Volume 5, No. 12, December 2023
Editor: Rashed Rahman
The world was changing and the people of India were clamouring for independence. These developments did have a spillover effect and the idea of independence did politically infect some Baloch too who, despite Kalat having a special status, were insisting on more freedom and rights. These were the rudimentary beginnings of modern Baloch Nationalism and these whisperings were eventually to become louder and louder.
The Baloch not only militarily resisted the British, they were politically active as well. In 1920 Abdul Aziz Kurd formed the Young Baloch movement, which remained underground till 1926. Then Yusuf Magsi formed the Anjuman-e-Itehad-e-Balochistan. Then came the Kalat State National Party in which among others were Mir Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo, Mir Gul Khan Naseer and Abdul Karim Shorish. All demanded an independent Balochistan. Ahmad Yar Khan, who became the Khan of Kalat on December 20, 1933, supported the Anjuman. Though the British restricted political activities and the leaders faced exile, the political struggles didn’t wane.
In 1929 Yusuf Aziz Magsi wrote an article “Faryaad-e-Balochistan” in the newspaper Musawat from Lahore. He was fined Rs. 20,000, a huge sum at the time, and imprisoned for a year. He had criticised the British and the Prime Minister (PM) of Kalat Sir Shams Shah, who was from Punjab. While Magsi was in jail the leaders of the Young Baloch met him in Quetta Jail and they announced the formation of Anjuman-e-Itehad-e-Balochistan. It sought reforms and the independence of Balochistan. A lot of people interested in nit-picking deny that Balochistan existed as an entity before 1970 when the One unit was broken up. However, to put the record straight I will quote from Mahir Ali’s piece in Dawn (“A different world”, July 22, 2023) on the Communist International’s Second Congress in Petrograd and Moscow in 1920. There Leon Trotsky in his closing address on August 6, among other things also said that the “Indian Ocean was a ‘British Lake’ ringed by colonial subjects in Egypt, Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan and India.” In 1920 Leon Trotsky mentions Balochistan and he doesn’t include it in India.
This nit-picking is obscurantism and is intended to make people overlook the injustices visited upon the Baloch and devote their thoughts to issues that in no way affect the reality of oppression and exploitation that the state still carries on. The Baloch-Brahui debate also serves the same purpose as does the debate about the differences in the Baloch resistance about Sardars as leaders or the middle-class as leaders. These debates divert the mind and energies from the existential threat that the Baloch are facing today.
In 1931 a movement was launched against Shams Shah, who wanted Mir Mahmud II to be replaced as the Khan of Kalat by his sick son Anwar. Mir Mahmud’s replacement was being considered because he was resisting the British demand for renegotiation of the 1876 Treaty between Kalat and the British. This Treaty accorded an independent status to Balochistan. The British, realising the discontent that would ensue, did not accept Sham’s advice to make Anwar the Khan and instead nominated Mir Azam Jan, who became the Khan on December 10, 1931. Ahmad Yar Khan succeeded him on September 10, 1933.
A Baloch Conference was convened in Jacobabad on December 29, 1932. It demanded the establishment of a constitutional government in Balochistan and sought to unite the Baloch on a single platform. A second Baloch Conference was held in December 1933 in Hyderabad, Sindh.
Ahmad Yar Khan on ascension sent Yusuf Magsi for talks on sovereignty with Britain but these talks failed. Magsi favoured armed struggle with the help of the USSR but unfortunately he died in the Quetta earthquake of May 31, 1935. This was a great loss for the Baloch nationalist cause. He wanted an independent, socialist Balochistan. Before his untimely death Magsi had sought to reorganise the Anjuman. Later the Anjuman under Abdul Aziz Kurd, the leader of the radicals, met in Sibi in February 1937 and it was transformed into a formal political party, the Kalat State National Party (KSNP). It received popular support and was able to secure some reforms.
The KSNP’s annual convention on July 6, 1939 was disrupted by the supporters of the Sardars, who also pleaded with the Khan to put an end to the KSNP’s activities. Consequently, on July 20, 1939, the PM of Kalat declared the KSNP illegal within Kalat. Mir Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo, Mir Gul Khan Naseer, Abdul Karim Sorish and others were exiled from Kalat. The British banned political activities due to WWII but the KSNP continued its activities underground.
When the British decided to partition India, they gave some decisions a semblance of consent though underhand tactics were employed to ensure the decision went either the way they wanted or the way their loyalists wanted. The Pashtun areas were allowed to decide by Jirga but the Baloch areas were denied this. Akbar Bugti and Doda Khan Marri (he was the regent Sardar as Khair Bakhsh Khan was a minor) made a representation to the British about their willingness to join Kalat but their requests were ignored. In the June 1946 referendum, the tribal areas of British Balochistan were given the choice of joining either Pakistan or India only; the option for Kalat was absent. This referendum was flawed because it was decided to hold the Jirga on the June 30 but it was deviously held on the 29th without informing all the members and the decision was manipulated in favour of Pakistan.
On August 4, 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 Khan declared Balochistan independent on August 11, 1947, three days before the independence of Pakistan. A written Constitution was promulgated in the same month; there were two houses of parliament, Darul Umra (House of Lords) and Darul Awam (House of the People). Balochi was declared the national language. The Assembly held sessions in September and December 1947 and most favoured an alliance with and not accession to Pakistan. On December 14, 1947, the Darul Awam passed a Resolution reaffirming its intention to remain independent and to not accede under any circumstances.
However, Pakistan continued to insist on accession and surreptitiously and deviously signed agreements with the titular heads of Lasbela and Kharan for accession to Pakistan to undermine the quest of Kalat to remain independent. When Pakistan finally came to the conclusion that Kalat was not acceding, they brought in the military and on March 27, 1948 made the Khan of Kalat sign the instrument of accession under duress.
The rest as they say is history as Agha Abdul Karim, the Khan of Kalat’s brother, rebelled but was then captured by deceit and sentenced to 10 years jail. All those who raised voice at the injustice were jailed. These included Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo and other political leaders. The repression was blatant but the resistance didn’t die down. In 1958 Kalat was invaded again on fabricated and specious excuses that the Khan of Kalat was planning secession with the help of Afghanistan. The Khan was incarcerated, which led to an armed uprising by Nawab Nauroz Khan. He too was captured through deceit and false promises and his two sons and five other companions were hanged in Sukkur and Hyderabad Jail after summary trials by military kangaroo courts on July 15, 1960.
Though there were political persons like Mohammad Hussain Unka and Qadir Bakhsh Nizamani with Agha Abdul Karim in the struggle to undo the unjust annexation on March 27, 1948, it was a spontaneous affair with not much logistical and little political backing. There wasn’t much preparation as the eventuality of forced annexation probably wasn’t expected. So despite their determination and effort, the rebellion was suppressed due to multiple reasons, which included the refusal of any support by Afghanistan for their struggle. The pitfall was that this eventuality wasn’t prepared for and makeshift measures cannot be sustained, while those who were betraying the Baloch had been working hard to ensure that their betrayal gets approval. The Pakistani state was all out in their support and vigorous in suppression of those who dissented. Better planning and better propaganda won the Pakistani state the day and it succeeded in suppressing and sidelining the resisters and dissenters. We should remember that the world then had limited facilities for communication. The news of the great injustice of illegal annexation did not reach all; those that it reached it reached late and for many the magnitude of the tragedy of depriving the Baloch of their independence was lost on them.
Nawab Nauroz Khan’s struggle, though also spontaneous, was more sustained and more debilitating to the state as a decade of injustices (1948-1958) had awakened the Baloch to the real intentions of the Pakistani state. They also saw their resources being blatantly exploited. The gas that had been discovered at Sui provided no benefits for the people even in Sui or Dera Bugti (these two are still deprived of even a 0.01 percent of what has been taken from them). They saw their tribal elders and political leaders being unjustly jailed on flimsy excuses. The realisation that the Baloch were being discriminated against dawned on a lot of non-political people as well. The people instead of identifying with those who collaborated with the state identified with Nawab Nauroz Khan and his fight for the rights of the Baloch.
The Baloch alienation, anger and anguish deepened and sharpened even more acutely when Nawab Nauroz was deceived into laying down arms and then two of his sons and five relatives and friends were hanged on July 15, 1960 after a summary trial in a military court. This was a defining moment in the history of the Baloch national struggle. Any remaining hopes of the promises to the Baloch being honoured were shattered forever and many now understood the true nature of the Pakistani state. Sadly, there were also many who were terrified due to their cowardice and the fear that their vested interests would suffer if they didn’t collaborate with the State. The Baloch political and social spectrum was thus polarised forever into those who would oppose injustices and those who would become lackeys of the state. Now the battle was not only physical, it was ideological as well.
(To be continued)