It is said that the urge for dignity is at the core of each individual. And for a nation-state that dignity is its independence. Unfortunately, victims of crafty geopolitics, the people of Balochistan have been denied rights that would govern their natural existence.
Unsurprisingly, the people of Balochistan are mourning today, because their vast resource-rich land remains enslaved, first by the British imperialists and then by Pakistan, which had connived with the fading empire. On 27th March 2022 it will be 74 years since Pakistan occupied Balochistan by force.
What is the backstory of the Baloch enslavement? How come unlike many other nations who were breaking the shackles of colonisation, Balochistan did not get its promised independence? The story of Pakistan’s “conquest” of Balochistan begins on 26th March 1948 when troops marched through the coastal town of Pasni and Jiwani. With no help in sight through neighbours and upon contemplating horrific consequences for people of Balochistan, the Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan under duress signed the Instrument of Accession on 27th March 1948, which was accepted by then Governor General of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah on 31st March 1948.
The Khan of Kalat in his autobiography, Inside Baluchistan: A Political Autobiography of His Highness Baigi: Khan-e-Azam-XIII, Karachi, 1975 says:
“I confess, I knew I was exceeding the scope of my mandate . . . [but] had I not taken the immediate step of signing Kalat’s merger, the … British Agent to the Governor-General could have played havoc by leading Pakistan into a fratricide war against the Baluches”.
The British had divided Balochistan for its adverse advantages. Balochistan was divided into two – British Balochistan and Kalat (including Kharan, Makran and Las Bela). Kharan, Makran and Las Bela were under the suzerainty of the Kalat State. British Balochistan was completely governed by the Britishers as their territory, while Kalat was a vassal state under the British.
On March 18, 1948, the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press statement, announcing that Pakistan had accepted the accession of Makuran, Kharan, and Las Bela. The Khan also warned the Pakistan Government and Muhammad Ali Jinnah from betraying him and the Baloch nation. The Pakistan Government justified its unconstitutional act and aggression on the following grounds:
a) The Khan was offering through an agent (most probably Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai, a pro-Congress leader from British Balochistan) for accession to Bharat and was ready to provide facilities for the use of Kalat airfields to Bharat.
b) The Khan offered Afghanistan the use of the seaports on the Makuran coast.
c) The Khan was seeking British protection when the news of the “accession” of the areas of the Khanate reached Kalat.
Balochistan was not only deceived by Pakistan and the British Empire but was dismayed by Bharat.
How Pakistan deceived Balochistan
Pakistan’s obsession with Balochistan didn’t develop overnight or after 1947. It cannot be nailed to Jinnah alone, for lobbyists for Pakistan always wanted to capture Balochistan. Jinnah was only an instrument.
Even before the word ‘PAKISTAN’ came into being, Mohammad Iqbal during 1930 Round-table Conference in Allahabad stated that Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan should be amalgamated into a single state.
In 1933, Chaudhary Rehmat Ali (earliest proponents of the Pakistan movement), lived most of his life in England. After the creation of Pakistan, he returned to Lahore in April 1948 but voiced dissatisfaction over the small area of Pakistan, contrary to what he had conceived. He was expelled from Pakistan in October 1948 by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and his belongings were confiscated. While studying in Cambridge University he coined the word ‘PAKISTAN’ in a pamphlet titled ‘Now or Never’. Pakistan is homeland for Muslims of North-West Bharat: P for Punjab, A for Afghania (now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) K for Kashmir S for Sindh and Tan for Balochistan; thus forming Pakistan.
During a public meeting in Karachi on 15 December 1940, Jinnah while lashing out at the Congress’s Civil Disobedience Movement stated, Muslims should be allowed to establish their own rule in Muslim-majority provinces viz: Sindh, Balochistan, the Punjab and NWFP.
During the summer of 1943, Jinnah spent several days in Balochistan campaigning for unity of all Muslims and assuring Nawabs and Sardars that policy of Muslim League will be in their favour.
Post rejection of C.R. formula by Jinnah in 1944, Mahatma Gandhi held several rounds of discussions with Jinnah on the future of Bharat. During one interaction, Jinnah again reiterated that Pakistan is composed of two zones, north-west and north-east, comprising six provinces, namely Sindh, Balochistan, the North-West Frontier Province, Punjab, Bengal and Assam subject to territorial adjustments.
With the Cabinet Mission Plan arriving in 1946 to decide on the question of Bharat, Jinnah while talking to the New York Times correspondent on 13 Feb 1946 threatened a civil war if the British did not grant Pakistan six Muslim majority states.
Jinnah on realising the partition of Bengal and Punjab was imminent, issued a statement in the Dawn Newspaper on 1 May 1947 showing his discontent that it is not a sound principle and that “Hindu minorities in the Punjab and Bengal wish to cut up these Provinces and cut up their own people into two” while the same speech Jinnah hypocritically also wrote that “Hindu and Muslim are nations and we want a national State in our homelands, which are predominantly Muslim and comprise of the single units of the Punjab, the Frontier Province, Sind, Baluchistan, Bengal and Assam”. Though Jinnah talked about a Muslim homeland but more than 60 per cent of Muslims continued to stay outside the idea of Pakistan.
In 1946, Kalat Princely state appointed Jinnah to plead its case for independence in front of the Cabinet Mission, to which he agreed. One of the main arguments which Jinnah put forward against the Britishers was that Kalat State is an independent sovereign State whose relations with the British Government are governed by the Treaty of 1838, following which, the Khan of Kalat signed an agreement with the British thereby becoming a vassal of British. And with the termination of the treaty with the British Government, the Kalat State will revert to its pre-treaty position of complete independence, and will be free to choose its own course.
Subsequently two treaties came into force-first, on 4 Aug 1947, officials from Kalat, Pakistan and British decided that Kalat will be independent and its status will be that of 1838 and second, on 11 Aug 1947, Pakistan recognized Kalat as an independent sovereign state. Several Baloch activists state that Jinnah and his sister Fatima Jinnah were paid in Gold and Silver according to their weight for Jinnah’s legal services. A matter of astonishment is not that Jinnah from being a protector became a predator but how naive Kalat royals and tribal sardars were in respect of Jinnah’s thoughts and intentions towards Balochistan.
British support to Pakistan in annexing Balochistan is again as old as 1919, when after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, then Governor of Punjab Michael O’ Dwyer stated that Muslim majority provinces will breakdown into a Muslim Federation in case Hindu majority forces their will upon them. Lord Wavell’s boundary demarcation plan of 1946 added British Baluchistan as Muslim majority areas. Further, on 12 May 1947, the British establishment with the chief of staff of all three branches of armed forces in their memorandum assumed partition as the best course of settlement with Pakistan comprising Sind, Balochistan, North-West Frontier Province, western Punjab Assam and possibly a part of Bengal. They agreed that from a strategic point of view, western Pakistan should be part of the commonwealth, they can control strategic facilities like the port of Karachi as Bharat will never allow this and their presence in Pakistan will have a stabilizing effect on Bharat.
And lastly, if they don’t back Pakistan, this would not only be an irreparable wrong for their loyal subjects and their reputation in the Muslim world, but also a military catastrophe. Further, there was a strong lobby which favoured Balkanization of Bharat like Sir Conrad Corfield of the Political Department. Though, Lord Mountbatten and the Labour Government didn’t favour the idea of Balkanization due to US pressure. After World War 2, the US was the new leader of the West. Washington preferred a strong Bharat, as a result, the UK decided not to support the Balkanization lobby as balkanization of Bharat would lead to spread of communism. Therefore, it can ascertain that the UK under pressure from US didn’t try to balkanize Bharat any further but made sure that its interests are kept guarded. The British therefore supported Pakistan in capturing Balochistan, as Pakistan with Balochistan would have considerable territory and any anti-colonial and pro-communist movements in Balochistan would be kept suppressed.
What was Bharat’s role?
Nehruvian Bharat snubbed the Baloch people not once but twice; First, in 1946, when Samad Khan (Politician, founder of Anjuman-i-Watan Balochistan) and Mir Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo (Politician, Kalat State National Party) came to meet the then Congress President Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to seek Bharat’s support for an independent Balochistan. Azad refused, stating that Balochistan will not be a stable, sovereign state and will merely serve as a British base. Second, Hakim Baloch who was the former Chief Secretary of Balochistan confirmed during the AIR broadcast of 27th March 1948, where VP Menon, Secretary of the Ministry of States revealed that the Khan of Kalat was pressing Bharat to accept Kalat’s accession to Bharat and added that Bharat would have nothing to do with it. The report was later denied at the highest level.
Neither the 3 June 1947 Partition Plan nor the 18 July 1947 Indian Independence Act clearly laid down the status of the hundreds of princely states after the transfer of power to Bharat and Pakistan, which meant that these princely states could in principle declare themselves independent. Jinnah had been a very strong proponent of the right of princely states to be independent, he stated – “Constitutionally and legally, the Indian States will be independent sovereign States on the termination of paramountcy and they will be free to decide for themselves to adopt any course they like; it is open to them to join the Hindustan Constituent Assembly, or decide to remain independent. In the last case, they enter into such arrangements or relationship with Hindustan or Pakistan as they may choose.”
Jinnah was simply playing games. He wanted to balkanize Bharat, feeding on the ideas of Chaudhary Rehmat Ali who preached Bharat’s breakup and the creation of Muslim states such as Siddiqistan, Farooqistan, Haiderstan, Osmanistan, Maplistan and Muinistan. He even advocated the creation of a separate state for Sikhs. Similarly, he wanted southern Bharat to be separated from northern Bharat. He also wanted Muslims in Sri Lanka to have a separate state to be called Safiistan.
Soon after Pakistan was created, Jinnah, in 1948 brought British-Balochistan under Governor General rule stating that the development of the area will be faster through this authoritarian route. Jinnah had armed himself with extraordinary powers to annex Kalat.
Bharat never supported Balochistan’s sovereignty. It basically linked its stance to the principle that once independence of princely states was allowed, it would have a domino effect. That would render grievous harm to Bharat, which was facing a momentous task of uniting 565 princely states into the Indian Union. Further, Bharat never wanted the British to continue being involved in the internal affairs of South Asia, as Pakistan was already a client state. On the second occasion, Bharat also never wanted Kalat to accede to Bharat, for the primary reason that New Delhi did not want the accession of princely states located outside the Bharatiya Territory. If Bharat set this precedent, it would strengthen Pakistan’s stand of seeking Hyderabad’s integration with Islamabad.
By looking at the politics being played by the founders and sympathizers of Pakistan, one can truly ascertain that Balochistan was always on their mind and Jinnah didn’t have an iota of doubt about annexing Balochistan. While Bharat, was shouldering a complex task of uniting a nation, had its own reasons for not supporting Baloch nationhood, but time has passed and the context has changed. Bharat has been challenged by Pakistan in Kashmir, where Islamabad continues to dream of the dismemberment of the Indian Union, with open support for cross border terrorism.
Perhaps the time has arrived for Bharat to respond. Bangladesh liberation movement, with Bharat’s support, had broken out of the shackles of the Pakistani state. The Balochistan nationalist struggle is beginning to acquire critical mass. The question arises: Should Bharat stand on the sidelines and watch a bloodbath unfold in Balochistan, for the Pakistanis would do their utmost to crush Baloch resistance. Or is it time to exercise other options that will be both morally right and support Bharat’s national cause?
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline and minor edits to conform to Hindu-Post style-guide.)