Zara Ali |
One of the comments in the thread that followed my earlier article on GVS “The U.S. Deep State Recklessly Edging towards Balkanization of Pakistan” regrettably hinted at an awfully sad reality: the extent of ignorance as well as that of deliberate disinformation prevalent in regards to the case of Baluchistan, not to mention the intensity of bitterness among a section of the Baluch.
The said comment not only reflected as to how uninformed and/or misinformed sections of our general population may be regarding the matter, it also revealed how naïve humans can be, even in this time and age, so as to actually believe that global tyrants of modern history, who have unceasingly contributed to precipitating and propagating unrest in the region for over a century, could become their savior.
The Sardari system remained a keystone of British rule in Baluchistan although the British did have to crush centrifugal tendencies among the Baluch in order to keep the Khanate intact so it could continue to serve their interest
Undoubtedly the propaganda machinery employed by global powers with long term vested interest in the region has effectively influenced the meek and gullible. And parallel to this, history has also witnessed a handful of turncoats among the Baluch elite who have been way too eager to play in the hands of global war mongers for the sake of self-centered interest.
Nonetheless, the saddest of facts pertaining to the matter under discussion is that Jinnah’s vision for Baluchistan was purposefully and/or imprudently put aside by the succeeding rulers of Pakistan. None of them had the vision to fathom the long term Geo-political game already in the works at the time nor could they ever measure up to Jinnah’s noble and earnest concern for the Baluch people or for that matter the new-born state of Pakistan.
Hence the bitter resentment harbored by sections of Baluch population over the course of past seven decades that has been exploited and manipulated as a much welcome catalyst to further the agenda of the Great Game in the region.
Geo-strategic Significance of Baluchistan
The Khan was bypassed while Sandman established direct links with Sardars who relished the financial assistance and political patronage of the British since it impressively elevated their eminence
The Geo-strategic significance of Baluchistan was keenly understood by the British during their colonization of the Indian Sub-Continent. To begin with perhaps their interest was chiefly fixated on establishment of buffer states in the extreme northwest of Baluchistan so as to block off any perceived Russian intervention, however it would be an understatement to say the British were not highly mindful of Baluchistan’s multidimensional geographical placement that had the potential of playing a highly significant role in the ever evolving Great Game.
Baluchistan not only provides an access point to South Asia via deep waters but is also situated on crossroads of land routes between South and South-western Asia. Concurrently, it forms a rather safe passageway to the territories farther to its northwest namely the mineral-rich Afghanistan and still further the energy-rich Central Asia. Not to mention, Baluchistan’s deep water ports are naturally positioned in close proximity to the oil-rich Middle East while this huge mass of mineral-rich arid land also makes for a safe passageway to the Chinese territory via the North-western Frontier region of Pakistan.
The British Administration was bent upon securing the line of communication with Afghanistan via Baluchistan and this strategic goal could not be achieved without turning the Khanate of Kalat into a vassal state
In a nutshell, the Baluchistan region can be undoubtedly termed as a ‘Geo-strategic gem’ hence the British did not want to lose covert control of it even after they were forced to concede to the demand of independence in 1947. Prior to their reluctant departure, the British did everything in their power to plant and nurture seeds of discord that would allow them to continue their clandestine effort aimed at exercising covert dominion over this region for times to come.
Who controlled Baluchistan and why?
Historically speaking, the control of Baluchistan has remained divided between the Empires to its East and West. In the 1500s, Baluchistan was under the control of Safavid Empire in Persia to its west and Mogul Empire in India to its east. In the middle of 17th century, the Brahui Ahmedzai tribe founded the Khanate of Kalat however, the early Khans were never fully independent and it was always of paramount significance as to who they were subject to.
In the middle of 17th century, the Brahui Ahmedzai tribe founded the Khanate of Kalat however, the early Khans were never fully independent and it was always of paramount significance as to who they were subject to
They bowed to the Mogul Emperors in Delhi and/or the Afghan rulers in Kandahar. After the collapse of the Safavid and Mogul Empires as well as that of Nader Shah’s, Baluchistan basically reverted to a collection of princedoms some of which fell under the rule of Afghanistan though most remained independent. The Khanate of Kalat asserted its independence flatteringly and ushered an era of territorial expansionism.
Starting from the middle of 18th century the Khanate enjoyed its most glorious age right until the death of Nasir Khan. Nasir Khan’s demise set in a period of great crisis. During this period the Qajar Dynasty established itself in Persia while the British Empire continued to colonize the Indian Sub-Continent, hence the two commenced to squeeze the Baluch once again.
It served the interest of the empires both in the East and West to keep the Baluch territory and its people contained. There were even instances of Anglo-Persian cooperation in suppressing the Baluch. However, it is worth observing external stimulus was not the sole cause of chaos and anarchy within the Khanate. Among other reasons, it is said Khans favored a feudal system whereas Sardars, the tribal leaders, were adamant upon replacing it with a decentralized confederation hence an in-house tussle.
Concurrently, the British Administration was bent upon securing the line of communication with Afghanistan via Baluchistan and this strategic goal could not be achieved without turning the Khanate of Kalat into a vassal state. Although the British troops had been facilitated with a safe passage to Afghanistan during the first Anglo-Afghan war (1839-42), after withdrawal from Kandahar, the British invaded Kalat. The Khan of Kalat was accused of betrayal and not enforcing the treaty signed with the British. Mehrab Khan was killed when he refused to give in to the British Administration’s whims.
Nonetheless, the saddest of facts pertaining to the matter under discussion is that Jinnah’s vision for Baluchistan was purposefully and/or imprudently put aside by the succeeding rulers of Pakistan
From here onwards the British Administration ensured Khanate of Kalat remained under their indirect dominion although the treaty of 1854 formally acknowledged its independent status. The innovative yet experimental system of tribal pacification introduced by Colonel Sir Robert Groves Sandman, who was appointed as the agent to the Governor General in Baluchistan and was assigned the task to consolidate indirect British influence, changed the purely tribal system that had existed in Baluchistan for centuries and used institution as a weapon against rebellion.
The Khan was bypassed while Sandman established direct links with Sardars who relished the financial assistance and political patronage of the British since it impressively elevated their eminence. This decentralized system gradually led to reduced dependence of Sardars on tribal support and increased distance between the Sardars and the Khan. It also furnished a perfect excuse for the British to get away with minimal administrative and developmental intervention in the region since under this decentralized system Sardars were the custodians and guardians of their land and people.
After the second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-80), British Baluchistan was brought into existence by combining areas ceded to the British Administration by the Afghans and areas leased to the British by the Khanate of Kalat. The Sardari system remained a keystone of British rule in Baluchistan although the British did have to crush centrifugal tendencies among the Baluch in order to keep the Khanate intact so it could continue to serve their interest.
It must therefore be noted the split of Baluch territory did not occur abruptly nor were the Baluch severed arbitrarily rather tampering of frontiers under mutual agreements between Empires in its east and west over the course of more than one century led to the modern frontiers of Baluch territory.
Zara Ali has been a teacher for over 24 years now. She also has an experience in marketing. She writes on various domestic and international issues. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.