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Balochistan

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The province of Balochistan (or Baluchistan) of Pakistan contains roughly the portion of Balochistan that falls within the borders of present-day Pakistan. Neighbouring regions are Iranian Balochistan to the west, Afghanistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Pakistan to the north and Punjab and Sindh to the east. To the south is the Arabian Sea.

Balochistan is geographically the largest of the 4 provinces or Pakistan at 347,190 km², but has the smallest population. The population density is very low due to the moutainous terrain and scarcity of water.

The capital city is Quetta, located in the most densely populated district in the northeast of the province. Quetta is situated in a river valley near the border with Afghanistan, with a road to Kandahar in the northwest.

At Gwadar on the coast, the Pakistani government is currently undertaking a large project with the Chinese help to build a large port. This is being done partially to provide the Pakistani Navy with another base, and to reduce Pakistan's reliance on Karachi, which is currently the only major port.

Mostly hot and arid, it has the Makran mountain range in the south and the Kalat region in the center. With a long coastline of the Arabian Sea to the south, Balochistan also has long borders with Iran (west) and Afghanistan (northwest) and the Pakistani provinces of Sind (southeast) and Punjab (northeast). Quetta is the provincial capital. Other major cities are Turbat, Gwadar, and Pasni but none are large by Asian standards.

Although the largest province of Pakistan (40% of total area) it is also the least populated with approximately 7 million residents (approx. 5% of total). It is generally underdeveloped but rich in several natural resources.

The area is named after the numerous Baluch (or Baloch, Balouch) tribes who moved in to the area from the west some time around 1000 CE. The southern part of Baluchistan is known as Makran.

The region is also populated by Pashtuns and Brahuis. The Pashtuns are now concentrated in Sibi, Bolan, Quetta, Pishin, Killa Abdullah, Killa Saifullah, Loralai, Zhob, Ziarat and Harnai. Many Brahuis live in Kalat. Languages spoken in the region include Balochi, Pashto and Brahui.

Baluchistan was conquered by the British Empire on October 1, 1887.

Table of contents

Recent History

Pakistani Baluchistan became part of Pakistan in 1948. Since then, some separatist groups in the province have engaged in armed violence, first led by "Prince Karim Khan" in 1948, and later Nawab Nowroz Khan in 1968. These tribal uprisings were limited in scope. A more serious insurgency was led by Marri and Mengal tribes in 1973-1977. They have a view of "Greater Baluchistan," presently split between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan as one independent state ruled under tribal jirgas (a tribal system of government).

Accession Problem 1948

The ruler of the Khanate of Balochistan, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan,is claimed to have been coerced by Jinnah to sign the document of accession. Balochi nationals support this claim, but it is not widely supported as many supported accession and dispute such claims as unrealistic and contrary to popular support for Jinnah, as the Khan of Kalat ruled even after death of Jinnah under the government. However, The Khan was not an absolute monarch; he was required to act under the provisions of the Rawaj (the Baloch constitution).

The incorporation of the Khanate resulted in a few anti-Pakistani rallies and meetings in certain areas of the Khanate. To subdue the anti-Pakistani sentiments, the Army of Pakistan was placed on alert. The Government of Pakistan decided to take complete control of the administration of Balochistan (Khanate) on 15 April 1948. The A.G.G. in Balochistan conveyed the orders of Mohammad Ali Jinnah that the status of the Khanate, "would revert back to what it was during the preceding British rule. Besides the policy of the central government of Pakistan towards the Khanate, Jinnah also refused to give Autonomy to Balochistan."

In April 1948, several political leaders from Balochistan such as Mohammad Amin Khosa and Abdul Samad Achakzai were arrested. The Anjuman-i-Watan Party (pro-congress), headed by Samad Achakzai, was declared unlawful.

First Baloch National Resistance 1948

Prince Abdul Karim Khan

The refusal to grant autonomy and the continued existence of the Sandeman system re­sulted in unrest. Thus, on the night of 16 May 1948, Prince Abdul Karim Khan, the younger brother of the Khan, decided to lead a national liberation movement.

He invited the leading members of nationalist political parties, (the Kalat State National Party, the Baloch League, and the Baloch National Workers Party) to join him in the struggle for the creation of an independent "Greater Balochistan". Apart from his political motives, the Prince was a member of the royal family and the former governor of the Makran province; the recognition of Sardar Bay Khan Gichki as a ruler of Makran by Pakistan upset him.

Beginning of Movement and Allies

He decided to migrate to Afghanistan in order to get help and to organ­ize the liberation movement. Prince Karim wrote to the Khan on 28 June 1948 ex­plaining the causes of his migration.

Some of the prominent political leaders who joined him were Mohamed Hussain Anka (the secretary of the Baloch League and the editor of Weekly Bolan Mastung) • Malik Saeed Dehwar (the secretary of the Kalat State National Party) • Qadir Bakhsh Nizamami, a member of the Baloch League and prominent members of the Communist Party, Sind-Balochistan branch, and Maulwi Mohd Afzal, a member of Jamiat-­Ulm-e-Balochistan.

Plan of Action

The Baloch Mujahideen ( Baloch Holy Warriors), as they called themselves, entered Afghanistan and encamped at Sarlath in the Province of Kandahar. During their stay, the Baloch freedom fighters adopted the following measures to achieve their goal:

  • Sending of messages to the Baloch chiefs of Eastern and Western Balochistan asking them to join in the armed struggle;
  • Running of a propaganda campaign in Balochistan, aimed at the creation of unrest, disturbances,and revolt as well as the enlistment of a national liberation force;
  • Searching for international support, particularly from Afghanistan and the Soviet Union.

Propaganda Campaign

Messages were sent to Mir Ghulam Faruq of the Rudini tribe, Sardar Mehrab Khan, Sardar Mir Jumma, Mir Wazir Khan Sanjrani of Chagai, and several other chiefs. The propaganda campaign was to be carried out on two fronts: (A) The National Cultural Front. (B) The Religious Front. On the national cultural front, the party distributed a series of pamphlets all over Balochistan, aiming to cause an uprising against Pakistan. On the religious front, Maulwi Mohammed Afzal, a prominent religious leader, issued a Fatwa (religious order), addressed to the government employees and military personnel of Pakistan. The order demanded that the Muslims of Pakistan and parti­cularly soldiers, should engage in Jihad (Muslim holy war) against the non-Islamic government of Pakistan. The Fatwa declared that Jinnah “the ruler of Pakistan, is a Khoja by religion, and of his ministers, that Liaqat Ali Khan is Rafzi (heretic), Abdul Rub Nishtar an atheist, and Zafar Ullah a Qadiani pagan.

In the Fatwa, an appeal was made to the Pakistani army to join the Baloch Liberation Army with “a truly Islamic spirit”, for the purpose of waging a holy war against a non-Islamic Government. The Fatwa warned the Muslim soldiers that those “who fight against us in this Islamic Jihad, in general terms are called pigs and will be the worst offenders of God and His Holy prophet." Of course no one heeded.

Armed Struggle

Besides the cultural and religious campaign, the Prince also organized a liberation force called the Baloch Mujahedeen, consisting of the ex-soldiers and officers Of the Khanate’s army. The Prince was chosen as the supreme commander.

The Prince issued an appeal to personages to help with the recruitment. A person re­cruiting 100 men was offered the rank of a major and a person recruiting 50 men was entitled to the rank of captain. The Baloch liberation army had a secret agency called Jannisar (devotee), whose duty was to provide information, destroy the communication system, and watch the activities of traitors. In addition to this, there was a secret unit Janbaz (darer), to kill all traitors. The Janbaz were subordinate to the Jannisar. The headquarters of the agency was known as Bab-i-Aali (secret war-office) and headed by prince Karim. The total strength of Jannisar was recorded to be 30, while nothing is known about the strength of Janbaz.

Soviets and Afghans

However, the Prince did not start a war of liberation because of Afghanistan’s re­fusal and the silence of Stalinist Russia concerning assistance. During his stay in Sarlath, Prince Karim appointed Malik Saeed and Qadir Bakhsh Nizamani as his emis­saries to contact the Afghan Government and to approach other embassies in order to get moral and material support. According to Nizamani, the Afghan authorities refused to provide any sort of help and told them either to reside as political refugees at Kandahar or to return. The Afghan authorities also re­fused to permit the rebel group to operate from Afghan soil. Nizamami informed the Iranian Embassy of the Baloch demands as well. Iranian diplomats showed their concern but did not offer any assistance, though they indicated their desire to provide, asylum to the rebel group in Iran. The last hope of the Prince’s re­presentative was the Soviet Embassy. The Soviet diplomats listened to Nizamami carefully. Though they did not give any assurances, they did promise to inform Moscow. The Afghans, since the rise of Ahmad Shah, had treated Balochistan as a vassal state until the Baloch-Afghan war in 1758, when an agreement of ‘non-interference’ was signed between the parties. In the 19th century, Afghan rulers like Shuja and Amir Abdur-Rehman desired to occupy Balochistan. In 1947, the Afghan Government demanded the creation of Pashtunistan. Stretching from chitral and Gilgit to the Baloch coast in the Arabian Sea.The Afghan Go­vernment called Balochistan ‘South Pashtunistan’ in statements and publications. The Afghan expansionist policy reflected the economic considerations of a landlocked state. At the same time, it was impossible for the Afghan Government to neglect its own national interests and to support the movement of an indepen­dent Greater Balochistan,which claimed the Baloch region in Afghanistan. The Stalinist junta did not pursue Lenin’s policy in the East and the Stalinists in India even supported the cause of Pakistan, a state based on religion. Moreover, the Stalin regime in Moscow was not ready to annoy the Afghans or the British, opponents of an independent Balochistan.

Prince Karim's Legitimacy outlawed

Meanwhile the Prince and his party were regarded as a rebel group by a Farman royal order issued by the Khan on 24 May 1948, stating that no connection of any sort with the Prince and his party should be maintained nor should they be helped with rations, and that if any member of the rebel group committed an offence, he would be punished. The Government of Pakistan moved the army to the military posts of Punjab. Chaman chashme,and Rastri near the Afghan borders aiming to control the rebels’ rations, which were being sent by the pro-liberation elements, as well as to control their activities or any attempt to invade. The Pakistan au­thorities confirmed two clashes between the army and the liberation forces.

To avoid popular unrest in Balochistan, the Khan sent his maternal uncles Hajji Ibrahim Khan and Hajji Taj Mohammed at Sarlath to bring Prince Karim back to Kalat. Khan made his return conditional . The Prince and the liberation movement failed to achieve internal and external sup­port. Moreover, the Baloch nationalists were divided into two groups.Anqa and Malik Saeed favored armed struggle in the form of guerilla war, while Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo and other prominent leaders wished to resolve all issues with dialogue.

The Return of Prince Karim

The Prince was forced to return to the Khanate and negotiate for his demands peacefully. On 8 July 1948, when the news of the Prince’s arrival reached Kalat, the Prime Minister, Mr.Fell, accompanied by a Kalat State Force, went to meet the Prince at Earboi to deliver the Khan’s message.

His Capture

Abdul Karim entered Balochistan with Afghan help and organized a rebellion against Pakistan in the area of Jallawan with the aid of Mir Gohar Khan Zahrri, an influential tribal leader of the Zarkzai clan. Further, it is stated that Major General Akbar Khan, who was in charge of the Seventh Regiment, was ordered to attack the insurgents and forced them to surrender. Prince Karim with his 142 followers were arrested and imprisoned in the Mach and Quetta jails. A detailed and interesting statement comes from General Akbar Khan, in his article published in the daily ‘Dawn’,dated 14 August 1960, under the title: “Early reminiscences of a soldier’. General Akbar confirms here that there was a plan to invade the Khanate and describes the clash between the Pakistan army and the liberation force headed by Prince Karim. Akbar says that Jinnah had issued instructions that this news should not be published in the press.

Trial and Sentencing

After the arrest of the Prince and his party, the A.G.G. gave an order for an inquiry, to be conducted by Khan Sahib Abdullah Khan, the Additional District Ma­gistrate Quetta. He submitted his report on 12 September 1948. His report was based on the activities of the Prince and upon the letters and documents published by the liberation force. After the inquiry, R.K.Saker the District Magistrate at Quetta, appointed a special Jirga (official council of elders) consisting of the following persons:

1) Khan Bahador Sahibzada, M.Ayub Khan Isakhel, Pakhtoon from Pishin;

2) K.B. Baz Mohd Khan. Jogezai, Pakhtoon from Loralai;

3) Abdul Ghaffar Khan Achakzai, Pakhtoon from Pishin;

4) S.B. Wadera Noor Muhammad Khan, a Baloch Chief from Kalat;

5) Syed Aurang Shah from Kalat;

6) Sheikh Baz Gul Khan. Pakhtoon from Zhob;

7) Wahab Khan Panezai, Pakhtoon from Sibi;

8) Sardar Doda Khan Marri, Baloch from Sibi.

The Jirga was instructed to study the circumstances and events which led to the revolt and was asked to give its recommendations to the District Magistrate. On 10 November 1948, the Jirga heard the testimony of the accused and gave its recommendations to the D.M. on 17 November 1948, suggesting the delivery of the Prince in Loralai at the pleasure of the Government of Pakistan and various other penalties. The D .M., in his order dated 27 November 1948, differed with the opinion of the Jirga and sentenced the Prince to ten years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5000 other members of his party were given various sentences and fines. Thus the Pakistan Government crushed the first armed struggle by Balochi insurgents.

Second Baloch National Resistance of 1968

Nowroz Khan;Baloch Resistance tribal Chief in 1968

Nawab Nauroz or Nowroz Khan, commonly known by Balochs as Babu Nowroz, was the head of the Zarakzai tribes of Balochistan. He started an armed struggle against the occupation by Pakistan of Baloch lands (Balochistan). He was later arrested by the Pakistani army while he came for negotiations to the army. He and his followers, including his sons and nephews, were taken to Hyderabad Jail, where his sons and nephews were hanged (executed), while due to his old age he was held in prison, where he later passed away.

Balochistan Rebellion During the 70s

Infamous period in Pakistan history and second only to Civil War of 1971 and loss of East Pakistan (Bangladesh). the National Awami Party led by “nationalists” Ghaus Bux Bizenjo, Sardar Ataullah Mengal, Khair Bux Marri, Nawab Akbar khan Bugti and Khan Wali Khan dominated Balochistan and the NWFP. At the time, even the Jamiat i Ulema i Islam of Maulana Mufti Mahmud (father of Maulana Fazlur Rehman) thought fit to join hands with the nationalists to espouse the provincial cause.

(L-R)Mir Ghaus Bux Bizenjo,Mir Gul Khan Nasir, Sardar Ataullah Mengal,Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti being produced before Trial Judges on charges of Anti-State activities;Courtesy The Dawn,Karachi

Emboldened by the stand taken by Sheikh Mujib, the Baloch and Pashtun nationalists demanded their ‘provincial rights’ from Mr Bhutto in exchange for approving the 1973 constitution consensually. But while Mr Bhutto conceded the NWFP and Balochistan to a NAP-JUI coalition, he refused to play ball with the provincial governments led by chief minister Ataullah Mengal in Quetta and Mufti Mahmud in Peshawar. Tensions erupted.

Within six months, the federal government had sacked the two provincial governments, arrested the two chief ministers, two governors and forty-four MNAs and MPAs, obtained an order from the Supreme Court banning the NAP and charged everyone with high treason to be tried by a specially constituted Hyderabad Tribunal of handpicked judges. In time, a nationalist insurgency erupted and sucked the army into the province, pitting the Baloch tribal middle classes against Islamabad.

Hyderabad Central Jail Court Room April 15, 1976 Baloch Leaders Being charge sheeted,Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo and Nawab Khair Bux Marri are sitting 2nd and 3rd from right.Sardar Ataullah Mengal is seen in back rows;Courtesy The Dawn,Karachi

The 1970s revolt of the Baloch, which manifested itself in the form of an armed struggle against the Pakistan army in Balochistan, was provoked by federal impatience, high handedness and undemocratic constitutional deviation. Mir Hazar Khan Marri lead the Baluch libration movement under the nick named organization [BPLF] which was known as Baluchistan peoples libration front.Then BPLF was froced to move to Afghanistan along with thousands of his supporters today Baluch fighters are fighting under the nick name BLA, BLM,BLO,etc. The modern Pakistani province of Baluchistan comprises a part of Baluchistan. In Iran, there is the Sistan and Baluchistan province.The irony was that Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti served to help the federal government when he was appointed as Governor of Balochistan by Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto throughout the time of the insurgency and spoke not a word in favor of Baloch rights or provincial autonomy.The greater irony was that the insurgency came to an end following the army coup of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq against the civilian government of Mr. Bhutto.

Soon thereafter, Gen Zia unfolded plans to desensitize the alienated Baloch and Pashtun leadership by a multi-faceted strategy aimed at co-opting the leaders into office while providing jobs and funds in the federal government to the alienated and insecure tribal middle classes. More significantly, he created maximum political space for the mullah parties in the NWFP and Balochistan so that they could be galvanized in the jihad against the USSR in neighboring Afghanistan.

Divided, fatigued and shorn of ideological moorings or avowed enemies like ZA Bhutto, the Baloch “movement” melted into memory over the next two decades.

Revival of Struggle for Provincial Rights

The single most critical macro factor is the social and electoral engineering initiated by the military regime of President Pervez Musharaf. By sidelining the mainstream PPP and PMLN parties and their natural “progressive” allies like the ANP, BNP and others in favor of the mullahs of the Jama’at i Islami and Jamiat i Ulema i Islam, General Musharraf has alienated the old non-religious tribal leadership as well as the new secular urban middle classes of Balochistan who see no economic or political space for themselves in the new military-mullah dispensation.

Similarly, by undermining the cause of provincial autonomy at the altar of local and federal government, the military regime has threatened the very roots of the constitutional consensus of 1973 enshrined in the Baloch consciousness. Balochistan remains a backwater province, infested by Taliban-type mullahs and corrupt, opportunist politicians and Tribal Chiefs, all beholden to the military regime in Islamabad.

The “Baloch Liberation Army” comprising a few bandits under tribal and middle class command is conducting terrorist operations. Gwadar is an obvious target.

Military cantonments Issue

The military cantonments planned at Gwadar, Dera Bugti and Kohlu (the capital of the Marri tribal lands) are viewed as outposts of repression and control, not development. The corrupt Frontier Corps is thoroughly hated and despised as a federal instrument of oppression. With the mad mullahs rampaging in much of Balochistan and defying the writ of the government, the rise of incipient armed nationalism poses a grave challenge to the stability and security of Pakistan.

Army helicopters strafed and bombed a strip of land between Turbat and Gwadar in Makran district where Baloch insurgents who had rocketed Gwadar earlier were thought to be holed in. In retaliation, an army truck was ambushed in Khuzdar last week, leaving five soldiers dead. Later the puppet chief minister of the province, Jam Yusuf, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on his life.

Two days ago, the government retaliated by registering cases of murder against 12 people including a former chief minister of the province, Sardar Akhtar Mengal s/o Sardar Ataullah Mengal (also a former chief minister who was sacked and arrested in his time), and the secretary general of his Balochistan Nationalist Party. The federal interior minister, Mr Faisal Saleh Hayat, has warned the agitating Baloch tribesmen that the government is poised to launch a ‘crash program' against ‘subversive elements’ in the province.

A hastily formed four-party Baloch alliance, led by the Bugti and Mengal groups in Quetta, has condemned the spate of arrests of Baloch nationalists in Turbat, Gwadar, Kalat, Dera Bugti, Kohlu and Nushki. They have been joined by the ‘oppressed nations movement’ (PONM). Together they are accusing Islamabad of having launched an ‘unannounced military operation’ in Balochistan in which over 200 activists of the various nationalist parties have been unjustly detained.

Old Grievances

Sui gas has never benefited the people of Balochistan; Gwadar is in the clutches of a land-grab mafia from Punjab; the federal government earns billions from gas in the province but gives only a fraction of that back to it for development; provincial autonomy promised in the 1973 constitution is non-existent, etc.

The fact is that Balochistan remains a neglected backwater of Pakistan. Its politics has been ideologised and factionalised by federal interference and meddling in pursuit of dubious strategic regional interests. Its drought-stricken pastoral economy cannot even provide for its small population. This state of affairs has lasted fifty-seven years. No federal government has ever thought of bringing development to Balochistan and talk of tribal chiefs obstructing progress is being called nonsense by the Balochs. Past neglect has now strengthened the ranks of the nationalists and increased their clout.

The danger in Balochistan is two-fold. The nascent but alienated middle class in the few towns of Balochistan is now rallying behind the nationalists and accepts the ‘sardars’ spearheading PONM as ‘genuine leaders’ At the same time, the developmental lag in the province is sufficient to substantiate the anti-center stance of PONM. That is why any military action in the province will completely lack local support.

The other destabilizing factor relates to the ongoing battle against the Taliban-Al Qaeda combine. The Pashtuns in Balochistan also have serious problems with the federal government’s policy on the Pak-Afghan frontier. This could be troublesome since Pashtun nationalism has also been responsible for the internationally reported presence of the Taliban in the province.

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