Zara Ali |
The advent of the 20th century marked the beginning of political awareness among the younger generation of the western educated Baluch elite. The split of Baluch territory and the tenuous position of the Khanate of Kalat had a pronounced role to play in leading Mir Abdul Aziz Kurd to vehemently advocate institutional and political reforms in Baluchistan under the banner of ‘Young Baluch’.
Yusuf Ali Magsi was another name that rose to prominence with the wave of a newly found sense of Baluch nationalism and the two eventually went on to form the first political party of Baluchistan by the name of Anjuman-e-Ittihad-Baluchan. This political organization united the Baluch and the Pakhtun population in their demand for constitutional reforms and a united Baluchistan.
It is worth mentioning that the demand for reforms in Baluchistan, on the same footing as in other provinces, had already been included by Jinnah in the Delhi Proposals presented in 1927 and again in the 14 Points proposed in 1929. In 1931, demands made by the Anjuman met with failure when the Khan of Kalat Azan Jan, who the Anjuman had supported in his claim to the throne of Kalat, reneged on his commitment.
Lord Mountbatten did agree with the Khan on the sovereign status of the Khanate on July 19, 1947 as did the representative of the future Pakistan Government.
The Khan and the Sardars were highly reluctant to allow political reforms as that would tend to diminish their influence. In 1932, the Anjuman managed to convene the All India Baluch and Baluchistan Conference that unified the Baluch-dominated Khanate and the Pakhtun-dominated British Baluchistan in their demand for unification of Baluch territories, a constitutional government, and political as well as educational reforms.
The proposed reforms were however not taken into consideration by the British Administration on account of general lack of political awareness and the disunited nature of Baluch territories as well as ‘lack of resources’ and ‘small population’. Subsequently, the British Administration arrested nationalists struggling for constitutional reforms.
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Despite this, Yusuf Magsi managed to organize the second All India Baluch and Baluchistan conference in 1932 that stressed upon the yet unmet demand of reforms. It is exceedingly interesting to note that in the long term, reforms if implemented, would have naturally addressed the general lack of political awareness while a merger of the Khanate of Kalat and British Baluchistan would have evidently helped create a sense of unification among the inhabitants of Baluch territories regardless of their ethnicity.
The Khan of Kalat, Ahmed Yar Khan, extended his support to the Pakistan Movement but desired an independent status for the Khanate.
Hence, reasons cited as the basis of British rejection of the said demands were, in fact, nothing more than the lame excuse. The truth of the matter was if the British had acceded to these demands at the time, they would not have been able to write the history of sustained covert dominion over Baluchistan even after their apparent departure from the Indian Sub-Continent.
After the approval of Government of India Act 1935 that proposed the formation of a Federation inclusive of some or all princely states, differences arose within the Anjuman. This was an unfortunate ethnic-nationalistic split between the Pakhtun of British Baluchistan who stood for constitutional reforms versus the Khan of Kalat who strived to sustain a sovereign status. Abdul Samad Achekzai went on to form Anjuman-e- Watan that aligned itself with All India Congress’ politics and continued to advocate for reforms in British Baluchistan whereas Mir Abdul Aziz Kurd proceeded to lead the Baluch nationalists under the banner of Kalat State National Party (KSNP).
KSNP had the backing of the Khan of Kalat initially but this marriage of convenience came to an end in 1939 due to KSNP’s demand to get rid of the Sardari system and replace it with a representative government. The Khan of Kalat was not willing to reconcile to the status of a mere figurehead of such a representative government. Subsequently, KSNP was declared an unlawful body and banned by the Khan of Kalat, however, it continued to function in British Baluchistan where it also affiliated itself with All India Congress’ politics.
Parallel to these developments, Baluchistan Muslim League was informally established by Qazi Isaa and in the following years, Jinnah did not spare any effort at infusing the Muslim political movement in Baluchistan with his undying spirit. Here, it must be noted the formation of All India Muslim League in Baluchistan was initiated by the people of Baluchistan and All India Muslim League simply responded to their call.
The Khan of Kalat was not willing to reconcile to the status of a mere figurehead of such a representative government.
All India Muslim League gained the support of some very prominent Sardars of the time and Mohammad Khan Jogezai, in fact, managed a victory over Abdul Samad Achekzai in the contest for the Baluchistan seat in the Constituent Assembly. This was perhaps viewed as a symbolic defeat of All India Congress and its affiliates at the hands of British Baluchistan that had overwhelmingly chosen to extend support to All India Muslim League’s Pakistan movement.
The All India Congress at this point seemingly realized inclusion of Baluchistan in an Independent India would not be permissible due to geographic and demographic compulsions, hence, it commenced to encourage the idea of independence of Baluchistan as well as that of the Muslim majority North-western province.
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The Khan of Kalat, Ahmed Yar Khan, extended his support to the Pakistan Movement but desired an independent status for the Khanate. The Khan contested the unilateral change in the status of the Khanate under the Government of India Act 1935 and insisted on the independent status sustained in earlier treaties namely that of 1854 & 1876.
Yusuf Magsi managed to organize the second All India Baluch and Baluchistan conference in 1932 that stressed upon the yet unmet demand of reforms.
However, the British Administration regarded its sovereign status as a mere formality since British intervention in the affairs of Khanate had continued to increase with the passage of time rendering the Khanate’s status equal to any other princely state of British India. Lord Mountbatten did agree with the Khan on the sovereign status of the Khanate on July 19, 1947, as did the representative of the future Pakistan Government.
The dispute over the return of leased territories included in British Baluchistan did remain. The Khan of Kalat insisted these territories should be handed back to the Khanate upon transfer of power, however, the representative of the future Pakistan Government insisted under international law that Pakistan would inherit all treaties signed between the British Administration and the Khanate.
In order to decide the fate of British Baluchistan, Shahi Jirga was appointed by the British Administration as an electoral college, which included Sardars from the leased and tribal regions of British Baluchistan despite rather irrational opposition from the Khan of Kalat. The Khan was aware of the overwhelming support for the Pakistan movement in the leased territories as well as the tribal region. The nationalist elements did not hesitate to dispute the verdict given by the Shahi Jirga that voted in favor of Pakistan.
On August 4, 1947, a Standstill Agreement drafted by the British Administration with regards to the future of princely states was signed by representatives of the future Pakistan Government and the Khanate of Kalat, thus effectively assigning Pakistan as the legal, constitutional and political successor of the British in terms of any agreements signed between 1839 and 1947. The purpose of this Standstill Agreement was to allow more time to the princely states that were not yet willing to sign the Instrument of Accession also drafted by the British Administration parallel to the Standstill Agreement.
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After independence Kharan, Makran and Las Bela expressed their desire of accession to Pakistan irrespective of the decision made by the Khan of Kalat. Following the lapse of British paramountcy Kalat’s supremacy, seen as outright hegemony by these princedoms, was not acceptable to any. This development apparently had a big hand in leading to what is sarcastically termed by most historians as a ‘change of heart’ on Jinnah’s part since in October 1947, he advised the Khan of Kalat to sign the Instrument of Accession whereas Kalat disputed the independent status of these princedoms.
In 1931 demands made by the Anjuman met with failure when the Khan of Kalat Azan Jan, who the Anjuman had supported in his claim to the throne of Kalat, reneged on his commitment.
In February 1948, Jinnah wrote to the Khan of Kalat and reminded him of his commitment to a final reply subsequent to their detailed one-on-one discussion on all aspects of the matter. Ahmed Yar Khan committed to a reply after discussion with the House of Representatives of Kalat, however, before the said meeting could be convened Kharan, Las Bela and Makran signed the Instrument of Accession, which was sent to London by the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan on March 17, 1948.
There is ample reason to believe Ahmed Yar Khan hesitated to announce accession to Pakistan due to his brother Prince Karim Khan’s strong opposition. However, with Makran, Kharan and Las Bela having acceded to join Pakistan and given its geographical placement, it was simply not possible for Kalat to sustain itself as a sovereign state, hence, amidst rumors of conspiring with the Indians, Ahmed Yar Khan announced to sign the Instrument of Accession on March 27, 1948.
The Khan’s brother had fled to Afghanistan prior to this but returned with militant provision to commence a revolt in July 1948. This group of militants continued its unconventional attacks on the Pakistan army up until 1950, although, this was a lone battle. The decision of Pakistan Government to use military to curb an illegitimate insurgency within its own borders was used to give birth to propaganda that claimed Baluchistan was under Pakistan’s occupation; however, if such a set of circumstances is to define ‘occupation’ of a land and its people, the map of the world would stand in dire need of much modification.
In 1955, the status of Kalat was altered from that of a princely state as was the case with Makran, Kharan and Les Bela. All were eventually made part of West Pakistan. The Gwadar enclave, which had been under the rule of Oman since 1784, was also acquired back at the cost of U.S. $3 Million in September 1958. During 1958-60, the second wave of conflict was witnessed when in retaliation to the One Unit Policy implemented under the constitution of 1956, Nauroz Khan of the Zehri tribe started a guerrilla war against the State.
On the face of it, this was a reaction against limited provincial autonomy under the One Unit Policy. This was also a solitary battle without support from the rest of Baluchistan. Although this conflict apparently came to an end by 1960, lack of provincial autonomy and mishandling of Nauroz Khan and family did make for a sore point between the Baluch nationalists and the Federation ultimately leading to a third conflict in 1963-69.
During this period, Sher Mohammad Bijrani of the Murri tribe commenced guerrilla warfare and established bases in the Mengal, Murri and Bugti territories in response to the decision of the Federation to establish new military bases in Baluchistan. The Baluch nationalists agreed upon cease-fire in 1969-70. However, the unrest did continue into the 1970s. In 1973 citing treason as the reason, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto dissolved the civil governments in Baluchistan as well as the North West Frontier Province and imposed a Martial Law.
The advent of the 20th century marked the beginning of political awareness among the younger generation of the western educated Baluch elite.
This resulted in the fourth wave of insurgency that was perhaps the bloodiest but did meet its demise after the complete dissolution of the One Unit Policy. The so far last attempt at revolt started with the killing of Chinese engineers at Gwadar Port in 2003-4. The Federal Government was later presented with a 15 point agenda by Nawab Akbar Bugti and Mir Balach Murri who demanded greater control over province’s resources and a moratorium on the construction of military bases.
However, by 2006, this latest of attempts at revolt also came to a bitter closure with casualties on both sides. As was the case before, this endeavor also did not enjoy support among the general population and this fact was noted in a 2006 leaked cable from the American Embassy in Islamabad as well.
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Following this episode of unrest, the hereditary Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleiman Dawood, who self-exiled himself to England in 2006 proclaimed himself as the ruler of Baluchistan and formally announced a Council for Independent Baluchistan in 2009. The said Council claims domain over Persian Sistan-Baluchistan as well as the Pakistani Baluchistan excluding the Afghan Baluch region. Mir Suleiman Dawood is not only of the opinion that ‘the United Kingdom holds the moral responsibility to highlight the issue of ‘Occupied Baluchistan’ at the international level but has also had the audacity to express his desire to visit Tel Aviv declaring Baluch nationalists will not hesitate to accept support from any friendly party inclusive of Israel.
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.