The arid region of Balochistan, situated at the eastern end of the Iranian plateau, is split almost evenly between Pakistan’s Balochistan province and Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province. It accounts for nearly half the landmass of Pakistan and only 3.6% of its total population. The province is immensely rich in natural resources, including oil, gas, copper, and gold. Despite these huge deposits of mineral wealth, the area is one of the poorest regions of Pakistan. A vast majority of its population lives in deplorable housing conditions where they don’t have access to electricity or clean drinking water. Even after seven decades of its forceful occupation, Pakistan has failed to provide even basic facilities such as primary education, healthcare, and water to the people of the resource-rich province of Balochistan.
How Balochistan was forcefully taken
Before the partition of India and Pakistan, Balochistan consisted of four princely states under the British Raj. These were Kalat, Lasbela, Kharan, and Mekran. Two of these provinces, Lasbela and Kharan, were fiduciary states placed under Khan of Kalat’s rule by the British, as was Mekran which was a district of Kalat. Three months before the formation of Pakistan, Muhammed Ali Jinnah had negotiated the freedom of Baluchistan under Kalat from the British. Discussions were made about Kalat’s relationship with Pakistan as it was formed. This ensued a series of meetings between the Viceroy, as the Crown’s Representative, Jinnah and the Khan of Kalat. This resulted in a communique on August 11, 1947, which stated that:
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.
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.
By October 1947, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had a change of heart on the recognition of Kalat as an “Independent and a Sovereign State”, and wanted the Khan to sign the same form of an instrument of accession as the other states which had joined Pakistan. The Khan was unwilling to abandon the nominally achieved independent status but ready to concede on defense, foreign affairs, and communications. However, he was unwilling to sign either a treaty or an Instrument, until and unless he had got a satisfactory agreement on the leased areas.
By February 1948, the discussions between Kalat and the Government of Pakistan were coming to a head. On February 15, 1948, Jinnah visited Sibi, Baluchistan and addressed a Royal Durbar, where he announced that until the Pakistan Constitution is finally written in about two years’ time, he would govern the province with the help of an advisory council that he would nominate. However, the main reason for Jinnah’s visit was to persuade the Khan of Kalat to accede to Pakistan. As it transpired, the Khan failed to turn up for the final meeting with him, pleading illness. In his letter to Jinnah, he said that he had summoned both Houses of the Parliament, Dar-ul-Umara, and Dar-ul-Awam, for their opinion about the future relations with the Dominion of Pakistan, and he would inform him about their opinion by the end of the month.
When the Dar-ul-Awam of Kalat met on February 21, 1948, it decided not to accede, but to negotiate a treaty to determine Kalat’s future relations with Pakistan. On March 9, 1948, the Khan received communication from Jinnah announcing that he had decided not to deal personally with the Kalat state negotiations, which would henceforth be dealt with by the Pakistan Government. So far there had not been any formal negotiations but only an informal request made by Jinnah to the Khan at Sibi.
The US Ambassador to Pakistan in his dispatch home on March 23, 1948, informed that on March 18, “Kharan, Lasbela and Mekran, feudatory states of Kalat” had acceded to Pakistan. The Khan of Kalat objected to their accession, arguing that it was a violation of Kalat’s Standstill Agreement with Pakistan. He also said that while Kharan and Lasbela were its feudatories, Mekran was a district of Kalat. The British Government had placed the control of the foreign policy of the two feudatories under Kalat in July 1947, prior to partition.
On March 26, 1948, the Pakistan Army was ordered to move into the Baloch coastal region of Pasni, Jiwani, and Turbat. Kalat capitulated on March 27 after the army moved into the coastal region and it was announced in Karachi that the Khan of Kalat has agreed to merge his state with Pakistan. Jinnah accepted this accession under the gun. It should be noted that the Balochistan Assembly had already rejected any suggestion of forfeiting the independence of Balochistan on any pretext. So even the signature of the Khan of Kalat taken under the barrel of the gun, was not viable, because the parliament had rejected the accession and the accession was never mandated by the British Empire either, who had given Balochistan under Kalat independence before India. The sovereign Baloch state after British withdrawal from India lasted only 227 days. During this time Baluchistan had a flag flying in its embassy in Karachi where its ambassador to Pakistan lived.
Deplorable situation in Balochistan
To say that the Baloch have been ill-treated by all governments and military establishments since their land was illegally and forcefully taken over would be an understatement. As a result, there have been continuous insurgencies, the largest of which was started in 2006 after the killing of Sardar Akber Bugti and 26 of his tribesmen by the Pakistan Army.
Pakistani military operation in Balochistan has been active since decades. Since then the Pakistani security forces have killed thousands of Baloch people. The gruesome parade of corpses have been surfacing in Balochistan since a long time now. Stories of secret torture cells run by the Pakistan army, its kill-and-dump policy and mass graves where Balochis have allegedly been buried alive are now a known fact.
Tens of thousands of Baloch political and human rights activists have been abducted and disappeared. A large number of people in Balochistan are internally displaced whereas many have taken exile in other countries. The situation is deteriorating as the Pakistan army and its intelligence agency are on a rampage to eliminate the identity of indigenous Baloch people.
The cases of abductions of Baloch women by Pakistan army highlights the fact the Pakistani Army is the worse colonial army that oppresses the most vulnerable members of the society. The world was shocked when they saw ISIS’s brutalities and use of rape as a weapon of war but the world forgets that Pakistan’s Army record is worse than ISIS because it raped hundreds of thousands of women in Balochistan.
Balochistan’s development landscape is worsening day by day, leading to more despair and distress. A province that suffers from multiple crises is no way politically and economically equipped for a positive takeoff. The series of recent bombings, as well as economic stagnation, unemployment, declining education, and health indicators are a wakeup call for policymakers that all is not well in Balochistan. Missing from national policymakers’ thoughts as well as media attention, Balochistan is in a state of slow-motion collapse.
On 27th March 1948 newborn Pakistani state attacked and forcefully annexed the sovereign Baloch state on gunpoint. Therefore, 27 March is marked as one of the darkest days in Baloch history. 27th March has been observed as a black day by Baloch nation for a long time now, they protest, they hoist black flags on their houses and wear black to express the hatred against the occupation. Pro Freedom political parties stage protest and arrange awareness campaigns and seminars in Balochistan and worldwide to highlights Pakistani atrocities in Balochistan.
The Baloch nation, like the rest of free nations, wants to be free from any form of colonization and subjugation. The Baloch people have proved throughout their history that they are secular people who value humanity, justice and freedom. They have proved that they would never stop their struggle for freedom and equality and they will continue their struggle to victory.
28 Mar 20/Saturday Written By: Saima Ibrahim