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?
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)
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.” (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”. (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.
 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
 India Office Record “Independence of Kalat, 1948” cited in: Inayatullah Baloch, The Problem of Greater Balochistan, p.352