Echoes of Independence: Balochistan then and now

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balochistan independence day
Representative photo

11th of August holds immense importance when it comes to Balochistan. On this day, Balochistan became free from British imperialism. However, after a short span of almost seven months, Pakistan invaded the sovereign country and illegally occupied it. Even organisations that champion human rights and uphold the concept of national sovereignty like the UN, turned a blind eye. Consequently, the Baloch are still struggling to get what they call, ‘the soul of a nation’, sovereignty.

Historical Roots Of Balochistan

The history of Balochistan as a community can be traced back to 15th century, when the Qambarani Baloch Surab and other Baloch tribes, founded a government by making Nagaar, an area in Sorab, as capital. This began the era of war in which Qambarani envisioned the unification of Baloch regions, and eventually succeeded in his attempt. A century later, Baloch invaded Kalat in 1530 under Mir Umar Mirwani. After the Kalat conquest, Mirwani received the status of King.

Mirwanis ruled Kalat for 136 years, before Kalat passed on to Mir Ahmad Khan I, another Qambarani Baloch community, in 1666. At that time, Shah Jahan was ruling the Mughal Empire and Kalat perceived a threat from Mughals, so Ahmad Khan made inexhaustive efforts to strengthen the military might of his empire. In that pursuit, Ahmad Khan fought various wars with Barozais, Jats and Mughals.

The later part of the Baloch history saw the reign of Abdullah Khan, who played a central role in making Greater Balochistan – a region comprising parts of Iran, Pakistan occupied Balochistan, Afghanistan, Sindh and Punjab – a reality.

Following Abdullah Khan, Balochistan saw some incompetent leaders until Naseer Khan Noori ascended the throne in 1749. Under the rule of Naseer Khan Noori, the Baloch dominion expanded to encompass various regions, including Bandar Abbas to the west, parts of Dera Ghazi Khan and Dera Ismail Khan to the east, Jalugir in the northern periphery near Kuchlak, Jacobabad in the southeast, and Sahil Makran to the south and west. He defeated Ahmad Shah Abdali in two battles.

Entry Of Britain

Balochistan thrived till the region was spotted by Britain. After almost 16 years of Naseer Khan Noori’s death Britishers focused on annexing Balochistan. In a first attempt towards Baloch annexation, the British used their most trusted tool of targeting the civilization. However,this was not easy as Balochistan was unified. They tried to dismantle this unity by sending Lieutenant Henry Pottinger, Captain Christie, Captain Grant and other such soldiers who had successfully led British military campaigns.

During the reign of Khan Mehrab Khan, the British sought to establish a route through Balochistan to access Afghanistan. They entered a treaty with Khan Mehrab Khan in 1838, allowing them passage. However, this move led to the British invading Afghanistan.

Unfortunately for the British, their caravans faced fierce attack by Murree warriors. This attack forced the British to retreat, and their losses in Balochistan contributed to their defeat in the first Afghan Anglo War of 1838.

The Baloch resistance compelled the British to rethink their strategy and consider the conquest of Kalat as a prerequisite for success in the Afghan war. Another driving force behind the British’s desire to conquer Kalat was the perceived threat from France, Germany, and Russia, who could potentially gain a foothold in Kalat and challenge British rule.

Consequently, in 1839, the British army, led by General Wilshire, launched an attack on the central city of Kalat. Despite the valiant efforts of Khan Mehrab Khan and his allies, the technologically superior British forces prevailed.

However, small battles between the British and Baloch still ensued. In 1840, Baloch finally succeeded in driving Britishers out of Kalat. But this success was short lived as in few months only, British regained control of Kalat by uniting with the Afghan forces. They appointed Col. Stacey as political agent in Kalat. During the meantime, various treaties were also signed between the British and Baloch, the prominent being the Non-Intervention Treaty of 1854.

British Entrenchment In Balochistan

Following the British recapture of Kalat, Balochistan witnessed sporadic uprisings. The Treaty of Mastung on July 13, 1876, significantly weakened Baloch independence, cementing British control through the Forward Policy.

This resulted in British supremacy over Balochistan, incorporating regions such as Sibi, Murree, Bugti, Khetran, and Quetta into British India on November 18, 1887, establishing British Balochistan as a distinct province.

The Forward Policy also triggered the initial partition of the Baloch state, leading to subsequent British engagement in Makran from 1890 onwards, involving British troops commanded by Major Mayer. As the 20th century progressed, the influence of political ideologies took root within Baloch society. In 1920, a clandestine group named “Young Baloch” was founded by Mir Abdul Aziz Kurd, marking a pivotal moment. This organization eventually evolved into a formal political party by 1931. Concurrently, Anjuman-e-Ittehad emerged as a significant Baloch entity, eventually transforming into the Kalat State National Party.

Balocistan started moving towards its Independence and along with that the vicious intentions of Jinnah also surfaced. First, Jinnah recognized Khan of Kalat as national ruler of Balochistan but from time-to-time, his statements opened up on his intentions. Like he asked Khan of Kalat to form a Muslim League in Balochistan and assured of unification of Muslim countries in a federation.

Deliberations Of Independence

Meanwhile, the deliberations were underway regarding the potential transfer of agreements between the British government and the Kalat government concerning the annexed regions to Pakistan. Article 7 of the British Government’s Freedom Act triggered an automatic termination of all treaties, mandating the restoration of the occupied territories to their original state.

On the 11th of August 1947, Balochistan gained its independence as a result of the signing of a standstill Agreement between Kalat and Pakistan, which was supervised by British authorities. Three months before attaining independence, an agreement was forged among the British, Pakistan, and Kalat. In this agreement, the Pakistani government recognized Kalat as an independent state, with the understanding that both Pakistan and Kalat would later collaborate to decide how to manage defense and other matters.

As Balochistan gained independence, it soon institutionalised bicameral legislature- Dar-ul-Umara and Dar-ul-Awam, the House of Lords and House of Commons. On the other hand, Pakistan launched an attack on Jammu and Kashmir and illegally occupied a part of its territory. This inspired Jinnah to also occupy Balocistan. He started mounting pressure on the Khan of Kalat to join the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Khan dicided to refer the issue to the Parliament. To the shock for Pakistan, Kalat Parliament refused to join Pakistan. So, in March 1948, Pakistan Army moved in Turbat, Pasni and Jivani areas. The Khan of Kalat was later coerced to merge into Pakistan. This marked the end of Balochistan’s independence that lasted for merely 227 days.

Worst Phase Of Balochistan

Since then, Balochistan under Pakistan is going through its worst phase. With absolute suspension of human rights, resource exploitation, colonisation and extra-judicial treatments – enforced disappearances, Pakistan sponsored killings, Balochistan has been reduced to a failed state. The only development and infrastructure that is seen in Balochistan is just to use for the benefit of Pakistan and its collabotrators.

But it is not that Baloch, as a community are silent. Be it the armed struggle or the protests and demonstrations, Baloch are employing every method to push Pakistan out of their homeland. And so, to keep its occupation intact, Pakistan is making its policies more grave. Uncountable number of Balochs have been forcibly abducted and disappeared for more than decades.

Balochistan’s condition becomes apparent when considering that it carried out its inaugural nuclear test in 1998 within the vicinity of a densely populated area, specifically the Ras Koh Hills in the Chagai District of Balochistan.The worst part is that to keep the project secret, Pakistan didn’t even evacuate them before detonation. As a result, thousands of people suffered the adverse impact of the blast. Now the new generation of those affected are also facing the horrendous consequences.

Later in 2006, Dera Bugti was attacked by the Pak Army on the indication of the then dictator, Parvez Musharraf and Nawab Akbar Bugti was abducted. Till date, people do not know whether he is alive or dead, or if he is dead then where is his body?

So this is the human rights situation in Balochistan. With each passing year, Pakistan finds a new instrument to suppress the voice of Baloch people. One such instrument is Death Squad that works with full impunity on behalf of the Pakistan Army and ISI.

Despite such hopelessness, the determination of the Baloch community continues and they believe that one day their struggle will pay off and they will attain independence from their current coloniser, Pakistan.    

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