Recalling Baloch history

Published: June 14, 2011
The writer is a historian at Keble College, University of Oxford

The writer is a historian at Keble College, University of Oxford

The recent deplorable killing of Professor Saba Dashtiari is yet another episode in Baloch history rooted in the creation and consolidation of Pakistan. Much of the current discussion of today, and of the last six decades, fails to take into cognisance the history behind the Baloch national struggle.

The Baloch are a very peculiar social organism with their secularity and their strong tribal networks and leadership. These factors meant that in the 1940s the Islamic rhetoric of the Muslim League failed to make an impact on the Baloch. The only strong political party in the area was the Kalat State National Party (KSNP) which was nationalist and secular in its outlook and aligned with the Congress. The KSNP took its cue from the Khan of Kalat, Ahmed Yar Khan, who, with some historical justification, claimed that Kalat was never a part of India. The British never accepted this claim but Jinnah unequivocally accepted it and signed an agreement to the effect on August 11, 1947. Satisfied by this agreement, the Khan established two houses of parliament in October 1947 to ascertain the will of the people concerning the future of the state. While not ‘democratic’ in the modern sense, the Darul Awam (House of Commons) and Darul Umara (House of Lords) were broadly representative of public opinion in the state.

The debates in these houses were a clear indication of the aspirations of the Baloch and Brahui people. Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, the leader in the Darul Awam, clearly stated: “We have a distinct civilisation… We are Muslims but it is not necessary that by virtue of being Muslims we should lose our freedom and merge with others. If the mere fact that we are Muslims requires us to join Pakistan, then Afghanistan and Iran should also amalgamate with Pakistan”. We are ready to have friendship with that country on the basis of sovereign equality but by no means [are we] ready to merge with Pakistan…” The Baloch knew that under accession their separate identity and unique heritage was being threatened; they only wanted alignment with Pakistan, not accession.

Unfortunately, Pakistan rejected the legitimate concerns of the Baloch. Pakistan never treated Kalat as a non-Indian state and insisted on unconditional accession. To attain this objective, the Pakistani government used several ploys, including the buying off of Kalat state feudatories (Kharan and Las Bela) through lavish privy purses, and the elevation of the Gichki sardar of Mekran — a Kalat district sardar — to princely status. The end result of these machinations, including a threat of military action, was that the Khan acceded to Pakistan in March 27, 1948.

As expected, public reaction against the accession was strong and the brother of the Khan, Abdul Karim, repudiated the accession and led the first of many insurgencies against Pakistan. The rest of Baloch history is a litany of broken promises, threats and repression by the government. In July 1948, Abdul Karim was induced to return on an assurance of amnesty, but the promise was immediately broken. The later story of Nauroz Khan is now a legend in Balochistan. Since then — in 1958, 1977 and now — the Baloch have articulated their grievances through an armed revolt, since the government refuses to listen to their concerns.

It is high time that successive governments stop treating the Baloch insurgency as a law and order problem and assess it in its historical context. The government needs to come to the negotiating table with respect for the distinctiveness and autonomy of the Baloch, a clear remorse for the repression of yester years, and bring to an end the divide and rule game in the province. The solution to the Baloch issue will not be easy, but it needs to be tackled now or else even going back to the drawing board might not convince the Baloch to stay in Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (37)

  • Jun 14, 2011 - 11:39PM

    Its a poor reflection on our nations establishment and the narrative they have peddled, that the history of those areas where deprivation and disgruntlement is rife is never shared. People find it more convenient to believe that “foreign forces” are behind every anti-Pakistani sentiment without even appreciating the historical experiences of these regions. People fail to consider that when Pakistan was created many regions were not happy with that outcome and we are still living with those grievances. (Que to Pepsi sponsored milli naghma to feel better about ourselves)Recommend

  • faraz
    Jun 15, 2011 - 12:00AM

    Few people in Pakistan know that the accession took place at gunpoint. Meetings between Viceroy, Jinnah and Khan of Kalat resulted in a communiqué on August 11, 1947 which stated that Government of Pakistan recognizes Kalat as an independent sovereign state in treaty relations with the British Government with a status different from that of Indian states. On August 12, the Khan of Kalat proclaimed independence and flag of Kalat was hoisted. By October 1947, Jinnah had a change of heart on the recognition of Kalat as an “Independent and a Sovereign State”, and wanted the Khan to sign the same form of instrument of accession as other states. Khan was unwilling to abandon the nominally achieved independent status but ready to concede on Defense, Foreign Affairs and Communications.

    Khan summoned both houses of the legislative. Darul Awam unanimously rejected accession to Pakistan. On 3-4 Jan 1948, the session of Darul Umara was held in Dhadar. The house unanimously rejected any call for accession to Pakistan arguing that it would lead to cessation of Baloch Identity.

    On 27 March 1948, General Akbar Khan invaded the Khanate of Kalat. General Akbar escorted the Khan of Kalat to Karachi and forced him to sign on the instrument of accession. Recommend

  • leila
    Jun 15, 2011 - 12:51AM

    Nice to see that there are some who ackowledge the true historic background of the struggle Baluch people have been a part ofRecommend

  • Salah Baloch
    Jun 15, 2011 - 1:37AM

    Why then still the majority of Pakistani politicians and intellectuals refuse to admit that Balochistan was forcefully annexed to Pakistan ???Recommend

  • Truth Seeker
    Jun 15, 2011 - 3:47AM

    The irony is that foreigners are doing research to expose the dirty laundry of Pakistan in its infantile stage. Even today millions of well educated Pakistanis are unaware of this dark chapter of independent struggle. When Pakistan (rightly) claims the right of freedom for Kashmiris, why is she treating Baluchis in a way that they are asking for the same rights as Pakistan is seeking for Kashmiris.Recommend

  • shahida kazi
    Jun 15, 2011 - 9:22AM

    Our schoolchildren are made to learn by heart how India annexed Junagadh and Hyderabad,and the complicated situation of Kashmir.But they are completely silent on the problem of kalat and the other states that joined pakistan.Our children dont even know that Baluchistan was not even a full province until 1970;it was granted that status by yahya khan;before that it was ruled by the federal govt.they dont even know that the people of nwfp were against pakistan.It was only because Badshah Khans party boycotted the referendum that the area became part of pakistan due to a very small minority vote.Recommend

  • ghulam mohammed
    Jun 15, 2011 - 10:28AM

    it is fact that over whelming majority of common balochs love pakistan but unfortunatly they have never been given right to demonstrate their love for pakistan by their illitrate tribal lords who treats balochs as their servants and never let the law of country to be applied in their areas when ever any govt has dared to challenge these tribal lords in return tribal lords tried to instigate anti pakistan sentiments in people that is the reason that always baloch tribal lords oppose education in province because it is easy for them to manipulate uneducated peoples according their is very pathetic that still baloch millitants do not let schools to be constructed in the provice and their main targets are teachers and lecturers.Recommend

  • sk
    Jun 15, 2011 - 10:28AM

    You could replace Khan of Kalat by Maharaja Hari Singh, Baluch by Kashmiri etc the and the story would be almost the same between Baluchistan-Pakistan and k
    Kashmir-India. The only difference is that popular movement in Kashmir was led by Sheikh Abdullah and he was not opposed to conditional accession to India. However just like Jinnah, Nehru broke the promises and imprisoned Sheikh Abdullah in 1953 and resentment against India started in the Kashmir valley after that. Finally leading to the last two decades of bloodshed and repression. The same thing happened with Manipur and Nagaland. The Pakthuns of NWFP led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan too were suppressed. The truth is that both the unions of India and Pakistan were formed undemocratically without asking any of the regions and nationalities about their wishes and hence remain very much remnants of colonial states.
    SK, Mumbai, IndiaRecommend

  • MAD
    Jun 15, 2011 - 10:35AM

    So i suppose the only language the Baloch understand is that of the gun. It shoyuld be sued liberally then. Pakistan will not be broken up again. blood of traitors is a small price to pay.Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim
    Jun 15, 2011 - 11:43AM

    From all this article written by a Bangash coming from an area between Kohat and Thal in KP and perhaps married to family in Baluchistan hoping to step on the political platform in due course. The flour to bake the independent state of Baluchistan has already been made
    into dough the question now is who will succeed first? the party that wants to bake the cake or the party that wants remould the dough in a manner that the local population and their rebellious leaders would not insist on baking but mainting it as remoulded. I wonder if our present Civilian and Military leadership have the wisdom to see beyond the horizon and
    the skills to handle the dough?Recommend

  • Sheheryar
    Jun 15, 2011 - 12:22PM

    What are you trying to convey here, Yaqoob? To split up Pakistan and segregate Balochistan? Definitely, the best way to look forward is dialogue. I will never promote the use of arms against a country’s own folks; but miscreants and state peace hunters should be dealt strictly.Recommend

  • Aftab
    Jun 15, 2011 - 12:49PM

    It seems that the “New World Order” is going to be implemented very soon, disintegration of Pakistan and emergence of new US/India-friendly states and a big punch on the face of China.

    “It is high time that successive governments stop treating the “Pakistan-issue” as a law and order problem and assess it in its “New World Order” context”Recommend

  • Jun 15, 2011 - 1:07PM

    this very well said that “recalling the Baloch history” in current political soico economic perspective in order to solve their grievances is the only humanistic and democratic approach. towards the matter.I agree with views of writer.Recommend

  • Omar Haroon
    Jun 15, 2011 - 1:20PM

    I’m glad such an article on Balochistan was posted. Besides being aware of the atrocities being committed there by the state, my knowledge of that province is woefully inadequate. Would really appreciate it if such informative articles on the subject were published more frequently.Recommend

  • H B
    Jun 15, 2011 - 1:57PM

    The article is highly opioniated and lacks objectivity and seems to be written in the latest trend of writing against the state of pakistan.

    Yaqoob being a historian hasnt mentioned what the ‘Darul Awam (House of Commons) and Darul Umara (House of Lords)’ opted for. Pakistan is a perfectly, legal, democratcially found state by the muslim league winning in all 5 muslim provinces of Pakistan.

    What Yaqoob calls ‘Islamic rhetoric of the Muslim League’ of the 1940s is the baseline for muslims to stay as one state. We have all seen in 1922 when that one state is divided on ethnic and sectarian lines, what happens to those smaller muslim states. They are easy to gobble up by imperial powers. Muslim countries have always existed as one union/state and that is the way to survive. While the rest of the world is getting together (e.g., EU, NATO, SCO), we in muslim countries are talking off breaking up on ethnic lines. How stupid is that?

    May I ask Yaqoob how many non-baloch exist in the balochistan assembly which has the budget and control over policies of infrastructure, policing and education. Should this be a strugle of the poor against the rich sardars/waderas/chaudries all across pakistan or should it be a baluch struggle against the federation of Pakistan. The issues in balochistan are that of social reform and a just soceity which are the same issues in Punjab, Sindh and NWFP.

    May I also ask Yaqoob, why is the BLA/BRA most active when Afghanistan is occupied. It was soviet/indian funding when it was the soviets occupying Afghanistan. This time its the US/Indian funding keeping the insurgency alive.

    May i also point out the grandson of khan of kalaat did an interview with Mubashir Luqman. Despite having greivances with the federal government, he was honorable enough to confess that his grandfather had a dream in which the prophet muhammad (PBUH) directed the khan of kalaat to join Pakistan. And the story was passed on from his grandfather to his father and now to him. This should be available on youtube. Everyone should view it, and beleive what they want.

    The baluch insurgency is being funded to create:
    – a US client state including areas of Iran and Pakistan.
    – an energy corridor from the caspian sea to the arabian sea so that the TAPI gaspipline becomes completely independent from Pakistan and US can directly get these resources and away from China/Russia.
    – a direct logistics support route for US/NATO troops in the land-locked Afghanistan for sustaining its forces long-term.

    Please look at the bigger picture. I am not a fan of the GOP and think it should change, the sooner the better. But the solution you are suggesting favours the imperial powers in more ways than one, and it will de-stablisie the region further. Recommend

  • AD
    Jun 15, 2011 - 2:25PM

    British messed up whole sub continent.else was messed by religions.Leftover is being messed by regionalism.Recommend

  • Tribune Reader
    Jun 15, 2011 - 2:50PM

    Solution for Balochistan

    Give the province more autonomy, as should be extended to all provinces
    Developmental activities should be conducted in the province, infrastructure, education, health care etc. This includes a direct rail link from Quetta to Karachi via the Makran Coastal cities.

    Get rid of the thousands of troops stationed there, and only keep the necessary amount needed to maintain law and order, this includes punishing both those abducting the Baloch youth, as well as those murdering Punjabi settler civilians.

    Silence the traitors who are spreading Anti-Pakistan sentiments in the province through diplomacy, and by convincing them how being beneficial it is to them being part of Pakistan.

    Also government of Pakistan should buy up as much private land as it could in the province, so the so called claims on resource snatching becomes redundant, if the Govt is mining on state owned land, the sardar’s cant argue that their resources are being taken away.Recommend

  • Manoj
    Jun 15, 2011 - 3:46PM

    Nation building is a difficult and tedious task. Hence, some times force needs to be employed by the person who is at the hot seat at that moment. Criticising it after 60 years is very easy job.

    Be it the case of Baluchistan, NWFP, Kashmir, Junagard and many more princly states which wanted to remain independent would have made the subcontinent very unstable and playground for foreign powers.

    Therefore, in my humble opinion it was need of the hour to force the few dissenting princly state in choosing between India and Pakistan as per their geographical adjoinment.

    those who are criticising it today and trying to project themselves as democrate must understand that given a chance all the provinces of India and Pakistan or for that matter of any country will choose for independence even today. But that is not the way nation is built.Recommend

  • Alsahdiq
    Jun 15, 2011 - 4:07PM

    All the trouble that the humankind faces on this earth is of his own making.
    Slave mentality is rife among the humankind. This mentality allows man’s rule over man which is a very unjust system.
    The just system is where every soul comes out to join hands with others to fulfil their responsibilities in the management of their lands. This system has been prescribed by no other the Lord, Lord Almighty.
    It calls upon all souls to come out to join hands to rally round no man but the Lord so people can unite. Unite to organise a society of the people, by the people for the people and thus conduct their common business through the envy of democracy i.e. by consulting all concerned upholding “justice” at all the times.
    It is not only the People of Balochistan who have brought upon themselves, slavery of those organised to take people slaves but also the people of other areas of this part of Western India which long ago should have become Pakistan.
    So the solution to all our problems we face is in our own hands and in doing the right thing. The right thing to do is to organise ourselves in such a way that no slave takers ever think of imposing their slavery upon the humankind. The way is as laid down by the Lord.
    Do people want to rid themselves of slavery of slave takers? They will have to obey the Lord and organise themselves as laid down by the Lord?Recommend

  • Arslan
    Jun 15, 2011 - 6:34PM

    @Tribune Reader: About ‘traitors’, I think it’s Hamid Mir who stated that Akbar Bugti himself told him that he wasn’t a traitor, but just wanted ‘Baloch rights to be respected‘.
    Diplomacy is always the key.
    Great comment.
    And yes the first ‘nation building’ process was done in 18th/19th century’s France; obviously media was non-existent at the time, but if it wasn’t the case, people would have talked until today of genocide in west-central France.Recommend

  • FactCheck
    Jun 15, 2011 - 7:01PM

    @Truth Seeker:

    The truth is Kashmir was part of India from the beginning of time. Just because muslims conqured the tIndia in 1500 and forcibly converted Hindu’s to Islam doesn’t mean Kashmir doesn’t belong in India. Really, the intruders are the muslims, the people that created the issue are muslims, the people who killed and drove away the pandits are muslims, people who are blowing up people are muslims, the people that are denying the people of Kashmir to live in peace and progress are muslims.

    There is nothing “rightly” about it. Pakistan may implode but Kashmir will be part of India forever.
    Why doesn’t Pakistan vacate from PoK?Recommend

  • Salah Baloch
    Jun 15, 2011 - 7:47PM

    ” Divide n Rule ” has been the only strategy Pakistan used to control Baloch over the years !! It has never seriously considered Baloch as part of Pakistan !!
    Now that it has sensed some sort of unity among Baloch , it is doing all that is in its power to divide them again !!
    How can Baloch be part of a country that has occupied their land and is stealing all their resources !!Recommend

  • Jun 15, 2011 - 7:55PM

    we are Baloch we need reforms but the governament failed to perptiate us ,nice what! article u hv written even we Kalatis don’t know about KalatRecommend

  • Salah Baloch
    Jun 15, 2011 - 7:59PM

    and that guy talking about buying the lands of Baloch , so they wouldnt say that their resources stolen :) :) :)
    really dumb answer bro !!Recommend

  • Ashutosh
    Jun 15, 2011 - 8:22PM

    Too many skeletons stuffed in the cossets… Pakistanis are finding it impossible to shut the door …
    But there are ways out, like
    – misguide by doctoring the history books
    – Junaid etc are handy …
    . blame it on US, India etc ….
    Cheap, beautiful and reliable … Recommend

  • Mom
    Jun 15, 2011 - 8:29PM

    Arent Brahuis Dravidians? If so. their immediate cousins are in South IndiaRecommend

  • mqbol
    Jun 15, 2011 - 10:40PM

    please realize the truth be a man not to behave like a pepsi aid budy……Recommend

  • mqbol
    Jun 15, 2011 - 10:45PM

    @ghulam mohammed:
    its now old story dear…. im against isurgency but i dont agree with u toooRecommend

  • mqbol
    Jun 15, 2011 - 10:47PM

    u r forgetting so many things dear………………………………. bil k zuban gungain manni………….. let my silence prevails………Recommend

  • mqbol
    Jun 15, 2011 - 10:51PM

    u are right nd mom ur not…………….. what eva they were……….. as they r………now accepting baloch………………………………………………………………….Recommend

  • saeed
    Jun 15, 2011 - 11:04PM

    I dont know how come a historian as mentioned below the name of this guy can write a piece of dissinformtion article like this…Khan of Kalat openly admitted to his son that he saw Prophet Muhammad in his dream mentioning to join pakistan..I can give you the link where his grand son and today’s prince of kalat said that on national tv..there are almost 4.5 states in india which declared independnece after the partition but each and every one was taken over by INDIA from hyderabad dakkn to juna gadh to lakshwadeep…wht mr historian you dont mention the real face of baloch sardars whi have intentionally kept there people away from education is this the secularisam you are talking more important information for you..there are more baloch living in punjab then in baloachistan why dont they fight for there rights…so it is very easy to potray one side on the coin by sitting in london then see the reality on ground..Recommend

  • Tribune Reader
    Jun 16, 2011 - 10:46AM

    @Salah Baloch:
    then why the smiley face :P
    It is actually not such a dumb idea, suppose Govt of Pakistan buys out lets say a quarter of the province and transforms private land into state owned land, then oil, coal, or other minerals or natural resources are discovered in state owned land, how is that stealing from the Baloch people :P
    The government in Islamabad, has done that in other provinces, they have bought out 1000s of acres of private land, and converted them into state owned land for projects and developmental activities.
    infact if anything, a lot of state sponsered employment opportunities would come in the way of the ethnic Baloch people living in that geographic region, the mining industry could flourish, besides think of the idea of other regional cities developing due to their proximity to the heart land, leading to further prosperity and development. It is all about land, money and power, end of the day.
    and Oh by the way on another note, seriously, who is killing the settlers in the province, why does no one utter a word about ethnic cleansing in the province, or the the broad day light murder of visitor academics from other provinces. How do you expect the Baloch youth to get educated, when academics are murdered in broad day light, and considering the strength and influence of the BSO through out the province, I am pretty certain, they know who is murdering academics in cold blood in broad day light on campus.Recommend

  • Khaliullah Bloach
    Jun 16, 2011 - 2:33PM

    They only want the land and its resources and not the people as they tried to do in East Pakistan, its the same situation.Recommend

  • Asma Ali
    Jun 16, 2011 - 6:54PM

    @H B: Pakistan’s independence was the result of a combination of British India policy(1920s to 1940s) and the willingness of Pakistan’s leaders (who no mass following or ability to win election or to form government on their own ,i.e. British aid)to play the British India game of ‘divide and rule’ and then ‘divide and quite, .Pakistan got its separated status as gift for supporting the per British theory that the brute majority of Hindus was not acceptable as the basis of government in India; that the Indian Muslim had to be supported. Jinnah developed the momentum of his political career by turning this British policy to his own advantage by converted it into an “Islamic rhetoric” in 1930s and 40s. sir “Please look the bigger picture”.Recommend

  • Asma Ali
    Jun 16, 2011 - 9:43PM

    it is very good article.that is allRecommend

  • Syed Ali
    Jun 17, 2011 - 5:20AM

    Baloch and Paktoon nationalists suffer from same bigotry. IN their view, a bloach or Pakhtun has evry right to settle whereever he wants. Whether it be fertile lands of DG khan or transport business in Karachi. However, if a Muhajir or Punjabi has to settle in Balochistan or KP, it becomes big deal.Recommend

  • Tribune Reader
    Jun 17, 2011 - 10:35AM

    @Syed Ali:
    exactly what I have been wanting to say. What about the ethnic or ancesterial Baluch people, who have been living in Sindh, Punjab and KPK for several generations now, other provinces have welcomed them and they have made a life for them, then why are those violent nationalists so hell bent on expulsion of Punjabi and Mohajir settlers from their provinces, I have heard nothing but deeply disturbing and horrific tales of ethnic cleansing in the province. Any part of Pakistan is for all Pakistani’s, any one can settle any where, and no one should be killed purely on the basis of their ethnicity. Just because Punjab is seen as an Imperialistic province by the rest of the country, this does not mean there should be a hostile and murderous attitude towards Punjabi settlers in the rest of the country, be it any part of the country outside of the Punjab heart land. Recommend

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