Preventing a ‘showdown’: Shahzain Bugti put under house arrest

ISLAMABAD/QUETTA: The government of Balochistan took Shahzain Bugti, the provincial president of the Jamhoori Watan Party, into “protective custody” at his residence on Thursday, ostensibly to avoid a possible showdown between two grandsons of the slain Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti at their native town of Dera Bugti.

“The provincial government feared bloodshed among the Bugti tribesmen when both parties seemed to be sticking to their guns,” said an official while giving reasons for the detention. The federal government’s consent was sought to detain Shahzain, who was to launch a long march from Dera Bugti to Islamabad.

Other reports suggested that the provincial government had issued orders to keep Shahzain detained within Quetta city limits for a period of 90 days. The move by the provincial home department came under the Maintenance of Public Order Act.

The tug of war between Shahzain and his cousin Nawab Aali Bugti began last week when the two scions disagreed over holding a long march at Dera Bugti. Shahzain, who has become the provincial president of his late grandfather’s JWP, was adamant about launching the protest from Dera Bugti, with Islamabad as the destination.

Shahzain had announced his decision to begin the long march at Dera Bugti after he was released from a Quetta jail. His aim is to seek the rehabilitation of Bugti tribesmen who were forced to leave Dera Bugti during the military operation against the late Nawab Akbar Bugti by the then president Pervez Musharraf.

However, Nawab Aali Bugti, who has replaced his grandfather as the chief of his tribe, was opposed to Shahzain’s arrival at Dera Bugti. Nawab Aali had warned Shahzain against visiting and said that he would not tolerate his presence there, the source added. For his part, Shahzain had rejected the warning and insisted on a planned tour of Dera Bugti.

Shahzain is among the late nawab’s grandsons who are aspirants for his title. Another one is Brahamdagh Khan Bugti, now in self-imposed exile in Kabul.

In December, the Frontier Constabulary arrested Shahzain with 26 guards and associates at the Baleli check post, Quetta, after seizing a huge quantity of arms and ammunition from his convoy. Shahzain had called it a conspiracy to prevent his long march. He had been on his way from Chaman to Quetta. The seized arms consisted of 43 unlicensed Kalashnikovs, six RPGs, two rocket launchers, 70,000 rounds, two RR guns and several IEDs. By January 17, Shahzain was freed after the Balochistan High Court granted him and his men bail.

In Karachi on Thursday, Shahzain visited the Muttahida Qaumi Movement headquarters where he announced his intentions to launch the long march on Friday.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2011.


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