The modern history of the conflict in Balochistan

conflict in Balochistan

Over 30 million Baloch people live around the world today, with a diaspora extending across the Middle East, East Africa, India, Europe, Asia and North America. Regardless of the place they now call home, the Baloch take great pride in their national identity, homeland, language, and culture, and retain spiritual connections to their traditional homeland. Throughout medieval and early modern history, the influence of the Baloch tribes on the political landscape of Balochistan and the surrounding regions was considerable.

Amidst the decline of the Mughal Empire, in the mid 17th century, the various tribes of Balochistan assembled a loose confederation and ousted the Mughal overlords. By 1666, this confederation had evolved into the Khanate of Kalat, and formed the geographic and administrative core of a unified Baloch nation-state. For nearly three centuries, Balochistan enjoyed effective sovereignty and independence.

In the late-19th century, the British fostered and exploited internal power struggles amongst Baloch tribes to consolidate colonial rule in the region—a classic imperial divide-and-conquer tactic. It was the British colonial rulers who cleaved northern and western Balochistan away from the traditional territory of the Baloch nation-state. In 1893, British representatives negotiated borders with the rulers of modern-day Afghanistan and Iran. The resulting “Durand Line” and “Goldsmith Line” frontiers were established with near-complete disregard for the indigenous inhabitants and their historic, ethnic, and cultural affinities.

In 1932, at Jacobabad, Balochistan, Baloch leaders held the first successful World Baloch Conference. The convention was chaired by an idealistic chief, Nawab Yousuf Aziz Magasi, whose vision of restoring a free and sovereign Baloch nation had previously seen him exiled and imprisoned. Under Magasi’s guidance, the congregants laid the foundation for the modern Baloch national independence movement. Their vision included preservation of the Baloch native language, traditions, and cultural identity.

In 1947, the British withdrew from the subcontinent, leaving Balochistan under the administration of the Princely State of Kalat. On August 11th, 1947, the Sovereign Nation of Balochistan declared complete independence, soon after the partitioning of British India, the newly created Pakistani state on March 1948 immediately launched a military campaign invaded Balochistan. The then-Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, was arrested and coerced into signing documents of abdication, which effectively relinquished the province of Balochistan to Pakistan.

Despite numerous armed rebellions against the rulers of the day, since the mid-19th century Balochistan has almost continuously remained under military occupation by repressive regimes, both statates and imperialist.  Under Iranian and Pakistani occupation, the indigenous inhabitants of Balochistan face constant oppression, in the form of inequality, injustice, lack of access to education, political exclusion, and state violence in the form of enforced abductions, military crackdowns, and extrajudicial killings.

Balochistan is not only rich in natural resources, but is situated along an invaluable strategic corridor abutting the Strait of Hormuz. The Pakistani and Iranian regimes both covet the region, and both seek economic and military advantage there. Unfortunately, the occupying states’ urge to control Balochistan is unaccompanied by serious efforts to develop of the region’s local economy, or provide basic infrastructure and decent living conditions to its residents. Instead, the occupiers have extracted the province’s natural resources, while subjecting the population to poverty and backwardness. Instances of Baloch resistance to this lopsided state of affairs—both armed and peaceful—have met with violent crackdowns by the respective occupying countries.

The Baloch nation and its leaders demand self-determination and independence from Pakistan—the country in which the largest geographic segment of Balochistan is located. The Charter of the United Nations guarantees to all peoples the prerogative of self-determination, along with the rights of economic development, social and cultural identity, and freedom of language and religion. The people aspire to be masters of their own land, and of their own destiny. The Baloch independence movement, along with the Sarmachar (freedom fighters), is fervently devoted to the struggle for freedom.

Today, the fate of the Baloch nation is in the hands of its people. The only means by which the national liberation movement may progress—and a viable model for a sovereign Balochistan may emerge—is through unity between Baloch leaders and the Sarmachar (freedom fighters).

The agents of the occupying states will inevitably attempt to sow discord amongst Baloch leaders and liberation movements—an echo of the divide-and-conquer tactics that the British deployed, with lamentable success. However, if the Baloch leadership manages to refrain from the inter-tribal feuds and regional in-fighting of the 19th century, the occupying states will struggle to maintain their hold over the province. United, the Baloch factions fighting for their nation’s independence are strong and apt to prevail; divided, they are feeble, and their subjugation will persist.

The Afghan Tribune | Canadian Based Balochi TV Online (BTVO) | Published: October 31, 2015 11:31 PM

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