Baluchistan, Baluch, Hazara/Pakistan
The Baluch and Hazara Issue  - Pakistan

The Baluch and Hazara Issue

Posted by Aneela Shahzad on

This is a research-based essay, combining the historic and political account of the Baluch and Hazara people with the ethical question of how ethnicities value in the bigger picture of nationhood.    

1- Ethnicity and Ethics

The human mind is capable of retaining only so much of memory; if the mind is hammered with bulks of data and ‘comprehension’ is not given a chance to make sense between one thing and another, the eventual mind will be left baffled between information, confusion and conflicting standards. Wisdom is another word for being able to connect one idea with another and making out the bigger picture of life out of scattered, seemingly unconnected data, being able to, in the way, discard the wrong and embracing the right.

The pursuit of self-identity is an essential human trait and therefore entails an inevitable place in human rights. The right to know ones identity and to be able to associate oneself to a family, creed, language, belief system etc. seem to come naturally but often become reason for clashes and even wars. Clashes often occur when one set of people want to be recognized by one set of properties while another set of people regard some other properties as real and their grounds overlap somewhere.

When after the two World Wars, imperialism was seemingly taking its last breaths, and nations all around the world went on the path of excruciating struggles for their independences, this was also the time they had to re-define their identities. Before this era, humanity had been largely living under empires and kingdoms, as provinces or vassals; men did not have the privilege to ask for freedom just upon their creed or because their ancestors had been living in a land. This new wave of independence-seeking that swept around the world, extended largely upon the Westphalian idea of sovereignty - nations sorted out their identity based on the oneness or closeness of their ethnicities, languages and cultures.

In fact the Westphalian doctrine deems ‘states’ as independent agents when they correspond to nations - groups of people united by language and culture. Therefore in the new era, under the auspice of the United Nations and its affiliate organizations, it was encourage that states legitimize their right for sovereignty on this basis. It can be argued that this was a step towards ethnic and cultural fundamentalism, as ethnicity was now to be the fundamental identity of people, negating all lesser and all higher identities.

Though there is apparently nothing bad in ethnicity and we all take pride in our ethnicities, it can be understood that ethnicity can be a call for a divide where co-existence could have been much more mutually beneficial. If one bethinks of humanity as one big family, unity is obviously better than separation. Yet differences and separations are part of our reality, and what needs to be done is to understand clearly what differences are vital and which can be forgone for the maximum good.

Reasons that qualify us different from others elevate in the following sequence; self, family, clan, race, nation, religion. In this list, all but religion is non-material. Religion is the highest generalization of human thought, it declares right from wrong, it makes the largest picture in the thought-frame in comprehending the world around us; it is ideological and not material. But the cultural advance of the Western society has been such that religion has been kicked-out not only from foreign policy but out rightly from the affairs of the state itself. The western states vow to have nothing to do with the religion of their people, therefore the state is not to be recognized via any property called ‘religion’.

Still, why is even religion allowed to bifurcate humanity, why any differences at all; the reason for this allowance is perhaps simply the existence of evil in man’s nature. Considering again the sequence; self, family, clan, race, nation and religion, evil can perhaps be defined as the seeking of interests down the ladder, while in contrast religion has the potential to unite even the nations. Then, if a religion is dividing us into races and nations and ethnicities and families, one should be alarmed that the very thing one is calling religion is its own anti-religion. One should not be disarrayed by the idea that in preserving the ethnicity, one is not weakening the nationhood or in preserving the nationhood one is not weakening the religion.

But should we forsake the self and the family and the clan here; is that the answer. No, the answer is that all these values are true in terms of their utility, and cannot be altogether forsaken; the need is to align each one of these entities in allowance of its higher second, i.e. nationhood will be allowed to the extent that it does not defect the religion and all lesser values will be practiced in allowance of the higher ones. So that all material necessities are maintained in the limits that do not damage the highest material necessity, that is the preservation of the peace and progress of the whole humanity, which can only be visualized in the most subjective way of thinking - religion.

In light of the above prelude, it is an easy analyze as to where the ‘Muslim nation’ dwelling in the state of Pakistan, stands on its problems of ethnicities. Ought we to, being a Muslim nation, stands firm in our material frontiers as defenders of the higher subjective stance of being the ‘saviors of humanity’, thus integrating with and sacrificing our profits for, the largest perimeter of this subjective ideal, i.e. the Ummah, in the understanding that the ideal we hold i.e. ‘Islam’ is the right protector of humanity. Or, ought we to give in to the lesser perimeters such as clans and ethnicities.

We must also ask the question whether ‘ethnicity’ can at all safeguard the interests of the people that make it their fundamental stance and if at all, what subjective value does it hold, OR is it just a lure meant to incite certain groups among communities, for ideals that do not possess the ability of holding ground.

We have two models, the Hazara and the Baluch to be studied in this context.


2-The Hazaras

The Hazaras have an interesting history, but like all history they become blurred the more we go back in time. There are several theories about the origin of the Hazara people, different theories suggest they may be original inhabitants of the Hazarajat or descendants of Mongols or of Mongol-Turkish ethnicity or a mixed race, while it is also plausible that they are a separated section of the larger community of the Uyghur.

If we take the first people to arrive in a land’ as the original inhabitants of that land, then the theory that the Hazara people are the original inhabitants of the area they live in, is not a possibility because of two reasons. Firstly, the earliest inhabitants of the areas where the Hazara people reside now, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, were the people who developed the Indus Valley civilization. These people who first settled in the Indus plains and slowly dispersed away from the Indus on both sides, did not come from the north; they came from the west of Indus. They were the Mede people from the adjacent plains of Persia, who were settled there since before 2000bc. The Medes are the ancestors of the Baluch and the Pashtun people (detail in part 3), not the Hazara.

Secondly, the oldest civilization in the Bactria-Margiana archeological complex, now comprising the areas of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan respectively has been found to be as old as ~2000bc, no people living in this area before them are known. The people that entered Bactria were most probably Turkic in origin and the region above this land, present day Mongolia, was at that time occupied by the Mongol people also thought to be related to the Turks, Magogs or Scythians; all tribes of the upper Caucasus.

Therefore the Hazara people, who show features common to both the Mongols and the Turks, can rightly be thought to be a later people, who were born out of the intermingling of these two people, the Mongols of the higher latitudes and the Turks relatively below them. There is a theory that presents the Hazara people as an army contingent left behind by the forces of Genghis Khan, when he had been repelled back by Khawarizm Shah. This theory may be plausible but it contradicts with the fact that the Hazara people belong to a much larger Turkic ethnic group, the Uyghur, 80% of whom live in the Tarim Basin, Southwest China.

The diaspora of the Uyghur people are found in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey. Mysteriously all these people are Muslims. These facts point to a later time of the migration of the Hazara people, perhaps from the dispersal of the Uyghur Khaganate (744- 848ad) based in the western Mongolian region. The following map of the Uyghur Khaganate clearly hints of the Uyghur to have reached the area in a later wave of Turkic-decent people that started from the Caucasus and traveled a path above the Caspian Sea.

The unwritten dialect of the Hazara people, Hazaragi, contains loan words from regional languages such as Arabic, Urdu, Mongol, Turkish and Dari/Farsi, but is considered a part of the larger Turkic/Uyghur language group.

In this pretext, if one excepts the Hazara people a legitimate polity, based on its separate ethnic identity, who shall be held accountable for the security and welfare of the Hazara people; the Uyghurs, the Mongols, the Turks, or the Caucasus people from where their ancestors started migrating. Or the state-government of Pakistan? Surely, at this point of time the government of Pakistan is responsible for the Hazara people; but only in the pre-condition that the Hazara people submit as Pakistani citizen, can this government be liable for these people. For if they stand as a polity at wars with the state, or if they are made to act like that, under the effect of political factors they may not be aware of, the government is instantly turned to a moral stance of safeguarding its integrity as per the whole nation of Pakistan, from a rebelling second party, creating a state within the state.

If ethnicity is to be held as a legitimate ground of identity, then perhaps all maps around the world would have to be redrawn. Perhaps the lands inhabited by the Hazaras of Afghanistan and Pakistan should be combine with the Tarim Basin of China and made a separate, independent country and perhaps the Mongolians should be asked if they would intend to put claim on the Uyghur, as a part of their race in future, to make for an even larger country. Perhaps the Hazara can put claim on the land of Caucasus as their original homeland. This would call for mass-exodus and altogether re-organization of government systems; considering that the Hazaras are not the only ethnicity separated from their origins, in fact men have always been on the move.

3-Nationhood

Nationhood is a larger phenomenon, not in the sense that a nation can essentially encompass larger masses of land compared to what an ethnic unity can gather nor does a nation essentially comprise of one ethnic group, but nevertheless ethnicity does play a part in the creation of the nation. In earlier times their used to be kingdoms and empires, made by great generals and their armies, who became kings of the areas they conquered and these monarchies where inherited by their sons. While the clan and the race of the rulers were always at privilege, they always had the moral obligation to protect and facilitate all those that came under their bound, an obligation most oftenly denied.

The phenomenon of nation states is relatively new; states begin to emerge out of previous monarchies and empires, in the 19th-century in Europe. Most states around the world have gained their statehood after the two world wars. Though they legitimized their right as independent nation-states, on the basis of having a common ethnicity, language, history or culture but most nations fulfill the definition rather loosely and share more than one ethnicity, language, religion or culture. 

The above map shows that more than 3 continents of the world form nation-states not based on any defined ethnicities, while more than half of the rest comprises of multi-ethnic states. The reason why India is blue in this map is that it is home to more than 2000 defined ethnic groups and 4 major language families, and every major religion has a considerable %age in India’s population. Britain is dark blue because it uniquely holds a "countries within a country" status, holding 4 states, under the 1707 ‘treaty of union’, that were previously part of the kingdom of England and kingdom of Scotland. Therefore it can be said that in the modern world every state defines its nationhood upon its own unique set of values, loosely adhering to the basic definition.

So coming back to the question, is nationhood worth being an identity of a people if it is an integration of some closely placed ethnicities, languages and cultures that have influenced each other and share common history. Or, as in the very unique example of Pakistan, was it worthwhile for people of different ethnicities, languages, cultures and histories, that were not all closely placed within the subcontinent, to decide consciously that they will strive to become one nation state on the basis of the larger subjective ideals of goodness that sums up in the belief they call ‘Islam’. Or as per the anti-ideology being induced into the mind of the nation, should we revert from a higher moral/ideological standing to a lower one, i.e. should we legitimize sectioning of our society on ethnicity, when we had united in the sacred pact of ‘goodness’. Simply put, is being black or white, round or oblong, longer or shorter cephalic, Siraiki or Barahavi, Aryan or Mongol or Mede more important than believing and uniting in one Book and the one Messenger.

The allegation of ethnic cleansing or the alleged genocide of the Hazara people is dire and needs to be un-done in the highest preference, but does the allegation of creating such a confrontation fall on the government of Pakistan; does any government benefit in breaking itself into parts and killing its own people; does the government of Pakistan have a policy of breaking down its integral parts and confronting them with each another. Surely the national policy cannot be such by any definition; it can be at the most a self-fulfilling policy of an individual or a group working under the cover of the national system.  

As the world becomes closer and man becomes more informed, it is definitely a matter of urgency to decide what values our ultimate identity will rest on; will we be different on the basis of the dresses we wear or the songs we sing or the dances we dance or the ways we celebrate our weddings and burials or the style we cook our food or the way we talk; will we war for such values that are ever-changing as we grow in time and ever-evolving as the fashion of our thoughts changes modes. Or should we grow out of petty physical matters and find the things that really matter to us; find the things which really make life worth living; truth and a unity based on truth.

 4-The Baluch

6000 years from now most of human population was concentrated in the small area known as the Fertile Crescent. As human population grew, tribes became powerful and started warring with each other for land and resources, these wars slowly pushed the tribes out of the Fertile Crescent on all sides. And as it happened the whiter races were pushed north, the darker ones were pushed south and the medium swarthy ones were pushed horizontally. The Medes, the Parthians, the Sagartians, the Sarangians, the Pactians were some of these tribes that were pushed towards the east along the plains of Persia.

As the Akkadians and the Assyrians, the very earliest known empires of the world, contested for hegemony the Medes were pushed further and further till they reached the shores of the Arabian Sea at Makran. The Mede people are more popularly known for the Median Empire, which they maintained throughout the stretches of Persia, from 678bc to 549bc, after the Assyrian Empire had fallen and before Cyrus the great had built the Achaemenid Empire.   

The map shows the greatest extent of the Median Empire; after the fall of the Median Empire these people again reverted to the deserts and hills of Makran. Perhaps the Maka people and the Utian people were two sub-tribes of the Medes, as Herodotus (died 435bc) has mentioned them in his writngs:

“The Utians and Mycans and Paricanians were equipped like the Pactyans: of these the commanders were, Arsamenes the son of Dareios of the Utians and Mycans, and of the Paricanians Siromitres the son of Oiobazos…”

All these far-flung tribes to the west of Indus, had remained loyal as satraps of both the dynasties of Cyrus (Achemenid) and Alexander (Helenistic) after him. Though these tribes strictly maintained their identities, they regularly fought under the armies of the empires they had submitted to, for after all, their subduers were those from the lands of their forefathers.

The ethnonym Baloch or Baluch is not traceable in historical records. The Baluch who claim Arab decent from Hazrat Amir Hamza and assert that they left for the Makran from Aleppo soon after the advent of Islam, may not be accurate on two accounts; firstly originating from Aleppo clashes with their language affiliation with the Kurds who are based further east; secondly arriving in Makran at such a late time, when the Maka and the Utians had been there centuries before would bar them from becoming a dominant population in a prevailing strict tribal set-up, well-versed in war.

So the probability is that the name Baluch originated from within the Maka and Utian people as sub-tribes grew within them. It is possible, though not propossed before, that the name Baluch is a compound of the ethnonym Utians and ‘Bal’ a deistic name. Bal, Baal, Ballu, Bael, Bel, Bell, Bull or the cow has been a favourite Pagan deity from one end of civilization to the other, from Europe to India all tribes have shown some kind of religious affinity with the Baal. Figurines of the cow along with several other relics have been found in different excavated sites in Baluch areas. So it is possible that one of the emerging sub-tribes in Makran, the Utians, proudly added their deity’s name with their name and made it Bal-Utians, and gradually it became Bal-ut and then Bal-uch with time. This is only one probable theory, which cannot be proven or disproven by any factual evidence. Another possibility is that as a sub-tribe within these people grew bigger and stronger, they renamed themselves with the name ‘Balach’, a name of one of their forefather known for his bravery or piety, as most tribes have done in history.

So where did these Mede, Maka, Utian, Baluch people, originate from inside the Fertile Cresent. Language similarity is a strong and reliable indicator as to ethnic relationship between different people. The Median language is an Old Iranian language and classified as belonging to the Northwestern Iranian subfamily which includes many languages including the Kurdish languages and Baluchi. The fact that the Median language has almost died away, while the Kurd and the Baluch languages survive, suggest that Mede was a transitive phase between the movements of these people from northwest Iran to Makran.

Kurdish is not a unified standard language itself, but a discursive construct of languages spoken by ethnic Kurds, not necessarily mutually intelligible. The Baluchi language might have branched off from Kurdish; linguists claim common phonetic isoglosses shared by Kurdish, Persian, and Baluchi, which again points to Kurdistan as the origin place of the Baluch language and people.

The following map shows the areas where the Kurds live. It is an area stretched into 4 countries; Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.

And this map shows the extent of the Baluch people living in the Makran region,

Observe that the Baluch people are spread in 3 countries here, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. The Baluch people have strong tribal associations within and across the porous borders between these three countries, the governments of these three countries have always made very flexible visa arrangements between these borders, allowing people to trade and visit on daily basis, considering their ethnic and religious oneness. Many people have married across borders and many live on the borders. There has been peace and harmony in these tribes and this land for centuries; they have fought wars, but only with intruders and the enemies of their friends; their strong tribal heritage and code of conduct has bid them to protect the tribe and the friend-tribe and to solve their disputes within themselves through Jirga.

The question is that if we are to take nationhood on the basis of ethnicity, are we to combine the kurds, breaking four existing countries, or are we to combine the Baluch by breaking three existing countries and how in the world are the Baluch to be combined with the Kurds. The truth is that the borders between countries have always been drawn by new conquering empires and different people, especially those who have lived at the fringes of civilizations have always submited, joined in and satraped to the conquering party, offering them their loyalties in return of letting them keep their identity and way of life.

So the Baluch people have remained under the satrap of the Assyrians, the Achemenids, the Hellenistics and the Sassanians before the advent of Islam. At the time Muhammad bin Qasim attacked Sindh, the Sassanids had weakened on the eastern fronts and Sindh was united under the Brahman prince Raja Dahir of the Rai dynasty. At that time Sindh was comprising the lands as far as Kashmir to the north and Maloah (India) in the east and the whole of Siestan and Makran in the west. Therefore the only time that the Baluch would have had their independent kingdom was the lone century of the Median Empire. The Muslims had started their conquest from Sindh therefore the Baluch like all other tribe easily submitted under Muslim rule once the Raja was defeated. The Baluch gradually adopted Islam as their religion and shifted their loyalty towards all successive Muslim dynasties to come. As the power and control of the Mughals declined the Baluch had come under the vassal of the Afghan kings, to whom they presented their loyalties against the British invaders right to the time that the British started exploiting them for the 1st Anglo-Afghan war in 1839. And when the Afghans had made treaty with the British in 1919, they alienated themselves from the matters of all, across the Durand line.

 

5-The Sardars of Baluchistan

There are over 250 major tribes in Baluchistan. With a polulation of more than 13 million, it is ethnically the most diverse province of Pakistan. According to census it has 55% Baluchi speakers, which include 2million Brahui speakers, 30% Pashto, while Siraiki, Sindhi, Darri, Hazargi and Farssi is also spoken. It is an enigma why Brahui speakers are not seperated in the population census from the Baluchi speakers, when Brahui is a distinct language from Baluchi, having a Dravidian root.

Though the tribal and feudal way of life is not uncommon in Sindh and Punjab, where people may have cultural and economic bounding within a ‘Baradari’ or ‘Qoum”, but the distinction between these Baradaries and the Qabaails of the Baluch, Brahui and Pushtun of Baluchistan is perhaps the stronger bond of affiliation within kinship groups, the well-defined, exclusive and complete identity of a tribe, whereby each and every person of the province has unique, defined position in his/her tribe/kin. Perhaps the scarcity of population and distinct geographical localization of the tribes also play a part, whereby unique culture is maintained. It is noteworthy that in such a strict tribal bondage the economic, social and political implications of individuals fall upon the interpertations of the Sardars of their tribes. Therefore, while the power and resourcefulness between one Sardar and another can be a variable, the power of the Sardar upon his own tribe is permanent and unquestionable. This is precisely the reason why all Sardars will have a say in the Jirga, and all of them will hold the pride and patronage of their clan in all conditions.

The beautiful bedouin saying explains the tribal way of life, “Me against my brothers, me and my brothers against my cousins, me and my cousins against the world”, and shows how personal rivalries and tribal enmity can balance out each other and ensure the overall stability of the society. The historical fact that the tribes living in Baluchistan always had a foreign power to submit to, fight for and align with, while keeping their pride and identity, had practically kept the energies of these tribes channelized. The grave fact that it was after the British had gained interference and control over Baluchistan, since from 1839, the 1st Anglo-Afghan war, that dissension and strife between the Sardars of Baluchistan began to commence.

When the intrigues of the British Crown, based on their golden rule of ‘divide, rule, exploit and betray’ reached the borders of Baluchistan, this confederacy of distinct tribes fell like an easy prey. At the time of the first Anglo-Afghan war Baluchistan constituted of the area from Kalat down to the Arabian Sea and up to Quetta in the west. Most area above Quetta fell in the jurisdiction of the Amir of Afghanistan, while Peshawar was in the tug of war between the Amir and Ranjit Singh of Punjab.

Ranjit Singh had broken his pact with the British and refused to allow their ‘Army of Indus’, headed to Afghanistan, to pass through his territories, so the British had no choice but to take the long route through Baluchistan, via Quetta. The power of the Afghans, after decades of strife with the British and Sikh forces on the one side and in repelling the Iranian and Russian forces on the other hand had been rendered weak, and the Baluch tribes had broken away from their allegiance. The British took advantage and started making one treaty after another with the Baluch Khans, with offers such as military aid in time of need, assurance of the instatement of the Khan and subsidies.

The first Khan that the British made treaty with was Mir Mehrab Khan. Mir was not happy at heart at this treaty, as the unpopular Shah Shuja, who was with the ‘Army of Indus’, was to be reinstated by the British in Kabul. The Mir knew that he was a small entity, trapped between three potential invaders, the British, the Afghans and the Iranians (Iran had had wars with Russia, Afghanistan and Turkey in the relative period) therefore it was imperative upon the Mir to align with one of these powers, whereby some of his interests would be secured.

The Khans of Kalat had tried to conquer and subdue parts of Baluchistan since Mir Ahmad Qambarani in 1666, the peak was reached with Nasir khan 1 who had united the Baluch tribes in the mid-18th century. The Khans had become ally to the Mughals and were awarded with titles, gifts and estates by the Mughals for repelling the Iranians. As the Mughals declined, they shifted loyalty to the Afghans and now they were in the snare of the British.

After facing the humiliating defeat in the 1st Anglo-Afghan war, the British fought with Mir Mehrab on account of his failure to protect their army from tribal looters and killed him. The real reason was the lack of trust or liking between them and the seasoned Khan. In his place they installed Mir Shahnawaz, a distant relative and a teenager. After this the Khans kept falling in the traps of greed, intimidation and threats set for them by the British.

The treaties between the Khans and the British started with things like; a permanent British Resident in the court of the khan; control their foreign policy to be with the British; postage and rails between routes (useful to the British) to be established; the Resident to be made arbitrator in disputes between Sardars; British army to station troops anywhere in Baluchistan. What the Khans got in return was subsidies and security; whenever more demands were to be put forth subsidies would be increased, to the limit that the British would take the liberty to allot whole districts away to the Sindhi rulers, the Punjab authorities and friends such as Shah Shuja, as they shuffled to control the Khans. Soon the British established Garrisons in Quetta and seized control of the Bolan pass, and adjacent areas, making a ‘British Baluchistan’, and squeezing the Khan further in. Henry Green, British Agent in Kalat wrote, on an occasion when subsidy to the Khan had been recessed:

“The Khan is absolutely powerless to exert unaided by any physical force over his unruly Chiefs and their followers: he can but rule by setting Chief against Chief and the tribe against tribe, and he can only do this with the assistance of money and by its use maintaining on his side the most powerful of his Chiefs. By depriving him of his subsidy we have reduced him to equality with the weakest of his Sardars. We have deprived the country of any semblance of a head.”

Under such circumstances was the eve of the Partion of India arriving; in many government documents, letters are found written by the British agents and Residents in the Khan’s court, expressing distrust on the Khans and their weak power. The British manupilated the situation by keeping much of the demarcation of their jurisdiction vague, and by not declaring clearly and with permanacy if the Khans were supreme rulers of their land, or heads of their confedaracies or mere agents under British patronage.

Though the British declared the Khan to be an independent ruler in the 1854 treaty and Baluchistan to be a neighbouring state in the 1862 treaty, but these declarations were mere whitewash as both these treaties obligated the Khan to compliance with the British foreign policy and having a permanent Resident, who was to settle all internal disputes in the Khan’s place. A vague policy for Baluchistan was rather in the interest of the British: to maintain Baluchistan as a buffer state, with less administrative liability, so it could be used as a chess-board in the forward policy into the affairs of the Iranians, the Afghans and the Russians.

As their control increased, the British started curtailing the subsidies granted to the Khan, authourizing their Agent to distribute subsidies among the rest of the Sardars directly, sometimes pushing the Khan into a position equal to the weakest of the Sardars. After 1915, several Baluch and Pushtun tribes revolted against this British/Khan system, 15 major expeditons and several small ones were set to deal with these troubles.

This summary is not meant to undermine the Baluch as a people or in any way to prove that the Baluch Sardars were any worst than the feudal lords of all the other provinces of the country. The mere sustainence of unique culture and tribal affinity, bears proof of their strenght of identity and the detterrence with which they have faced the world around them. But the Baluch had to block-in with one power of the region and the British were the most emerging and strong at that time; nor did the Baluch Sardars have a chance against a power, much more learned, armed and foxy, than the imagination of the Sardars could reach. The British had conquered with their intriuges and double-play the whole of the Muslim Indian Empire, therefore the Baluch, who were far-flunged, un-urbanized and conservative were not merely to be blamed to have fallen at the last stages of the British advent; this was a fate rolled down to them from the falling of Dehli.

6-The Khans and Pakistan

In the above scenario it is easy to apprehend that as the partition of India became eminant, it was only natural for the Khan or Baluchistan to consider independence, as for generations through centuries, the tribes of Baluchistan had been independent of Sindh and Punjab for their internal matters. While striving with these two for territories at the borders, they had always allied to the centers of the empires. The areas of the NWFP, were loosely considered part of the Afghans but nothing of the concern of the Baluch.

So in that sense Baluchistan was independent, but Baluchistan was not independent for precisely the reasons it had been facing for centuries of its history; the reasons for which the Baluch had never and would never exist alone. Firstly, they were a set of independent confedaracies that did not show the sign of central command. Secondly, they were still to be sandwiched between three competing powers, all having some ethnic claims on it; Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Thirdly they lacked in arms, technology and education, which would inevitably render them dependent on the highest bidder, in near time.

Therefore Baluchistan would have to make a choice of aligning with one power or the other; if there was a choice at all. But the fact is that Baluchistan did not have that choice!

The Secretary of State for India, in 1942 informed the Viceroy about the British policy towards the Khanate, denying its status as an independent, sovereign, and a non-Indian state. The Khan agreed with the decision of the Government of India when it was conveyed to him in June 1942. On the other hand, when the Khan, as he did in 1946, tried to put his case through the Chamber of the Princes, the British would tell him that he couldn’t approach through this channel without compromising his position of an independent state. This shows that the Khan himself was not sure of what his legal position was, and even though posing to be independent, he knew that he would not get any independence unless the British granted it to him.

In the same event of 1946, the Khan had expressed concern over 4 issues; its future relation with India; the return of the leased areas of Nushki, Quetta and Nasirabad to Kalat; the future of the feudatory states like Las Bela and Kharan; and the tribal areas like the Bugti and Marri territories. This clearly shows that the Khan had little control on anything outside Kalat. But still the Khan’s demand could be legitimate, if the rest of Baluchistan wanted to unite under him or under any other Sardar independent of Pakistan, but that was not the case either.

In July, 1947, Lord Mountbatten said that those districts which all acknowledged to be administered by Kalat were Mekran, Jhalawan, Sarawan, Kachhi, Dombki and Kaheri. He said that Las Bela and Kharan were disputed, as their rulers claimed not to be under the suzerainty of the Khan of Kalat. He said that the four territories of Quetta, Nushki, Nasirabad and Bolan, which had been leased by Kalat to the British Government in India, will, like all other burdens and benefits fall on the successor authority, in this case Pakistan. And he advised Kalat that although it had liberty of choice, it should associate with Pakistan on some terms. The Prime Minister of Kalat, Aslam Khan agreed at this and said that the Khan of Kalat wanted to come to an amicable settlement with Pakistan, which would be of mutual benefit. In these circumstances the Quaid, in August 1947, agreed with the Khan on the following terms, which show that the Quaid had agreed at literally nothing with the Khan:

  • The Government of Pakistan recognizes Kalat as an independent sovereign state in treaty relations with the British Government with a status different from that of Indian States. (nothing on Kalat’s status with Pakistan has been declared here. 
  • Legal opinion will be sought as to whether or not agreements of leases will be inherited by the Pakistan Government. 
  • Meanwhile, a Standstill Agreement has been made between Pakistan and Kalat. 
  • Discussions will take place between Pakistan and Kalat at Karachi at an early date with a view to reaching decisions on Defence, External Affairs and Communications.

The Khan wanted the British government to recognize Kalat as independent too after this agreement with the Quaid, but the British refused; they did not want it to become a precedent that would lead to the fragmentation of India. Lawrence Grafftey, High Commissioner of the UK in Pakistan said that the admission of Kalat’s claim means the emergence of a weak buffer state on the frontiers of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.

Nevertheless, after the creation of Pakistan, the Khan tried to keep the matter in limbo as long as he could, whenever the Quaid demanded his final say on the matter in the light of what they had discussed, he would ask for more time.

 Meanwhile the ruler of Kharan, Mir M Habibullah Khan on his visit to Karachi in October 1947, issued a statement, saying: “Kharan was equal to Kalat and would never suffer subordination to her; Kharan would live and, if necessary, die for Pakistan.” In December 1947, he wrote to the Quaid, explaining why Kharan did not accept the suzerainty of Kalat, “After August 15, 1947, Kharan is absolutely an independent State. It has decided to accede to Pakistan. However, whether Kharan joins Pakistan or remains outside, this much is clear that it will never, in any way, accept Kalat’s hegemony.”

On September 5, 1947, Mir Ghulam Qadir of Lasbela wrote to the Quaid, saying that he had already written to the Pakistani Prime Minister offering accession of Las Bela to the Pakistan Dominion.

On March 17, 1948, Las Bela acceded to Pakistan along with Mekran and Kharan. On March 18, 1948, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan issued a press note that the States of Kharan, Las Bela and Mekran had applied for accession to Pakistan, which was granted to them. 

By February 1948, the Quaid wrote to the Khan of Kalat: “I advise you to join Pakistan without further delay…and let me have your final reply which you promised to do after your stay with me in Karachi when we fully discussed the whole question in all its aspects.”

Situation worsened for the Khan when the All India Radio reported in March 1948 that the Khan had been negotiating with India. This news created country wide agitation, with potential rioting especially in Baluchistan. The Khan found himself totally trapped now, the lower states had acceded to Pakistan rendering him land-locked, and this news, that he was conspiring with the Indians in addition to reports of conspiring with the Afghans, put dire questions on his religious integrity as well as his envy with the country, gained by great difficulties and sacrifices of the Muslims of the sub-continent. It is unrealistic to think that all the Baluch did not share the aspirations which had stirred Muslims of all communities, all ethnicities, from all parts of the sub-continent, irrespective of the fact that the state they resided in was or was not to be a part of Pakistan.

On March 28, the Reuters news agency issued a communiqué, on behalf of the Khan, which said: “On the night of March 27, All India Radio, Delhi announced that two months ago Kalat State had approached the Indian Union to accept its accession to India and that the Indian Union had rejected the request…It had never been my intention to accede to India…It is, therefore, declared that from 9 pm on March 27th – the time when I heard the false news over the air, I forthwith decide to accede to Pakistan, and that whatever differences now exist between Kalat and Pakistan be placed in writing before Mr. Jinnah, the Governor-General of Pakistan, whose decision I shall accept.”

Ethnic Ethics - Conclusion

The Khan was a victim of circumstances, he had been juggled by three mighty powers, and he had struggled for his strict tribal virtues with little know-how of the fast development of societies around him. He was a strong boat’s man, trapped between huge ships. Freedom and hardiness is in the blood of the Baluch, the Khan merely tried the wave before joining in the sea, but the free soul of the wave is evermore free in being part of the sea.

On August 15, 1947 when the British withdrew from India, the Khan of Kalat had said in his speech: “I thank God that one aspiration, that is independence, has been achieved, but the other two, the enforcement of Shariah-i-Muhammadi and unification of Baluch people, remain to be fulfilled.”

Perhaps the notion of Baluch nationalism and a separate Baluch state takes root from statements like these. But it ought to be understood that statements like these, made by the Khan and other separatist after him, were never based on solid logic, which is why the separatist are always in for negotiations and are always backed by militia of a few thousand men and not any identifiable section of the Baluch society.

The truth is that Baluchistan is not a total Baluch area; the districts around Quetta like Ziarat, Loralai, Mastung and all above them are Pushtoon. The Marri and Bugti tribes of Kohlu, Sibi, Jafferabad and Nasirabad, Dera Bugti, Sui, Kohlu and Jacobabad are a Baluch mix of Baluch, Siraiki and Sindhi speakers, with some Pusthoon sub-tribes. The Kalat and its surroundings are a Brahui area; many tribes towards the Arabian Sea are of Sindhi/Hindu origin; while Quetta itself the main urban center is Pushtoon and Baharvi. Then how can Brahui Sardars, who have Dravidian root, like the Khan of Kalat and Nawab Nouroz khan of Jhalawan make unity with the Baluch on ethnic grounds. Or the Baluch Sardars like Nawab Khair Buksh Marri (sons Balach M., Haribyar M. and Mehran B.) and Nawab Akbar Bugti (son Brahamdagh B.) unite the Baluch without excluding the Pushtoon and Brahui areas. Or do they want a portion of Baluchistan and unite it with a portion of the same of Iran; is this unity or complete devastation and carnage of human society as it is.

Perhaps this is the reason why the common Baluch people, who for the outsiders, comprise of all ethnicities residing in Baluchistan, have never stood behind these movements. These separatists, who may be sons of Sardars, do not have a supporting section in the society, but have militias of hundreds or may be thousands, who are willing to kill for them in return of money.

Bands like the BLA, BLF, BPLF, PFAR have been listed as terrorist outfits by the government of Pakistan and Iran; the UK and US have proscribed the BLA as a terror organizations. They survived on foreign funding, e.g. BLA is funded by India, BLF by Arab nationalist groups, BPLF by Iraq and the Soviets. For these reasons the leaders and activists of these outfits are usually underground or living in exile. These few sons of the Sardars who have followed this path have sold their Baluch valour and pride for mere pennies and visas to western countries; they sit in the comfort zones of high-tech society and execute plans of killings of innocent Baluch on the behest of those who bear their expenditures and feed them the ugly dream of becoming monarchs of the territories of their unaware brethren, where they do not have any chance to be elected in a democratic way. They don’t want democratic equality anyways, what they want is unquestioned raw control on the minds and resources of the tribals like they saw in the undeveloped times of their forefathers.

Putting aside these spoilt sons of the soil, let us ask how the rest of the Sardars have fared after the becoming of Pakistan. The sorry thing is that these Sardars have proven no better than the feudal lords of Sindh and Punjab; they have wrestled just like their distant cousins of the other provinces to keep a grip on resources and to keep their people as backwards as they could in terms of literacy and excess to basic needs. The province has not much infrastructure and agriculture or development in any of the many resources it possesses. This under-development is deemed by them as deliberate treachery of the richer provinces towards them and they refuse to accept the fact that they never wanted development in their tribal way of life and have been keen for subsidies and concessions that fill their personal pockets in all these years of the air of freedom and independence around them.

The fear of an educated and developed Baluchistan does not suit the brave blood of the Sardars - the lion heart of the Sardar, who is not afraid of his enemies on the frontiers, should not be afraid of the light of knowledge and advancement and should be the first to embrace it for his people, and prove to the nation that they are indeed of noble origins. The Sardar should face the twentieth century with a broad shoulder, come out of ethinic small-thinking and embrace the whole country as his own, and the whole country will embrace him as theirs.