to his knowledge of tribal administration. He learnt early to lead, to take command, to be king.

There was a short season of primary school in Quetta but the great 1935 earthquake that leveled the city followed soon after. When he visited Quetta again, they could not find their bearings to their house amidst the uniform, anonymous rubble. 40,000 had died. His father then brought Akbar and Ahmed to Karachi and they settled into the Karachi Grammar School. “Lots of Europeans then – upper-class Karachiites including Hindus. Yusuf Haroon and Hidayatullah were our seniors.”

But then the brothers were living with Allama I.I. Kazi and his German wife, Elsa Kazi. There were other out-of-town boys too were placed in the Kazis’ care mostly from different parts of Sind. “The Kazis were childless and they treated us like their children. Later Kazi Saihib became Vice –Chancellor of Sind University. They were a very devoted couple and finally when Mrs. Kazi died, he committed suicide by throwing himself into the river near Giddu Bunder. Without her, he found life empty.”

Akbar Bugti’s deep voice, though always gracious, was measured and emotionless. The only time he seemed to allow warmth and animation to come into his voice during the entire day was when he spoke of Elsa Kazi.

“They were both wonderful but Mrs.Kazi was the more accomplished and true intellectual. She talked of everything under the sun. She was poetess, writer, dramatist, painter, and philosopher of sorts. Yes, she influenced me considerably.”

After his father died and he became Tumandar of the Bugti tribe, Akbar and his brother became Wards of the State. As he was a minor, a regent administered the tribe in his place. The regent was Akbar’s father’s half-brother, and reputed to have murdered Akbar’s father.

Like suddenly changed with a wrench.  ”We became wards of two terrible agencies,” he said “one of the government of Baluchistan and the other of Sind, since we also had property in Sind. After the dastarbandi ceremony, all the money that was passed from the late chief to his sons was counted by the Political Agent and taken away and placed under the state until we were adult. The government decided to send the Bugti boys to Aitchison College, Lahore.

“We were miserable for days. There was one consolation though. We were allowed to spend our summer holidays with the Kazis every year as we were not permitted to go to Dera Bugti at all.”

Perhaps it was for their safety since there couldn’t have been cordial feelings where murder was suspected. And a Baluchi son was unlikely to forget or forgive.

But Aitchison turned out to be rewarding. As much attention was paid to sports as to studies and Akbar excelled in them. He captained the swimming and polo teams, played in the cricket team and was good in athletics too, breaking a shot put record.

When he was between eight and ten years old Akbar was betrothed to a second cousin, an incident of which he has no memory. Soon after his 15th birthday, the respective mothers and other relatives suddenly turned up in Lahore and Akbar was informed that he was going to be married. It was a quiet affair and in 1943, when only 16, his first child was born. For two consecutive summers he and his brother Ahmed along with the Kazis and their wards, vacationed at a hill-station thirty miles near Simla, his family accompanying too, staying at an adjoining separate house.

By now Akbar had begun to hear of the Nationalist Movement for Independence by the Indian Congress. “I had not heard of the Muslim League though, but only of Gandhi and the Swadeshi Movement and Gandhi’s call to boycott British goods. Near Soldier Bazaar where we lived in Karachi, people had made a huge bonfire and were throwing in British manufactured stuff. I got carried away as well by the intense feeling, and took off my tie and solar hat and threw them into the fire. Then I acquired a Gandhi cap. I still have it.”

Since 1939 when Akbar became Tumandar until 1944, he had not been to Dera Bugti. “In the meantime trouble began to grow against the Sarbara (regent). People didn’t like his ways and representations were made to bring me back. I knew nothing about all this until I was suddenly taken to Dera Bugti during the vacations. I was taken to another house of ours in Sibi which was quickly renovated. My formal education came to an abrupt end. In January ’45 my second child was born. A retired government official was appointed to tutor me in administrative matters. All of ‘ 45 there was trouble against the Sarbara and in April 1946 I was finally officially recognized and installed as chief, with direct authority over by tribe, by the government.” At eighteen, boyhood came to an end.

(Highlighted box) :-

“Of course,” said the Nawab, “you must remember that I killed my first man when I was twelve. “ That is how Sylvia Matheson’s definitive book on the Baluchis, ‘Tigers of Baluchistan’ begins. “The man annoyed me” had been his explanation. “I’ve forgotten what it was about…. I’ve rather a hasty temper you know… as the eldest son of the Chieftain, I was perfectly entitled to do as I pleased in my own territory. We enjoy absolute sovereignty over our people and they accept this as part of their tradition.”  The boy Bugti grew up with a dual personality – one that warmed to Elsa Kazi and the ways of the twentieth century, and other that grew up with tribal law in which murder was not a capital offence.

Marri-Bugti country, spread over 7000 square miles, are among the harshest lands in Baluchistan. Rain is rare and temperatures rise to heights that are a torment even to the toughened Bugtis. Tribal life with its disputes over livestock, scarce water, horses and women, the war parties and temporary truces, contained as usual under the sardari of the new Tumandar. In a barren land, quarrels flared over basics of life. The blood-revenge, necessary to honour, kept up unabated and the occasional accusation of adultery known as siyakari broke the monotony of murders. The Tumandar had his hands full with the daily kutchery. These included rare divorce cases and complaints of maltreatment of wives by husbands. Although strictly adhering to the traditional restrictions of women -- and they had little to be thankful for in Baluchi society, not even having the right to inherit -- the new chieftain, on occasion, didn’t hesitate to publicly punish the offending man.

“Something I gave him a lecture, and the shame he feels to be so spoken to in an open kutchery serves the purpose. Sometimes it’s more than a lecture – a couple of strokes on the back so that he knows what it feels like physically, mentally, psychologically.” Echoes of Elsa Kazi?

In 1948 Akbar Bugti was sent for administraitive training to the C.S.P Academy in Lahore which followed the lines of the British I.C.S. At partition, Baluchistan was not a full-fledged province but still a centrally administrated area, and in 1950 he became one of the two advisors on the Baluchistan Advisory Council towards bringing about provincial status as promised by Mr. Jinnah and Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan “But it was like an assembly without powers. We could effect nothing whatsoever,” he murmured resignedly.

In 1953, England’s Queen was crowned; Akbar Bugti and Nawab Khair Buksh Marri were also in invited. It was Akbar’s first trip abroad. “It was a fine ceremony and I was struck especially by Queen Salote of Tonga; she was seven feet tall and with her huge bulk, she was an impressive figure indeed.”

Political disillusionment set in when “we were lumped together into this terrible scheme known as One Unit which ended all the aspirations of the people here for their advancement.

“And to think I had opted for Pakistan! It was in 1946 that we first heard of the Muslim League. We knew as much about them as they did about Baluchistan, which was vague. When we were called upon to decide whether to join India or Pakistan, I called all the elders together and the pros and cons were weighed. My people asked by opinion as they had no knowledge of the world outside. I said I thought Pakistan was best because even if we had wanted to join India, there was no direct land-link and an unnatural situation would have arisen as with East Pakistan.

“Earlier, there had been a stand-still agreement with certain British Indian States like Hyderabad Deccan and with the Maharaja of Kashmir and the Khan of Kalat. The Khan had put the matter of joining India or Pakistan to his Assembly and both the upper and lower houses had unanimously voted to stay independent. Then in 1948, the Pakistan government moved troops to Kalat – a brigade surrounded the palace and invaded Kalat -- Colonel Shah, Minister of Interior, sat in Quetta controlling the whole operation. Some cannon shots were fired across his (the Khan of Kalat) palace to impress him and he was obliged sign on the dotted line; unconditional surrender and accession to Pakistan. Similarly in India, police action was pushed in Hyderabad and the Nizam had to do the same.

“That was the first time people became aware of unrest in this region. The Khan’s younger brother, Agha Abdul Karim, revolted and took to the hills with a large body of people. When the position became untenable, he crossed into Afghanistan and camped in Sarlat. For some months there were skirmishes. Senior official interceded. They took an oath on the Holy Quran that if they returned they would be guaranteed safety and dealt with leniently and differences would be amicably settled. No sooner did he (Agha Abdul Karim and his companions) come he was handcuffed, locked up, and he and his men sentenced to prison sentences of 18, 14, 10 years. That was the first taste of Pakistan that Baluchistan got. It built up antagonistic feelings and got worse.

“Baluchistan had one seat in the Constituent Assembly. Though there was the electoral college that constituted of the members of the Shahi Jirga of Baluchistan of which I too was a member, the ticket was ioven to Dr. Khan Saheb, elder brother of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a government-nominated man. We protested. The Political Agent was called in. We announced boycott of the elections as a test. But it went through. He was selected or elected. After some time someone took the matter to court, a legal flaw was found in the elections and he was unseated.

“In the meantime, there were some changes in the state laws, Members of the national assembly became the electoral college. Again through maneuvering, Dr. Khan Saheb got the ticket. It was terrible. Had Baluchistan had half a dozen seats we would have given him, or anyone else, one as khairaat or bakshish. But we had only one seat and that was going to a non-Baluch, which was unfair and unjust. We went kamarbasti to Karachi and confronted him. We asked how a person who had fought for rights could justify such an action and appealed to his better judgement. He resorted to anger, because he had no defense to offer, then walked out on us. We were flabbergasted. At that time he was Chief Minister of West Pakistan against the very interest of his own brother and his own party. Then we went on a campaign.”

“There were 80 members in the National Assembly – 40 each from East and West Pakistan. In the West Pakistan quota, one had been vacated by Dr. Khan and another member was absent. So we thought if we could get 20 firm votes, I could win. We weren’t very confident as I was young and raw and the rest were all old fogeys, but one had to try. Twenty people made firm promises to us. On the morning of the voting we placed a couple of men to watch who were going to the Governor-General’s house – who were being called in and offered something or threatened. Those that went in, we knew, were lost. At the end of the count, I had 18 votes, Dr. Khan Sahib 20.”

“Who went back on his word?” I couldn’t resist asking.
“They are dead now.”
“Just for the record …. ”
“I won’t name the others but one was Jalal Baba who was rewarded by being made a Deputy Minister. He wanted a reward from us too. We asked him what that was and he said a motor car. We said ‘fine’. - I had one, and my brother had one, Malik Sher Mazari had one. They were all parked below. When Jalal Baba came in, we all took out our car-keys and started jingling them to attract his attention so that he could choose whichever car he wanted. But he wouldn’t even look at us! We realized then he’d got a bigger prize. The others, I must admit, wanted nothing from us. When the results were out, Mian Iftikharuddin who was in the opposition, flared up at me. ‘Why didn’t you tell me your position was so strong? He asked. I could’ve got you two more, maybe six more votes.

“The seat was again vacant -- by-elections held – and this time I was elected unopposed. No great achievement, but shortly after I became Minister of State, Feroz Khan Noon handed me responsibility. But in those days there was a lot of manipulation behind the scenes – Iskander Mirza’s antics preparing ground for Martial law.

Every few days there’d be a reshuffle and change of Cabinet. This went on for a month. Until one day we stayed away from office to see if the newest change would hold, instead of making laughing stocks of ourselves. No use being Minister for a day and half ! Sure enough that night, troops moved in and took their positions. Early next morning it was announced – the Constitution was done away with, parliament and parties dissolved, cabinets dismissed, Martial Law imposed and Ayub Khan became the Chief of the M.L.A. Some time before this the Khan of Kalat was brought into the picture as one of the excuses for Martial Law.

He’d been abroad and returned a month or so earlier and was staying with Iskander Mirza who claimed that Bahawalpur had been agitating for their rights and suggested that if he (the Khan of Kalat) were to show some token agitation, some armed force, that was all that was needed to bring Kalat State back to life. And Mirza would also be needing a few lacs for himself. So the Khan replied, “We’re Baluch and don’t have much money, but Bahawalpur has let them give the money and we’ll give the muscle. So it was all settled, the Khan being a simple man and not knowing he was trapping himself in a great intrigue.

“I first became aware of it through the papers which gave the matter a false buildup. Azadi ka jhanda on the Khan’s qila and Pakistan in danger, and all that sort of nonsense. Two days before Martial Law, I was in the corridor and overheard Noon and Iskander Mirza. I joined them; Mirza turned to me and said ‘Well, Akbar, tumhara Khan ka dimmak Kharab ho giya. I’d called him for a meeting and he refused to come.’

I was disturbed and told him it was not possible, I would fetch him myself. He said, ‘No you’re my Minister. I won’t send you.  I told him that apart from being a Minister, I was a Baluch too and so was the Khan. He was my elder, it was perfectly in order for me to go to him. He looked at me fixedly and said, ‘It’s too late,’ and abruptly walked away.

“I realized that something was terribly wrong, something hidden. The next day the Army moved in, demolished part of his place with cannons, arrested him, and placed him under house arrest in the Punjab. And a big hoo-ha was made – that Baluchistan would have been up in flames if this action had been taken. Poor Khan was really had.”

“Trouble started again in Baluchistan not only because of the arrest and deposition but also in demand of provincial rights and against One Unit. Mohd. Nauroz Khan Zarakzai, who was over 90, and his sons and other men had taken up arms. Again, as with the Khan’s brother, he and his sons were lured back by oaths on the Quran that no harsh treatment would be meted out if only they gave up the revolt. When they returned they were thrown into a military detention camp in Quetta known as the Coolie Camp, because after the Great Earthquake, the coolies brought in from outside to clear the debris had stayed there. It was concentration camp with barbed wire – searchlights, heavily armed guards. Several hundred Baluch were tortured. Military Courts were established. Seven were ordered hanged, seven sentenced for life, others for various lengths of time. Nawab Nauroz Khan and one of his sons got life sentences. Another son and a nephew were executed – hung in Hyderabad and Sukkur jails. That added fuel to the fire. More trials joined in the fire. More trials joined in the fray and more got arrested. So was I, Mengal, Bizenjo and Khair Baksh Mari (Sherenoff) who was later released by mistake!

“I was in twelve different jails for the next seven and half years after being tried by the Military Court. First at Coolie Camp, then Machh, Hyderabad, Karachi, Sukkur, Multan Montogomery, Lyallpur, Mianwali, Lahore. Oh! It was a Grand Tour spent mostly in the Punjab and all during Ayub’s time.”

“In the last few years, foreign money has been pouring into Baluchistan. The Western and Arab World have suddenly discovered a place called Baluchistan and its importance ever since the Russian presence in Afghanistan. But most projects are ‘pocket’ schemes – they go into the pockets of officials and blue-eyed notables. The sizes of the ‘pockets’ have increased, they’ve become gunny bags. A little trickles into ‘development’, but no government consultations are held with tribal elders on projects. It doesn’t win the loyalty of the locals or gratefulness to foreigners, whatever their intentions are. You can pour in millions, but you can’t buy Baluchistan and the Baluchis.”

“What was the rationale behind your being shifted from place to place ?”

“Increasingly harsher conditions as one got used to each. Special instructions were given for that. Then the Mengals – fathers and brothers and hundreds of their people suffered. There were military operations, aerial bombardment, many died. Ayub found he couldn’t crush with military action and now thought of negotiation instead. He called the Shahi Jirga and arranged for face-saving tactics. Amnesty was announced. We were all released and had a good laugh notwithstanding the long sufferings and losses. All the cases were withdrawn; things like murder, conspiracy, almost a dozen things under the penal code, including anti-state activities and working for the dissolution of the state!”

“What were the trials and treatment like?”

There was an officer in charge of the Special Summary Military Court No. 2 – Major Sher Ali Baz – a specialist in the art of torture for extracting so-called confessions. The same man was called in for the Agartala case and later the ‘Pindi Conspiracy case. He went on to become Brigadier. I remember one young man he tortured. It was inhuman – he was nailed to the wall. Three wooden nails were driven through the left palm. Chillies were put in his eyes. Then with fish-hooks his flesh was plucked from different parts of the body. For 28 continuous days and nights he was made to stand so that his legs became as fat as an elephant’s. His shalwar had to be torn. They tied bricks to his testicles. The terrible thing was that he was innocent -- but by the time they realized he was innocent, he was blind and crippled.

“As for my trial – it was prosecuted by a crude colonel. The magistrate was a refined man but when he tried to ask me some questions, the Colonel rebuked him; ‘You do your job, you’re just a babu of this court, keep writing.’ It was just a kangaroo court. I remember it was winter and bitterly cold that year. I was sentenced and packed off to Quetta and then Machh. Nawab Nauroz Khan was brought there too and court assembled in the jail premises where he was sentenced to death.

“A week later the jail was again heavily surrounded by military units. I felt it was my turn now. Sure enough the Deputy Superintendent came in next morning and told me I was wanted. My trial had already taken place and this was to finalize the verdict. You see, they send it to the Judge Adjutant General of the Army who gives it some legal shape and then it was signed by the CMLA. The officer looked at me and read out, ‘You are sentenced to death and a fine of rupees five lacs.’ I wasn’t aware of it at that moment but I was told later, that I was smiling as I heard this. So many thoughts pass through your mind when you think you’re about to die. I was wondering from whom they were going to collect five lacs if I was going to die. Maybe that’s when I smiled. The officer had stopped for a minute. I think he was looking for a reaction – an appeal for mercy – but he got none. Then he read on; ‘And further, the CMLA has commuted the sentence of death to transportation for life.’ Then he looked up at me to see if I would beam or something – he was disappointed again.

“The mercy petition for Nauroz Khan’s son was rejected. He was executed next morning. I pleaded but they wouldn’t let me see or meet him a last time. Nor did they give his father the opportunity to meet him.

“How did you pass your time during all those years in jail. Was any reading material provided, radio or games?”

“None whatsoever, except for a terrible newspaper called Pakistan Times and that too, only in the Punjab. Much of my time was spent in solitary confinement. In Sahiwal, I spent two years in solitary. After two weeks I’d lost my voice although, I didn’t know it until the Superintendent came to say something to me. When I tried to answer, only a squeak came out. I realized I was losing my voice. After that I would sing or talk to myself regularly just to keep the vocal chords exercised and working!

“Rare interviews with relatives are allowed. But it is not for merciful reasons. One looks forward to it, but the C.I.D. sits there listening to every word so that much of the joy in gone – you can’t speak freely. Afterwards, you are even more shattered because once more you’ve had a taste of what you’re missing. Jail is dehumanizing. You feel like a vegetable rooted to one spot. Sometimes they water you, sometimes they don’t -- you have no say in the matter. I’ve lived in all classes in jail – A Class, B Class, and C or Royal Class. In Royal Class, unless you have some means, you barely survive because jail functionaries make money by giving you less food and pocketing the difference.

“The first priority when we would be shifted from one to jail to another was to set up our lines of communication. On one occasion I’d sent a letter to Ataullah Mengal’s house for anti-government handbills because a NAP man was staying at his house. Mengal had prior knowledge of what was going to happen and had already cleared out everything. But just as the police were leaving after a fruitless search, one of the men saw a paper sticking out of a shirt pocket. It was my letter and the NAP fellow was arrested as a recipient.”

“And the consequences to you?”

“Well a special team came down from Karachi to interrogate me. There were no signatures, of course, I said it was indeed a very good counterfeit and whoever wrote it was definitely an expert. The Superintendent must’ve really come under fire. Cases were made against us for ‘seditious and rebellious treason’ and God knows what else. We were brought to Karachi and a special trial was held in jail in camera by a Class 3 magistrate. The trial was just the usual farce, and we took no interest. On the basis of that one letter I was sentenced to three years hard labour, which was a joke – you can’t add any more years to life imprisonment with hard labour already! My co-accused was acquitted while a retrial was ordered for me. Then came Ayub’s general amnesty and I was set free. This was after my first sentence – death – and I’d spent 20 months in jail.

“Then came Ayub Khan’s elections. Khair Buksh Marri and Ataullah Mengal were elected to the seats for Baluchistan. I couldn’t stand being an ex-convict. At the first Assembly, Marri and Mengal spoke up about all the atrocities in Baluchistan. At that time Z.A. Bhutto who was then Foreign Minister spoke to me – he held me responsible, said Kalabagh was angry with me. At a meeting in Baluchistan the atrocities were brought up again. Two days later, Ayub had his meeting where he said, “there’s someone here who was sentenced to death. I commuted it to life imprisonment. Now he’s getting people to agitate against me and the government! He named no names but I was sitting there and people understood at once. Next day I wasn’t allowed to speak at our own meeting. Tents were demolished. I was arrested before the meeting. Thereafter Mengal and Bizenjo and others were arrested. Marri vanished before they could get him. Life sentence was re-imposed on me.

“Anyway, my brother Ahmed approached Mr A. K. Brohi to defend me. There were old ties and attachments – or so we thought. When we were with the Kazis, their home was the gathering place of Sindhi intellectuals. Mr. Brohi was then a poor, struggling law student and Mr. Kazi had appointed him as our private tutor. So Mr. Brohi said of course -- anything for my old pupil, won’t even charge any fees’ – and he took up Mengal’s case too. After attending a couple of sessions in the Punjab High Court, he received a letter from Ayub Khan – a veiled threat. Immediately Mr. Brohi collapsed and withdrew from the cases.”

“Didn’t he offer any explanation?”

“He didn’t have to since I was in jail. To my brother he offered the lame excuse that he was too busy – that nothing could be done anyway. Another lawyer was found at the last minute but he was unprepared and the case was dismissed. I heard about these letters much later.”

“By the way, Mengal and I are responsible for three or four new laws on our statute books. They were brought in to ‘deal’ with one man, but they apply to everyone. 

For example, there was a change in the Ward of Courts Law -- pertaining to minors. Under that they took over all my property – I became a minor all over again in jail ! Even my cars were taken away.

“There was an interesting incident – this was when there was all that action against the Baluch and the Agartala matter. Mujib and Bhutto were locked up too. I was detained in Mianwali. The last days of Ayub’s rule. I had gone on an extended fast – I lost 75 pounds – and was shifted to Mayo Hospital, Lahore. From the hospital verandah we could see the processions and action. Casualties would be rushed to Mayo and we’d get first-hand information. One day there was a lathi charge and tear-gassing. A few people, to escape, jumped over the wall into the hospital grounds. My armed police guards left me and fled for their lives! I was left alone and I could have easily escaped if I wanted to. But I knew it was the end of Ayub. Bhutto and Mujib and others had to be released. This was in ’69 – the Round Table Conference had failed. There was Ayub’s broadcast and Yahya’s takeover. Air Marshal Nur Khan became Governor of Baluchistan. Our properties were restored and other festering matters dealt with.

“Nur Khan was the only one who made a genuine effort to find out and tried to resolve problems as much as he could. But probably most things were beyond his authority and powers as Governor. During his time people were breathing more freely. Soon after, Yahya visited all the provinces. We demanded provincial status one-men, one vote. He later announced the dissolution of One Unit. He started on the right foot. Even people who didn’t like him, gave him credit.

How do you view the future?

“I don’t know if we have a future,” he replied.The development going on doesn’t tell you what it really is? We only know what the papers say. Quetta is a show-piece. While I was in jail in Ayub’s time, there was a lot of talk about crores being poured into Baluchistan’s development. I started computing the crores that were claimed. By the time I was released it came to several billions in Baluchistan. But I came back to the same old desert, I saw the same broken roads and houses. I saw no great difference except that certain military roads and cantoments had been constructed. But military roads are not for the people.

“It was the same in Bhutto’s time. Ayub built six long military roads. Bhutto added twenty more links, and airfields and helipads, and landing fields. I don’t think any Baluch has any private aircraft or helicopters. At the tail end of Bhutto’s time, cantonments and pucca forts were built to house their own forces – not Baluch.’  This continued till early last year. In Dera Bugti a fort was completed which was started in Bhutto’s time. In Kaghan, Nathiagali, Pat and Marri areas, Jhalawan and Sarawan areas, there are a dozen forts, In all there are 38 – some completed, some under construction, for permanent troops to be housed. I asked, under what heads do you call this development? The reply was, Baluchi tribals are employed in building. I say they are digging their own graves. Mazduri to fortify the army is called development.”

‘In January this year there was a lot of hoo-ha about 44 lacs being spent on the inauguration of Quetta pipeline. Political bribery. The Britishers did the same when they laid the railway line. Two purposes then – the Afghanistan war, and to bribe the locals. Now it’s happening for the second time. Sui gas, which is a product of Baluchistan, has been supplied to all of Pakistan for 20 years or more. Now, when the gas is nearly depleted – only 10 -15 years worth left, they give Quetta a small pipeline and make a big story of it.”

“In the last few years, foreign money is pouring into Baluchistan. The Western and Arab world have suddenly discovered a place called Baluchistan and its importance ever since the Russian presence in Afghanistan. But most projects are ‘pocket’ schemes – they go into the pockets of officials and blue-eyed notables. Now the sizes of the pockets have increased, they’ve become gunny bags. And a little trickles into ‘development’. But that doesn’t win the loyalty of the locals or gratefulness to foreigners, whatever their intentions are. You can pour in billions but you can’t buy Baluchistan and the Baluchis. No government consultations are held with tribal elders on projects.

“The point is that today Baluchistan, especially the coast, is of greater superpower interest than the Punjab. As a vital strategic link, this can unfortunately be a battlefield where we’ll be crushed under foot. Already, one is not safe is one’s own land. In Bhutto’s time, many people were forced to leave their homes, hearths and families and settle in another country ! This regime announced amnesty several times – but we’ve had experience of amnesty before. Less than 100 took advantage of it and half of them were Pakhtuns, not Baluch. The guerillas who stayed away are, the ones who helped bring together the Marris and Bugtis and the temporary ceasefire preceding the final peace.”

“What about education?”

“There are small colleges with handfuls of students here and there. The idea is not to bring true education but to keep the students away from Quetta where they might consolidate their strength. It’s safer to keep them dispersed. People who have a college or even a middle-school education are maladjusted because there are no corresponding jobs. When I was Governor, I sought to have mobile dispensaries and mobile schools so that they could follow the semi-nomads and nomads. That’s the only way until there’s full development to enable people to settle down. But nothing came of it. You should have institutions to suit people, not the other way round.”

Almost eight hours had slipped by since the interview had begun. Coffee, tea and soft drinks had made endless rounds with lunch fitted in somewhere in between without once interrupting the flow of conversation. The Tumandar hadn’t asked whether we would care to join; he simply took it for granted as the hospitality extended to guests. Many questions were left unasked. It was his life I’d come to hear about. At times I felt we were drifting off the central theme, talking only of politics but then came the realization that as a Baluch and a tribal chieftain, deeply disturbed about the future of his land and people, all that Akbar Bugti had spoken of was his whole life. A greater urgency was building up as he approached his sixtieth year and no satisfactory solution to the dilemma of his people, appeared in sight.

Outside, the rain fell in torrents. It was time to leave. The countless other questions would have to wait. Saying our goodbyes, we stepped out from the storm within to the storm outside

Attribution : Originally published by the Herald: DAWN group under the title Akbar Bugti .  Republished for educational purposes.
Author profile: The writer is a former journalist and currently director of The Green Economic Initiative at Shirkat Gah, a rights and advocacy group