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  Opinion   Oped  06 Feb 2017  Baloch almost got ‘free’ in 1947!

Baloch almost got ‘free’ in 1947!

The writer is an advocate practising in the Supreme Court. The views expressed here are personal.
Published : Feb 6, 2017, 5:49 am IST
Updated : Feb 6, 2017, 5:51 am IST

In 1947, Balochistan consisted of four princely states of Las Bela, Kharan, Makran and Kalat.

Pakistan flag
 Pakistan flag

Three days before Pakistan’s independence, Balochistan became an independent sovereign state on August 11, 1947, recognised by Jinnah himself. Before that too, Balochistan had an identifiable, independent history, geography and culture; positioned at the confluence of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, and connected to India’s heartland since ages. Understandably, as it happened in the past, geographical region in flanks (owing to distance, ignorance, unfamiliarity and negligence) tend to be susceptible to liberation movements, thereby giving rise to secessionist forces, resulting in creation of new political units.

Instances galore exist in history. The entire north-western, southern, south-eastern and eastern flanks of mighty USSR broke into 15 independent states in the 1990s. Yugoslavia, one big Balkan “heartland” European state, became seven independent states thereby turning the “core” territory under Belgrade as the landlocked state of Serbia. In Asia, the two north-western and south-western flank provinces of China, Xinjiang and Xizang (Tibet), continue to be flashpoints for Beijing since 1949. And in South Asia, first Bangladesh and now Balochistan, have collectively emerged as classical geo-politics and geo-economics case studies of “remote flanks”.

To the discomfiture of many, however, Balochistan, like Afghanistan, not only existed as identifiable geography, but was also an independence-aspiring, intervention-resenting and subjugation-resisting demography of a territory spanning from Makran coast of Northern Arabian Sea to mountainous terrain of Quetta. In a curious post-1947 scenario, however, Balochistan in west and East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh in 1971) showed signs of dissension and discontentment, leading to ceaseless friction with the rulers of Pakistan.

Nevertheless East Pakistan became independent “language-based homeland for Bengalis” as Bangladesh (which was opposite to Jinnah’s religion-based Pakistan as the “homeland for Muslims of India” in 1940s) through bloody tribulations and terror, inflicted by military rulers in eastern flank.

Understandably, therefore, post-1971, the weight and might of Pakistani military rulers fell on the Balochistan flank, to nip any secessionist movement in the bud. Success of Bengali agitation against Pakistani rulers had destroyed Jinnah’s applecart, thereby setting a bad precedent for the remnant of Pakistan. Under no circumstances could another Bangladesh-like movement be allowed to grow in a truncated Pakistan.

Unsurprisingly, however, things had not augured well post-British departure from South Asia. The departing edict of London was: no princely state of South Asia could proclaim independence. All 565 princes of South Asia faced unavoidable compulsion of “no-choice”. Their sole choice was “compulsion”. Join India or Pakistan.

In 1947, Balochistan consisted of four princely states of Las Bela, Kharan, Makran and Kalat. Mir Ahmad Yar Khan Baloch, the ruler of Kalat, nevertheless, wanted independence, claiming that since it was neither part of India nor an Indian state, it was independent sovereign state vide treaties with British government. Khan claimed he was the true leader of entire “British Baloch nation” and had assumed title of “Khan-e-Azam”. He strongly urged British to hand him over Quetta, Nushki and Nasirabad, areas, which he claimed once belonged to Kalat but were usurped by London under the treaty of 1876. Khan also claimed suzerainty over Las Bela, Kharan and Makran along with Marri-Bugti areas.

On April 11, 1947, Khan unilaterally declared Kalat a sovereign state, and also extended support to Jinnah’s “demand for Pakistan”. Furthermore, he sought Jinnah’s reciprocal support for independence of his sovereign state. Soon, August 11, 1947 proved to be the liberation day for Kalat. In a joint “press communique” issued by the leaders, “Pakistan recognised Kalat as an independent sovereign state”. However, a “catch”, introduced at Jinnah’s behest, appeared to have gone either un-noticed or un-comprehended by Khan’s team. Thus, despite Jinnah’s recognition of Kalat as an “independent sovereign state”, Khan agreed to go for “legal opinion” to “know if the agreements of leases between the British and Kalat would be inherited by Pakistan or not”.

By agreeing to a “legal opinion”, Khan, in one stroke, made his position potentially untenable, thereby putting a question mark on his “independent sovereign status” though as Pakistan, on August 11, 1947 was not born, being a part of India till August 14, 1947. As there was no legal provision for the princely state of Kalat to either remain or become independent, Jinnah brazenly violated the ground rules. Moreover, when a bilateral Pakistan-Kalat agreement came as a form of treaty (even before Pakistan was born), thereby superseding all previous agreements, Jinnah could have kept his commitment for Kalat’s position as “sovereign independent state”. But that was not to be because once legal opinion was sought, its verdict was a foregone conclusion. It was against sovereignty of the princely state. By deliberately violating the laid-down principles, Jinnah showed the way to breach commitments and bilateral agreements, thereby laying down the future direction for Pakistan.

No doubt, Khan of Kalat subsequently, per force, acceded to Pakistan on March 31, 1948, but irreparable damage had been done to the process of integration of Indian states. In reality, Baloch nationalist aspirations continued undiminished as Khan’s brother, Prince Karim, waged guerrilla war against Pakistan from Kalat. However, the inevitable failure of guerrilla war owed more to internal feuds of Baloch rather than the use of force by Pakistan under Colonel Gulzar. As Kalat, after remaining an “independent sovereign state” for seven and half months, surrendered to Pakistan, for the other three minor Baloch states, Las Bela, Kharan and Makran, understandably it was only a matter of time. No doubt they too had the intention, but did not have the ability to do what Kalat had done from April 11, 1947 to March 31, 1948.

Kalat, in retrospect, gives credence to the futility of Pakistani stand on Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India. J&K acceded to India on October 26, 1947 through the due process of law, but Pakistan has not been following due process thereof because law and Pakistan appear contradictory since its birth!

Tags: arabian sea, balochistan, pakistani military