Genesis of Balochistan unrest
To identify the causes of genesis of Balochistan’s problem, it is important to understand the situation during British Raj.
In 1877, at the proclamation of Queen Victoria as Empress, around 700 princely states of India enjoyed treaty relations with the British Crown. British India had appointed regents (Britons) in the princely states to oversee the nawabs and also to ensure that no rebellion-like situation emerges. By the Indian Independence Act 1947, the British gave up the suzerainty of the states and left to the free will of each to merge with India or Pakistan. After independence, Governor General of India Lord Mountbatten had convened meeting (Darbar) of the chamber of princely states, who were cajoled that if they signed the agreement seceding the states they would be given handsome stipends. And in case they disagreed they would get nothing. Anyhow, Indian government took over the princely states and also abolished landlordism. As a consequence, the rulers of princely states were allowed to retain titles and official residences but had to surrender their land to the government.
In 1975, the stipend or the privy-purse was also abolished and the princely states in India ceased to exist as recognized political entity.
They were allowed to keep only one palace and surrender more than one palaces to the government. In Pakistan neither princely states nor landlordism were abolished and they continued to rule roost till 1972 when all princely titles were abolished and merged with the related provinces of the Federation. It is important to refer to the position in the times of undivided India. Khan of Qalat was addressed as khan of khans, and all sardars of Balochistan considered him as their elder and respected him. Through a treaty, Khan of Qalat had given large swathes of land for the bases to the British forces, and Quetta municipality was part of it, which had passed a resolution to merge with Pakistan. Reportedly, Khan of Qalat had given his consent to join Pakistan after he realized that some important Baloch sardars support the move to join Pakistan.
Last year, Waseem Altaf had written an article under the title ‘Accession at gunpoint’. And as the title suggested the author was convinced that Balochistan’s accession was sought by Pakistan under duress. The treatise was an amalgam of facts and fiction; nevertheless it was informative in many ways. He wrote: “During British Raj Balochistan did not enjoy the status of a province but comprised four princely states namely: Makran, Kharan, Lasbela and Kalat. The Khan of Kalat was the Head of the Confederacy. The northern areas of Balochistan including Bolan Pass, Quetta, Nushki and Naseerabad were leased out to Britain, which were later, named as British Balochistan. However, more importantly, the Khan had agreed with Jinnah that an understanding must be reached between Kalat and Pakistan on defense, foreign affairs and communications”.
It has to be mentioned that Khan of Kalat was head of a small tribe namely Brohi, who had assured the British Raj that nobody would create problems for it. Thus he was made head of the Confederacy by the British to extend its influence in the region and elsewhere.
With this background, one should carefully analyse and evaluate as to what Pakistan has given to sardars, khawaneen, feudal lords and new-rich industrialists and what they have given to Pakistan and the people of Pakistan. There is no denying that Balochistan was neglected during British Raj, and after independence also successive governments either did not seriously try to develop Balochistan, FATA and Northern Areas or the local elite did not allow the development effort to succeed. The formation of the One Unit in 1956 created doubts in the minds of people from smaller provinces who thought that their culture and language were under threat.
However, common Baloch people understood their exploitation by the sardars and excesses perpetrated by them. It goes without saying that people of Balochistan have the first right over minerals and other natural resources of Balochistan. Whereas sardars are getting their share in form of royalties and enjoy all good things of life, it is difficult for the wretched of the earth to keep their body and soul together.
Balochistan has seen many an insurgency or rebellion in the past, and once again it is in the throes of violence. When queer things happen in FATA, NWFP and Balochistan and given the information that terrorist activities of groups are supported or sponsored by foreigners, the government should seriously investigate into the matter and adopt a strategy to counter them. The situation obtaining in the province from the present turmoil, acts of terrorism, accusations that Pakistan is ensconcing terrorists and the expression of concern by the US and the West over Pakistan’s nuclear assets reminds us of similar modus operandi adopted by the US before invading Iraq on the pretext of its possession of chemical and biological weapons. After terrorists’ attacks on GHQ, Mehran Naval base and the recent attack on PAF base Kamra, the US administration, US Generals and think tanks raised the bogey of danger that Pakistan nukes may fall into militants’ hands, which is preposterous and smacks of their evil intentions.
The people of Balochistan have been waging struggle for their rights ever since the British left. There could have been some justification for resistance during 1950s and 1960s, when they were under strong center and unitary form of government. But once the One-Unit was done away with and complete provincial status was given to Balochistan, the struggle should have ended. But fact of the matter is that there has been a sort of rebellion whenever there was an elected government. However, the long dormant crisis erupted into a brutal confrontation with the Center in 1973 when late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had tried to establish educational institutions and construction of roads in Balochistan. The insurgency lasted for four years from 1973 to 1977, and it was after promulgation of Martial Law by General Zia-ul-Haq that sedition cases were withdrawn against Baloch sardars.
However, sardars and feudal chiefs thrive even amid, what they call the Centre’s injustices and the clashes between them and the security forces. It is unfortunate that the civil society does not consider it worthwhile to comment on what sardars have been doing to their people.