Balochistan will mark Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti’s 11th death anniversary on August 26th. Political parties as well as Baloch people observe the day as a black day in the province’s history. The way Nawab Akbar Bugti embraced martyrdom in Tatani mountain range of the province has since turned him into a legend like those Baloch warriors described in Persian poet Firdausi’s works. Firdausi (934-1020) has described Baloch tribal warriors in the following words, “when provoked and challenged they did not look back to match their mettle against mighty powers. It is observed from the abundant war records of history through the ages”. Born on July 12, 1927, Bugti attended the Aitchen College in Lahore and then proceeded to Oxford University in United Kingdom before stepping into politics. Bugti wasn’t just a local hero but also a national politician whose cause resonated throughout the country. His political charisma and persona distinguished him from other politicians of his generation. He was a well-read man with a gifted intellect. Being an astute politician, he looked at issues with a political lens and always sought to find solutions through political means. Nawab Bugti was a staunch democrat who had strong faith in left-wing politics. He would not shut the door on negotiations till the last minute. Having remained politically active for five decades, Bugti’s figure looms large on the politics of Balochistan. He also has tremendous contributions towards Baloch nationalism. Bugti’s first stint in the government started in May 1958 when he took up the office of the interior ministry in Malik Feroz Khan Noon’s cabinet. Soon the cabinet was dismissed as General Ayub Khan took on the reins of the martial law administration. In 1960, Bugti joined the National Awami Party (NAP) but developed differences with the leadership overtime. He was firmly in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s camp by the time the latter dismissed the NAP government in Balochistan. Bugti was appointed as the governor of the province and Army deployed to rein in the NAP. Meanwhile, Bugti faced criticism from within the nationalists’ ranks of his silence over military deployment in against NAP’s leadership. In 1974, Bugti resigned from governor’s office following disagreements with Bhutto administration in the centre. After a long gap in his political career, he joined Balochistan National Alliance (BNA) and in February 1989 he was elected chief minister of the province. Baloch nationalist politics couldn’t realise its promise partly because of the role played by some certain quarters and partly because of internal quibbling and differences among nationalists. However, Bugti still attempted to get all Baloch nationalist parties under the same umbrella when in 2004 he called for a united front of these parties. But there were a lot of barriers that prevented the possibility. In 2005, Bugti presented a 15-point charter of demands that was ignored by the federal government. On the question of Bugti’s life and legacy as that of a typical sardar or a nationalist, there cannot be any doubt that he raised his voice for the rights of the oppressed people and this earned him great accolade. To the critics who label him as a warlord, one may quote Bugti’s following statement, “we have been struggling for our rights and for this purpose we have suffered hunger, hardships, and imprisonment.” On the question of Bugti’s life and legacy as that of a typical sardar or a nationalist, there cannot be any doubt that he raised his voice for the rights of the oppressed people and this earned him great accolade When the political situation turned tense in 2005, Bugti gave an interview to BBC in June where he has been quoted to have said, “They [the government] are communicating with us through canons, fighter jets, deep penetration bombs, this is such a great dialogue. They are having a loud discussion with us. By the time Bugti spoke with the Time correspondent via a satellite phone, he had burned all his boats and was based in Tatani mountain range. He is quoted to have said that ‘instead of a slow death in bed, I’d rather choose death come to me while I’m fighting for a purpose’. Despite the federal government’s attempts to paint him as a typical warlord and autocratic feudal despot, the manner of his death ensured his destiny as a martyr for Baloch nationalism’s cause. And in retrospect, it will be clear to any observer of Baloch nationalist politics that the situation prevailing in the province during his lifetime was a lot more normal than how it has turned out after his death. His assassination was condemned both at national and international levels. Parallels were drawn between his killing and the way we dealt with the unrest in East Pakistan where another military dictator General Yahya Khan preferred guns over dialogue. But the most unfortunate aspect of Bugti’s sacrifice was that it couldn’t culminate in unity of all Baloch nationalist groups. The writer is a freelance columnist and blogger who writes on socio-political and literary issues Published in Daily Times, August 25th 2017.