August 15, 2009

India is clear: Baloch leader ,Akhtar Mengel


August 4th, 2009
By Neena Gopal

Bengaluru, Aug. 3: On a day when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani crowed over the inclusion of Balochistan in the Sharm el Shaikh joint statement leaving the door open for Pakistan to raise ‘Indian interference in Balochistan’, a former chief minister of the Pakistani province firmly rubbished Islamabad’s claims of Indian support to the Baloch separatist movement.

Sardar Akhtar Mengel, charismatic leader of the Balochistan National Party, at the forefront of the beleaguered Baloch move to carve out a separate state said: “It is a complete fabrication, the Baloch quest for self-determination is completely indigenous, and the attacks are on the Baloch people, not the other way around, it is our young men who are being taken away from their homes to face false charges.”

In a telephone interview with Deccan Chronicle, Mengel, son of the legendary Attaullah Mengel and close aide of the assassinated Nawab Akbar Bugti said: “India is not involved in supplying arms and weapons or cash to the Baloch nationalists. Not one paisa. Not one bullet. It’s a completely false allegation. I wish India were involved, that would make it much easier for us. Nobody has helped us. I wish somebody would. Our people are being systematically attacked with weapons provided by the US to hunt down Taliban and al Qaeda. And no one in the West raises a voice against it.” “First they say Afghanistan, now they say India. Let Pakistan prove it, let them prove Indian involvement,” he said in an open challenge to

Pakistan’s “elected civilian” government, that he said “is no different to the Musharraf dictatorship”.

Instead, he said the ISI and the military continues to target them. “They tried to kill us all. I was lucky to survive. They wanted to eliminate me in an encounter. Brahmadegh Bugti escaped but Nawab Bugti’s other grandsons did not. Not one of us has any protection,” he said.

Released from detention in May this year after two years in a Karachi jail, there was outrage when he was produced bound and fettered in a cage in a Karachi court during a show trial.

The young leader was held on charges of sedition after he planned a long march to protest Bugti’s assassination and the crackdown on the Baloch people that followed Mengel mocked Pakistan’s charge that India was behind the 2004 killing of three Chinese engineers helping to build Gwadar port, and said the claim was patently false.

“The Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the killing,” Mengel said, while also denying Pakistan’s allegations that his movement’s leaders had held secret negotiations with India.

“Pakistan’s allegations of outside help are a cover for the annihilation of our people fighting a legitimate movement for self-determination.

Balochistan was a nation before 1947. After the fall of Dhaka, the ISI and the military were afraid we would break away so they stepped up the attacks on our people. Pakistan does not want the Baloch people to survive, they want our land, they want our natural resources,” he said, referring to Balochistan’s rich oil and gas reserves.

“This charge of outsiders helping our movement is not new. It started in 1947 when the Khan of Kalat was forced to sign a document acceding to Pakistan, despite both houses of the Baloch parliament ruling against it, and the movement against accession began.”

At the time, he said, Islamabad claimed Iraq had supplied the Baloch with weapons. “Why would weapons meant for us be found in Islamabad, some 2000 km away when we have an 800 km long coastline that would have been far more accessible?”

He said the current blitz against his people was similar to the time when helicopter gunships supplied by the Shah of Iran to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government were used to crush the Baloch resistance.

Asked if Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani’s claims that “there would be good news on Balochistan” meant that talks were underway between Islamabad and the separatists, he said “not from our side”.

Talks with the PML(Q) government had seen “two delegations come to us, one led by Waseem Sajjad, chairman of the senate and the other by Mushahid Hussain. The result? The murder of Nawab Bugti.”

Describing the assassination as a huge shock, he said: “Why does no one ask what happened to Nawab Bugti’s body, which nobody saw or of the many supporters who were with him when he died. What happened to their bodies? We believe Musharraf authorised the use of chemical weapons against Nawab Bugti and his men.”

Asked why the Baloch leaders had done little to improve the lot of their people, allegedly keeping the wealth accruing from royalties to the Sui gas pipeline with them, he said: “This is a false charge. Baloch leaders like my father built the only university in the province when he was chief minister, as well as the only hospital. The Pakistan army has built huge cantonments on my land, on Bugti’s land, on Marri land. If they can build illegal cantonments on our land, why can’t they build roads, schools and hospitals?”

Pak back to square one
Pakistani premier Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday said he had expressed “serious concerns over Indian interference in Balochistan” in his discussions with PM Manmohan Singh. He also called for resumption of dialogue on Kashmir.

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