One of the most prominent Nawabs of the powerful Bugti tribe, Akbar Bugti has become a symbol of Baloch nationalism since his death combating the Pakistan army (1927-2006).
Last Updated: 7 Dec. 2013
Nawab Akbar Bugti was born to the prominent Bugti tribe of the leased tribal regions in 1927, and has been a figurehead of Baloch nationalism, particularly since his death at the hands of the Pakistani military in 26 August 2006. Bugti received his early education from Aitchison College in Lahore and then Oxford University. He had taken an oath of loyalty to the state of Pakistan as a member of the National Legislature, and taken the seat of Governor of Balochistan in 1973-1974 and Chief Minister of Balochistan in 1989-1990.
Dera Bugti is the homeland of the Bugti tribe, and the site of close to 50% of Pakistan’s natural gas reserves, in Sui. Controversy over exploitation of resources that belong within Bugti territory, and the refusal by the central government to use this revenue for the development of the province, or to share the revenue with tribal leaders, has led to involvement of the Bugti tribe in Balochistan’s nationalist struggle.
Akbar Bugti’s involvement in the Baloch uprisings includes the third uprising, the second one instigated against the One Unit Policy implemented in 1954 in West Pakistan to make it one political entity and therefore further stripping the four provinces of their autonomy. After the second conflict in 1958, the federal government permitted the building of several military bases in key conflict zones. In retaliation, a Baloch militia was raised in 1963 to demand the government share Sui gas revenues with the various tribal leaders of Mengal, Marri and Bugti. After a prolonged arms struggle, the separatists agreed to a ceasefire in 1969, in exchange for which General Yahya Khan repealed the One Unit Policy in 1970 and united all the areas of Balochistan with the status of the present day fourth province of West Pakistan.
In 2005, Bugti and Mir Balach Marri presented the Musharraf regime with a 15 point agenda regarding Baloch demands for greater autonomy within Pakistan. Despite extending negotiations to the federal government, military operations continued to be carried out in Balochistan, accompanied by disappearances of several hundred Baloch political activists. In December 2005, an army helicopter containing high profile military personnel, inspector general of the Frontier Corps and his deputy, was attacked by firepower in Kohlu district. Musharraf ordered a military operation in January 2005 on Kohlu, Makran, Jalawan and Dera Bugti. By March 2005, the inhabitants of Dera Bugti town had fled, with numbers of those displaced as high as 160,000, and Nawab Bugti had retreated to a mountain stronghold to continue the resistance.
On 26 August 2006, Akbar Bugti was killed by air and ground strikes by the Pakistani military. The circumstances of his death have remained a controversy, and widespread anti-government protests ensued following the Musharraf government’s refusal to accept responsibility for the murder. The story of Bugti’s death changed from the triumph of the Pakistani military, to an act of self defense by military personnel that resulted in the accidental death under the rubble of the cave Bugti was hiding in, to Musharraf’s final claim that Bugti committed suicide. His body was not returned to his family, and was instead buried by the military in Dera Bugti.
The uprising and law and order situation in Balochistan has taken a turn for the worse since Bugti’s death. He continues to be a figurehead of the Baloch nationalist movement. In July 2012, an anti-terrorism court in Sibi issued arrest warrants against Musharraf and some others who were accused of Bugti’s murder. Musharraf’s return to Pakistan in 2013 after four years of self-imposed exile to contest elections resulted in courts reissuing his arrest based on several charges, including the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti.