Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Balochistan: Political awakening

Baloch history, kalate state, yusuf aziz magsi

Recently, Brahumdagh Bugti, the leader of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP), through a tweet, subscribed to the Pakistani version of the events of March 27th 1948, which Baloch observe as a black day as Balochistan was illegally annexed to Pakistan. He said it was only Kalat and not Balochistan that was annexed and then in further tweets said: “After the annexation of #Balochistan (sic), our forefathers always tried to adjust within #Pakistan. With all forms of struggle, the entire Baloch leadership, at one time or another strived for the Baloch rights inside Pakistan.” Incidentally in the very next tweet after claiming that only Kalat was annexed he refers to ‘annexation of #Balochistan’.

All evidence regarding the annexation belies this claim and moreover not all ‘forefathers’ tried to adjust. Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri was told by Davies, then a Political Agent of Marri-Bugti Agency, in 1953 that ‘why don’t you let them build roads and bring development for your wretched people” to which Nawab Sahib had said: “Davies, say if Germany had conquered Britain in the Second World War and someone had come and told you why don’t you allow development for your wretched people, what would your answer have been?” To this Davies had said, “Khair Bakhsh, I’ll be dammed if I ever again ask you for development.”

Nawab Khair Bakhsh never adjusted so it is wrong to impute that ‘our forefathers’ tried to adjust in every way.

I wrote this piece in October 2013 and it was printed in ‘Viewpointonline’. I felt it necessary to ask ‘Balochistan Times’ to put the annexation issue in its proper perspective and also tell people how and why our forefathers struggled. Subscribing to the Pakistani version of annexation distorts Baloch history and belittles the enormous sacrifices the Baloch nation has given moreover it damages and subverts the present Baloch Struggle.

The political awakening in Balochistan, like all other places in the sub-continent, was gradual, and gained momentum after the WWI due to the influence of teh Soviet Union and anti-colonial movements. Mir Abdul Aziz Kurd initiated “Young Baloch”, a clandestine political movement, in 1920, and in 1929 he joined Anjuman-e-Itahad-e-Balochistan formed after Yusuf Ali Khan Magsi was jailed for his demand of constitutional reforms in an article Faryad-e-Balochistan in which he had criticized the British and Kalat State Prime Minister, Sir Shams Shah, a Punjabi from Gujarat. The Anjuman had Balochistan independence as its aim and demanded constitutional reforms and was opposed to the British appointed PM who was eventually dismissed due to their opposition.

Prince Mohammad Azam Jan was appointed the Khan in December 1931 with support of the Anjuman and he dismissed the PM. Though the Anjuman had helped the Khan he was not supportive of its aims. The Anjuman’s goal of independence of Balochistan expressed in unequivocal terms by its General Secretary Aziz Kurd faced a lot of criticism in the Indian press from leaders of different parties in India.

Khan Ahmad Yar Khan, who became the Khan after Azam Jan’s death in 1933, sent Mir Yusuf Ali Magsi as his personal representative to Britain to discuss the sovereignty of the Khanate but the response was disheartening. In the Great Quetta Quake of 1935, Yusuf Ali Magsi died and this brought an untimely end to his radical leadership.

In February 1937, the Anjuman met in Sibi and The Kalat National Party was formally formed and it garnered a lot of support among different sections of Baloch society. The British as well the sardars for interests of their own opposed the party on different grounds and reasons but the common ground being their privileges and authority.

The party’s annual meeting on July 6th 1939 which was disrupted by followers of some sardars who demanded of the Khan that the party be banned. On July 20th the Prime Minister of Kalat declared the Kalat National Party illegal within the boundaries of the Kalat State. It leaders Malik Abdul Rahim Khwaja Khel, Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Abdul Karim Shorish, Mir Gul Khan Naseer and other activists were exiled. The party established its headquarters in Quetta but due to the World War II political activities were banned. The party continued its activities underground.

The National Party joined the India States People Congress (pro-Congress) and leaders like Mohammad Hussain Anka and Bizenjo favoured merger of Kalat with India and opposed the Khan’s demand for an independent Balochistan. This shift divided the party as Aziz Kurd and others opposed the new policy and a split occurred. However, in 1947, the National Party realized its mistake and revised its policy and once again demanded the independence of Balochistan.

There were two other significant parties at work in Balochistan one Anjuman-e-Watan Party formed and led by Abdul Samad Achakzai and it supported constitutional reforms in British Afghanistan and was affiliated with the Indian Congress Party. It represented the Pashtuns and demanded rights for them. The other Muslim League was founded in 1938 and led by Qazi M. Isa and it too was dominated by Pashtuns and demanded their rights.

In June 1947, the British Government announced plans for the Partition of India. The fate of British Afghanistan and Baloch tribal areas which included Marri-Bugti, Khetran and Baloch tribal areas of Dera Ghazi Khan was to be decided by a referendum. There was difference of opinion on the voting of the referendum with British confining the voting rights to the hereditary Shahi Jirga, Jinnah suggested expanding the voting rights, Nehru suggested consultation of as large a number of people as possible along with the Shahi Jirga.

The British Government did not agree with both and though Mountbatten favoured referendum by elected Jirgas but there was no time for that. On June 29th, the Pashtun Jirga favoured the merger of British Afghanistan with Pakistan. Baloch term this referendum as spurious because preliminary meeting for Jirga was held on 21st July 1947 and it ended in pandemonium and it was decided to hold the Jirga on the 30th of June but was deviously held on the 29th without informing all the members. With this referendum as its basis the British Balochistan including the leased and tribal areas which were constitutionally part of the Khanate were quite illegally acceded to Pakistan on 15th August 1947.

Baloch chiefs of Marri-Bugti areas Sardar Doda Khan Marri, regent for Sardar Khair Baksh Marri, and Sardar Muhammad Akbar Khan made a written representation to the British Government about their decision to join Khanate yet they weren’t federated to the Khanate. Requests of several Baloch Chiefs of Derajat for the same were also ignored by the British.

It is interesting to note that after partition the Chiefs of Derajat were given the choice to relinquish their privileges by joining Balochistan or retaining them by joining Punjab. This British Administered Balochistan area of DG Khan was misappropriated by Punjab in 1950. The Tumandars signed the agreement under threat of forsaking their large land holdings if they didn’t opt for Punjab. A monument to that injustice stands at Fort Munro, 6470 feet above sea level. The British did not give the British administered Balochistan people the same rights as the British administered Afghanistan.

The British authorities in India did always consider Balochistan as an independent and sovereign entity and never as part of the Indian subcontinent. The 1854 and 1876 treaties between British government and the Khan of Kalat duly recognized Balochistan as a sovereign country outside India. In the partition plan of 3rd June 1947, both Pakistan and the British had accepted Kalat State’s sovereignty.

On 4th August 1947, a tripartite agreement was signed between Pakistan, the British and Balochistan, called the Standstill Agreement, in which the sovereign status of Balochistan was accepted. The article I of this agreement stated that: The Government of Pakistan recognizes the status of Kalat as a free and independent state which has bilateral relations with the British Government, and whose rank and position is different from that of other Indian states. In the Kalat’s memorandum to the Cabinet Mission which Jinnah presented in May 1946 stated that Kalat was a non-Indian State and its independence was supported. Jinnah held that position till June 1947. During British colonial rule in India, Nepal and Kalat were the only states authorized to appoint ambassadors.

The Khan declared Balochistan independent on 12th August 1947, two days before the independence of Pakistan. The Khan affirmed his intention to build Balochistan as a prosperous sovereign country in which Baloch could retain their identity and live in accordance with their traditions and establish relations through treaties of friendship with neighboring states of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan as well as with India and outside world.

Soon after the independence, elections were held to Diwan, Balochistan’s bicameral legislature and a period of tranquility and peace was ensured in the country. The diwan consisted of the Darul-Umara, the House of the Tribal chiefs or the Upper House and the Darul-Awam (the House of Commons or Lower House). Darul-Umara was composed of the hereditary Chiefs of the tribal provinces of Jhalawan and Sarawan, 35 in number. Darul-Awam had 52 members, 47 were elected and 5 nominated by the Khan.

The Assembly held sessions in September and December 1947 and most favoured alliance and not accession with Pakistan. On December 14th 1947, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo made a landmark speech and it is considered as a valid argument for independence.

He said, “We have a distinct civilization and a separate culture like that of Iran and Afghanistan. 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, both Muslim countries, should also amalgamate with Pakistan.

We were never a part of India before the British rule. Pakistan’s unpleasant and loathsome desire that our national homeland, Balochistan should merge with it is impossible to consider. We are ready to have friendship with that country on the basis of sovereign equality but by no means ready to merge with Pakistan. We can survive without Pakistan. But the question is what Pakistan would be without us?

I do not propose to create hurdles for the newly created Pakistan in the matters of defense and external communication. But we want an honorable relationship not a humiliating one. If Pakistan wants to treat us as a sovereign people, we are ready to extend the hand of friendship and cooperation. If Pakistan does not agree to do so, flying in the face of democratic principles, such an attitude will be totally unacceptable to us, and if we are forced to accept this fate then every Baloch son will sacrifice his life in defense of his national freedom.”

In the meantime, Pakistan began to pressurize the newly independent Kalat State to join Pakistan and an uneasy calm appeared in relations between Kalat and Pakistan. Talks between Pakistan and Kalat dragged on. Pakistan continued to harass the Khan and Baloch State machinery on various pretexts and was engaged in conspiracies and underhand tactics to compel the Khan to join Pakistan.

When Pakistan was convinced that the Khan would not accede, separate instruments of Accession by the states of Lasbela and Kharan, which were feudatories of the Khan, and of Makran which was never more than a district of the State of Kalat, were announced on March 18th. Accession of Makran, Kharan and Lasbela robbed Kalat of more than half its territory and its access to the sea.

The following day the Khan of Kalat issued a statement refusing to believe that Pakistan as champion of Muslim rights in the world would infringe the rights of small Muslim neighbours, pointing out that Makran as a district of Kalat, had no separate status and that the foreign policy of Lasbela and Kharan was placed under Kalat by Standstill agreement.

On 26th March 1948 Pakistan army was ordered to move into Baloch coastal region of Pasni, Jiwani, and Turbat. This was the first act of aggression prior to the march on Capital Kalat by Pakistani military detachment on 1st April 1948. The Khan capitulated on March 27th after the Army moved in to coastal region and it was announced in Karachi that Khan of Kalat has agreed to merge his State with Pakistan. Under the constitution of Kalat, the Khan was not authorized to take such a basic decision. The Balochistan assembly had already rejected any suggestion of forfeiting the independence of Balochistan on any pretext. The sovereign Baloch State after British withdrawal from India lasted only 227 days.

The merger of the Khanate into Pakistan in 1948 resulted in unrest and Anti-Pakistan rallies throughout Balochistan. The National Party, which had espoused the cause of a “Greater Balochistan” rejected accession and was behind much of the agitation. Its leaders, Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Mir Abdul Aziz Kurd and others were arrested. A short-lived rebellion by the younger brother of the Khan was brutally crushed by Pakistan army and the leader of the uprising Prince Abdul Karim was imprisoned. This first encounter between the Baloch and the forces of the Pakistan state was crucial in shaping nationalist insecurity and fear of repression at the hands of a new colonial power.

The forced merger of Kalat State with Pakistan which ended three hundred years of independent and semi-independent Baloch State was one of the epoch-making events in the history of the Baloch people. Colonialism be it of Iran, Afghanistan, Britain or Pakistan played the most important role in molding the consciousness of nationalism which had been present in formative shape all through their history but had remained latent and therefore unable to push their struggle forward in the manner that it is doing now. The consciousness acquired at a bitter price is now becoming the determining factor in their struggle to be the masters of their destiny.

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Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur is a regular commenter on Balochistan. He has been associated with Baloch politics since 1970s.

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