Pre- & slightly Post-Partition (The Balochistan Series – Part 1)

This is the first installment of ‘The Balochistan Series’ here on my blog. To see more of the series, click here.

Balochistan is often called Pakistan’s most neglected province, a place where people live as they did centuries ago, where modern amenities are almost non-existent, and where tribal law rules all. But what are the factors that led to this state of affairs? Why is Balochistan the least developed, most backward province in terms of economy, infrastructure and way of life? And why, in recent decades, has it been plagued by long periods of armed intervention, a poor law and order situation, and widespread violence?

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The Baloch people are culturally rich, and have always been fierce nationalists. This may be attributed to the fact that historically, Balochistan or Kalat were never an official part of the Indian state. It may be noted that once a state recognizes itself as independent, to renege on that claim proves very difficult indeed.  The tension between the newly-formed state of Pakistan and that of Kalat can be traced back to this very idea. In 1839, upon conquering part of the State of Kalat, the British gave assurances that they would maintain and respect its [Kalat’s] independence.  Later on, while key Baloch figures, such as Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, were in favor of the creation of Pakistan, they were at the same time, expecting that Kalat would remain “a separate, independent & sovereign state” after the British had left the subcontinent. (Center for Research & Security Studies, 2010)

Jinnah and the Khan of Kalat, Ahmad Yar Khan

According to the CRSS 2010 report on Balochistan, Jinnah himself promoted the “complete independence and sovereignty of Kalat as it existed before the agreements and treaties of 1841, 1854 and 1876 with the British”. This was in 1936, when M. A. Jinnah was hired as an advocate by the Khan of Kalat. Jinnah’s argument stated that “In 1872, Sir W. L. Merewether… wrote… HH the Khan is the de facto and de jure ruler of Kalat… [our] treaty is with him as ruler only.” (Baluch, 1975) This argument prevailed, and on August 4th, 1947, Pakistan signed a stand-still agreement with Kalat, recognizing it as “an independent, sovereign state” with matters such as mutual defense, communications and foreign relations left unresolved for later.

To further substantiate the notion that the Baloch never expected to be part of a greater state, let’s look at some more facts. Also in 1936, I. I. Chundrigar, Pakistan’s future PM, wrote a petition claiming that Kalat was “just like Afghanistan and Persia. The State has no intention of entering into a federal relationship with successive government[s]… I have, therefore, to request your Excellency to declare the independence of Kalat State.”[1] (Breseeg, 2004) Four other possibilities were also explored by the government in Kalat, mainly, mergers with either Iran, India or Afghanistan (all rejected on various grounds) or becoming a British protectorate (rejected by the foreign minister). The Khan suggested independence, in which Kalat would maintain friendly relations with Pakistan. A merger with Pakistan was never considered. The reasons for this are as yet unexplored.

The leaders of tribes in the Marri-Bugti areas of the Baloch people insisted on their lands being included in the Kalat federation. Several chiefs form Derajat also approached the British government, asking to be aligned with Kalat instead of the Punjab. It is clear that even before the establishment of the Pakistani state, these factions, who even today have an influential presence in the province, sought a high degree of autonomy and sovereignty. This indicates that many in Balochistan may have been reluctant to join Pakistan, and give up their sense of individual freedom and self-government. Keeping in this in mind, it is not difficult to understand that pressure from the then-Muslim League government to merge with Pakistan was met with refusal, and defensiveness. This can be further understood in light of the Round Table Conference on Aug. 4, 1947, in which it was decided that “Kalat State will be independent… enjoying the same status as it originally held in 1838” and that if in conflict with any other state, “Kalat will exercise its right of self determination”[2]. (Baloch, The Problem of Greater Balochistan: A Study of Baloch Nationalism, 1987) The Khan of Kalat flatly rejected the idea of a merger (brought about by Jinnah during the Khan’s visit to Pakistan in October 1947) and the Kalat Houses of Parliament unanimously supported him, only partially agreeing to joint defense, currency and foreign affairs. Making their point even clearer, they “pledged to strongly resist any coercive action from Pakistan even with force”. (Center for Research & Security Studies, 2010) Kalat was, therefore, ready to defend its independence.

It was here that the conflict first began to emerge. Kalat was aligned with Pakistan as long as Pakistan did not to try ‘strong-arm’ the former into obedience. The Balochis were not willing to compromise on matters of sovereignty. Pakistan’s offensive in illegally annexing Makran, Kharan and Lasbela confirmed its role as a bully. The Khan was put under house arrest, with his release conditional upon the signing of a merger – which he eventually did sign, on March 27th, 1948. Not only was this forced annexation oppressive and undiplomatic, but it pushed the Balochis into making good on their pledge, and inspired the first low-scale resistance movement against Pakistan in the Kalat/Balochistan region. Pakistan subsequent victory in crushing the rebellion was again, unethical. Leaders of the resistance were arrested over a deceptive agreement on the Holy Quran.

Awan presents an alternate view in his book, when he says that “the decision to send some troops into… Mekran was for the protection of the radio and port installations there, and because the Khan’s brother was threatening to starve the civil armed forces of petrol and food.” If this is taken into account, the seemingly brutal actions of the Pakistani government are put into focus. Awan backs up this statement by rationalizing that if any forced annexation measures were being carried out to intimidate the Khan and pressurize him to accede, they would have been sent to the Khan himself, and not to remote areas such as the coastal belt. Instead of depicting the Khan as a weak victim, Awan claims he was an anti-Pakistan element who was fully aware of what he was doing, and was “openly hostile”  and that the government, not so ruthless as we may think, “advised him to go abroad” – advice which he ignored, leading to his arrest. (Awan, 1985)

Throughout the first few years of independence, popular opinion states that Pakistan’s actions with respect to Kalat can hardly be summed up as admirable, or even diplomatic. The Baloch people were forced into Pakistan, forced to accept themselves as part of a people that they did not identify with, and the seed for resentment against Pakistan was sown by the very party [Muslim League] which fought for the creation of the state itself. Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo clearly articulates Baluch sentiments regarding the merger. “We have a distinct culture like Afghanistan and Iran, and if the mere fact that we are Muslims requires us to amalgamate with Pakistan, then [they] should also be… This mean[s] signing the death warrant for 15 million Baloch in Asia.” (Allah-Bakhsh, 1957) Throughout this time, 1947-1955, it was civil servants who held the highest posts in government and the Muslim League that dominated both the center and the Punjab.

It must be acceded that the final decision to join Pakistan, the signing of the Document of Accession, was the prerogative of the Khan himself. This was probably due to the fact that Pakistan had started an armed offensive, one that the Baloch State was in no condition to combat, and that the Khan saw no other alternative, besides war which would have ended unfavorably for the Baloch people. The Khan’s decision was in no way popular, and in fact was opposed by nationalists. The National Party rejected the accession and was behind much of the anti-Pakistan agitation in 1948. The advent of centralizing forces making decisions regarding Balochistan was not easily accepted by people who had been controlling their own affairs for centuries. Even today, Baloch nationalists point out that they are not given adequate representation in the affairs of the state, and not given a say in decisions on major regional projects. There is long-standing resentment against centralization. “As a matter of fact, the Baluch believe that Baluchistan today is a colony of Punjab, the most populated and powerful province of Pakistan.” (Grare, 2006)

Baloch nationalism was not just developed as a result of accession to Pakistan. Indeed to assume that Pakistan is entirely responsible for nationalist feelings in the area is a major oversight. After WWI, a classical nationalist ideology incorporating the idea of a “Greater Balochistan” was developed. The 1928 forced incorporation of the Baloch into Iran by Reza Shah was greatly resented, and domination by foreign powers proved to be a further motivator. In the environment of the anti-colonial movement taking place in the subcontinent, along with the rebellions in Turkey and Russia at the time, it is not surprising that the idea of Greater Balochistan started to appeal to more and more Baloch. This active movement within the Khanate of Kalat lends further weight to the theory that the Baloch people were not expecting accession to the state of Pakistan which was eventually brought about by the overwhelming force of the Pakistan army. While this may not have, in itself, contributed to mass rebellion, it did lay the seed of mistrust, and strengthened nationalist fervor.


[1] I. I. Chundrigar, Memorandum to Viceroy, 1946, cited in Inayatullah Baloch, “The Baloch Question in Pakistan and the Right of Self Determination”, in Zingel Lallement (ed.) Pakistan in the 80s, Lahore, 1985, p. 350

[2] India Office Record “Independence of Kalat, 1948” cited in: Inayatullah Baloch, The Problem of Greater Balochistan, p.352


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23 thoughts on “Pre- & slightly Post-Partition (The Balochistan Series – Part 1)

  1. http://www.induspress.com/?p=12 (just food for thought post on Balochistan, accession of Kalat etc and Pakistan)

    while I genuinely appreciate the effort you have put in to highlight the complexity surrounding the events and factors that saw the Baloch territories join Pakistan in 1948 (willingly or otherwise), I feel that you have not been able to fully grasp just how tricky those weeks/months were and how much at a disadvantage the Khan of Kalat was. I for one do not fancy the nationalist narrative of ’27 March 1948 injustice’ they tend to harp on and brush all the complexities and twists into a ‘forced occupation by Pakistan’. History, if you look deeper, says a much different story.

    I hope you have read Dr Martin Axmann’s book “Back to the Future: The Khanate of Kalat & Genesis of Baloch Nationalism 1915-1955″ as it gives a far more academic neutral analysis of Kalat’s accession to Pakistan than nationalist scholars like Inayatullah Baloch have said so. No offence to those folks, but they have mainly run with their old Marxist ideals of a Baloch ‘nation state’.

    Another book I recommend is Zahid Chaudhary’s “Pakistan ki Siasi Tareekh Vol 7: Balochistan – Masla-e-Khudmukhtari Ka Aghaz”

    http://tehqeeq.org/2013/02/18/pakistan-ki-siyasi-tareekh-balochistan-volume/

    Back to Kalat, I hope in your research you have come across a few very important points:

    1) The 3 June 1947 Indian Independence Act forbid the Indian princely states (incl. the Baloch ones) from gaining independence and had to accede to either India or Pakistan. The Khan’s ambition were essentially trumped by those who paid his monthly stipend. As much as he would have wanted to be treated differently, he was lacking options.

    2) Balochistan in 1947 was not a single entity. There was a British Baluchistan province, and there were the states of Kalat, Kharan, Mekran, and Lasbela. here is a map you should look into http://geocurrents.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/British-Balochistan-map.jpg

    3) British Baluchistan had already voted to join Pakistan soon after Partition when a Shahi Jirga voted for Pakistan (Nawab Akbar Bugti and Nawab Muhammad Khan Jogezai being some of the participants) as well as the Quetta Municipal Board doing same. So the Pashtun parts, and the Baloch areas of Chagai, Nushki, Sibi, Bolan, Marri-Bugti had actually signed up for Pakistan long before the question of the Baloch states came in.

    4) Kharan, Lasbela, even Makran had always mistrusted Kalat’s desire for complete control over their territories. The irony is all the chiefs of these 3 states were related to Mir Ahmad Yar Khan through inter-marriage (clearly that didnt help out). These states have always had an intense desire for resisting Kalat’s dominance for generations, and had fought among themselves a lot in the past.

    5) Nawab Habibullah Khan Nausherwani of Kharan had from day one urged Pakistan to accept Kharan’s accession to Pakistan. He had wrote time and time again to Jinnah to do so given that Kharan was regarded as a separate state by 1947. Same with Jam Ghulam Qadir Khan of Lasbela. He too wanted to avoid being subservient to the Khan.

    6) Make no mistake about it. Mir Ahmad Yar Khan’s desire to be the next Mir Naseer Khan I was out of personal vanity and quest for power. He wanted to be the absolute ruler of the Baloch states. The Khan did not even consider Kharan and Lasbela to be given ANY representation in his state darbars. His upper and lower houses had members ONLY from Kalat and Makran. Not even British Baluchistan had any real representation in them. The biggest twist of all: the Khan himself made sure that those legislative house had only advisory powers that could never challenge the Khan’s authority. Even the Kalat State National Party was supported by the Khan as long as they remained subservient to him, and when they stepped out of bounds he banned them.

    7) Independence in 1947 context of these states would be regarded as local autonomy with indirect rule from the successor countries of India and Pakistan. Sikkim was also granted independence by India until it acceded in 1975. But India maintained control of Sikkim’s currency, foreign affairs, and defence. This was what Kalat would have expected. Local autonomy.

    8) With Kharan, Makran, Lasbela, British Balochistan all abandoning the idea of joining Kalat, the Khan was out of options. Sure Pakistan played its political card well, but the Khan had even approached India and Britain for some arrangement: both refused. Accession was inevitable from Day One.

    9) The Army was NOT sent into Balochistan until accession was signed and the Khan’s brother, Abdul Karim, caused a ruckus in Makran – he essentially took all the wealth from Makran’s treasury and fled to Afghanistan with a 100 of his followers and tried to have a small rebellion.

    it sort of shows how weak the ’27 March 1948′ injustice argument becomes when the authorities all willingly acceded to Pakistan before Kalat, and if that isnt enough, the Khan in his own autobiography writes that he signed the accession document as an ‘article of faith’, and that he had to deal with a number of angry Baloch sardars over them not being invited to attend the ceremony of his accession to Pakistan.

  2. Pingback: East Pakistan’s succession, & Z. A. Bhutto (The Balochistan Series – Part 4) | Zainab Khawaja's Blog

  3. Pingback: Yahya Khan, Pashtuns, etc. (The Balochistan Series – Part 3) | Zainab Khawaja's Blog

  4. Pingback: The Balochistan Series – Part 2 (1950 onwards – One Unit Scheme, Ayub Khan, etc.) « Zainab Khawaja's Blog

  5. i wud like to add to it a little bit, qiad e azam represented the khan of kallat in a land case as his lawyer and when khan along with dignitaries met qaid e azam to pay him for his services for a sucessfull case qaid e azam said join pakistan. khan of kallat and other trial leaders agreed. there are 225 baloch tribes balochi was considered a dialect of persian before the post colonial era. balochistan was similar to nwfp where there were ppl alligned wioth congress like the chifef of the tribe residing in jackobabad (ill confirm the name again) was a congress member and worked agaisnt pakistan like the anp. gm syed was agaisnt pakistan and then joined muslim league and then after the creation of pakustan started the movemnt which is trying to create a sinshi homeland jsqm. not all the tribes speak balochi they speak sindhi brahwi makrani and ofcourse balochi which is a reletively new recoghnition as a language.

    but heres the game changer. qaid e azam in 1946 on his way to england stopped in egypt on a friday after the friday prayer met with the ruler of egypt, whichw as the only free muslim state then, and asked to make a muslim confederation once pakistan was free, and this information is first hand ive heard it from qaid e azams adc whow as present in the room
    baluchistan is still the most independent region of pakistan most of it being b area where trible leaders are payed by the goverment of pakistan to be the government basically to keep the peace and have jails and to run courts

    according to a tribe leader (not good with names sorry) who was arrested when bugti was murdered, the dispute with bugti was tht mush refused to pay the promised amount which every tribe chiefe recieves from the state according to the area under there control mush said tht bugti controlled less bugti said he had more, mush ordered a survey bugti agreed, turned out bugti had even more area then orignally was recorded and for which he was paid mush even then refused to pay anything and tht is how the most recent conflict started

    there are currently 5 american bases in pakistan 4 of them in baluchistan and one in jackobabad which also has blaoch tribes, pasni dalbandin and another base near irans border has green berets whicha re called force multipliers they specialise in running insurgency movements training the local populationa nd recruiting them hence the name force multipliers

    the current head quarters of bla and so called free baluchistan government is in tel aviv and in 2008 mossad agents did pose as cia agents to recruit baluch tribesmen to kill irani scientists, just a reminder tht aimal kansi was a cia operative and was wanted by the us for the murder of his collegues

    now having all of this infoprmation tht the baluch were reluctant to join pakistana nd wt pakistan stood for and who the baluch ppl are being used because of the situation created as a result of some very bad decisions by the rulers of pakistan and ofcourse by the enemies of pakistan we have to find a way forward

  6. Thank you for this informative article. The Baloch nation problem is purely a political one. 90% don’t have access to education, so how can they be active online?! They need the civilized world to stand for their rights as the indigenous people of Balochistan. They never wanted to be part of Iran or Pakistan, they constitute a nation and deserve a nation-state.

  7. Well presented and unbiased view to the history of Balochistan pre and post partition of sub-continent. Appreciated !

  8. nice work….the thing i really missed is the role of lords who never wanted Baloch nation to develop…….hope you will highlight this in the coming parts…..best ov luk :)

  9. Matlab ye hy k Pakistan ne truly Baloch Qoum k sath dhoka kya hy, pehle ye Deal hua ta k wo aik alag state hongay, ab baad main Pakistan ne unhain colony ki tarah bana lya hy…
    Pakistan zulam kar raha hy in logo k sath…
    IMRAN KHAN leader hy, Salute Him. Kya haal bataya us ne, k in se hum milangay mafee mangay gain sath mil kar chalaingay..

  10. i was w8ng for ur cal on this issue havnt read it yet but will surely give my feedback ^_^

    btw WAT took u SO long O_o???:P….

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