At the dawn of India’s Independence in 1947, the region now known as Balochistan was partitioned into four princely states: Kalat, Kharan, Las Bela, and Makaran. These states were presented with three options: merge with India, join Pakistan, or maintain their independence. Under the influence of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Kharan, Las Bela, and Makaran chose to become part of Pakistan.
Kalat, however, held a unique position due to the Treaty of 1876. This agreement granted Kalat internal autonomy, free from British interference, placing it in category B alongside Sikkim and Bhutan, unlike other Indian princely states.
Therefore, Kalat was not obligated to join either India or Pakistan and was not a member of The Chamber of Princely States. Therefore, Khan Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, also known as Khan of Kalat, its last ruler, opted for independence.
In 1946, Khan of Kalat appointed Muhammad Ali Jinnah as his legal advisor to represent his case before the British Crown — a move that would prove costly to him and his country.
On August 4, 1947, a meeting was convened in Delhi, attended by Lord Mountbatten — India’s last viceroy, Khan of Kalat, Chief Minister of Kalat, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and Jawaharlal Nehru. In this meeting, Jinnah supported Khan of Kalat’s decision for independence. As a result, it was agreed that Kalat would be independent from August 5, 1947, and Kharan and Las Bela were instructed to merge with Kalat to form a complete Balochistan — on Jinnah’s insistence.
On August 11, 1947, a treaty was signed between Kalat and the Muslim League, recognising Kalat as an independent state, and promising that the Muslim League would respect Balochistan’s independence.
On August 15, 1947, the same day India gained independence, Kalat also declared its independence. The traditional flag was hoisted, and a khutbah (Islamic sermon) was read in the name of the Khan of Kalat as an independent ruler.
The Khan of Kalat expected the territories acquired by Britain through treaties in the late 19th century to be returned after 1947. Despite meetings with Mountbatten and recognition of Kalat’s status as an independent sovereign state, the British issued a memorandum on September 12, stating that the Khan of Kalat was not in a position to undertake the international responsibilities of an independent state.
This was just what Pakistan under Jinnah needed to force the merger of Kalat.
In October 1947, when the Khan of Kalat visited Pakistan, he was received like the King of Balochistan by thousands of Baloch people in Karachi. However, contrary to diplomatic tradition, he was not received by the governor general or by the prime minister of Pakistan — signalling a change in Pakistan’s intentions.
In his book ‘Baloch Nationalism: Its Origin and Development up to 1980’, Taj Mohammad Breseeg mentions the meeting between Jinnah and Khan, wherein the Pakistani PM advised the latter to expedite the merger with Islamabad.
Khan refused Jinnah’s demand and said, “As Baluchistan is a land of numerous tribes and the people there must be consulted in the affairs before any decision. I take, according to the common tribal convention, no decision, which can be binding upon them unless they are taken into confidence by their Khan.”
Following Jinnah’s proposal on Kalat’s merger, the Khan of Kalat summoned the legislature’s meeting, in which both houses of its Parliament not only unanimously opposed the merger proposal but also argued that it was against the spirit of the earlier agreement.
But the pressure was building up.
Realising the gravity of the situation, Khan instructed his commander-in-chief, Brigadier General Purves, to reorganise the forces and arrange arms and ammunition.
In December 1947, General Purves approached the Commonwealth Relations office and the Ministry of Supply in London for the supply of arms, but the British refused his demand, saying Kalat wouldn’t get any military support without Pakistan government’s approval.
Khan also tried to rally the support of the Baloch sardars (leaders), but barring two, no one sided with him.
When Jinnah saw that Khan was only buying time, he announced the separation of Kharan, Las Bela, and Mekran regions on March 18, 1948. This left Kalat as an island, notes Dushka H Saiyid in his book ‘The Accession of Kalat: Myth And Reality’. Many Baloch sardars were willing to side with Pakistan, leaving Khan helpless.
At the same time, however, Khan desperately requested Indian authorities and the Afghan king for help, but with no success.
On March 27, 1948, the All India Radio quoted VP Menon, Secretary of the Department of States, as saying that the Khan of Kalat had approached India for accession but New Delhi was not in a position to do anything. The statement was later contradicted by then Home Minister Sardar Patel and then by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
By then, Khan had yielded.
On March 26, the Pakistan Army moved into the Baloch coastal region of Pasni, Jiwani and Turbat. Khan had no option but to agree to Jinnah’s terms.
Khan also had to reject VP Menon’s claim of seeking support from India and on the same day, he announced the merger of Kalat with Pakistan.
Thus, after a brief period of independence, 227 days in all, Kalat became a part of Pakistan.
Khan defined the matter of signing the merger document as a “dictate of history”.
“I confess, I knew I was exceeding the scope of my mandate… [but] had I not taken the immediate step of signing Kalat’s merger, the…British Agent to the Governor-General could have played havoc by leading Pakistan into a fratricide war against the Baluches,” Khan said, according to Taj Mohammad Breseeg’s book.
INSURGENCY AND STRUGGLE FOR SOVEREIGNTY
The forceful integration of Kalat into Pakistan sowed the seeds of discontent and resistance among the Baloch people. Many Baloch nationalists viewed the annexation as a betrayal of their autonomy and an infringement upon their cultural identity. They rose in defiance under the leadership of Prince Abdul Karim, the brother of Khan of Kalat, in 1948. But this insurgency was suppressed by the Pakistani army and Prince Karim was arrested.
This uprising was again seen in 1958, 1962, and the early 70s, but the Pakistan state managed to suppress the resistance.
In 2005, the Baloch movement again gained steam after Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, Pakistan’s former defence minister and Balochistan’s former governor, took up arms against the Pakistani state. The reason — he demanded 15 things from the government of Pakistan, which included more control over the natural resources of Balochistan, which eventually put him at odds with the powerful Pakistani Army.
The next year, Bugti was assassinated.
General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s then-military ruler, was suspected to be behind Bugti’s assassination. A few days after Bugti’s death, Musharraf himself nearly got killed in a rocket attack, orchestrated in retaliation for the assassination of the Baloch leader.
BALOCHISTAN — THEN AND NOW
Once a proud sovereign state, Balochistan is now the most-neglected and poverty-ridden province of Pakistan. Despite being the largest province and rich in minerals, Balochistan accounts for nearly 4 per cent of Pakistan’s economy.
Being incapable of itself utilising the potential of the region, Pakistan entrusted its ‘Iron Brother’ China to mine the resources in Balochistan. But the coming of the Chinese has further fuelled tensions in the region.
There have been numerous attacks on Chinese people living and working in the port city of Gwadar by Baloch militants. The latest incident took place on August 13.
The port city of Gwadar is being linked to China’s Xinjiang province as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC. Balochs fear the wave of Chinese investment will bring about demographic changes in their region, turning them into a minority group in their own province.
But Pakistan knows the game of optics well. Recently, Anwarul Haq Kakar, a leader from Balochistan, was sworn in as Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister. The idea was to project him as a representative of the Balochistan region.
However, Kakar is no Bugti. He is a Pashtun, not even a Baloch. On top of that, he is considered close to Pakistan’s powerful military leadership.
Even after 75 years of its merger with Pakistan, Balochistan continues to be neglected. Political instability and militancy only continue to add to the region’s misery.