The fall of the Baloch state in 1948 as a consequence of the creation of Pakistan is a unique phenomenon in the world’s political history. It is an amazing episode reminding us how the rivalry of great powers can cause collateral damage and far-reaching consequences. The division of India and the creation of Pakistan, which caused the demise of the newly independent Baloch state, is tragic to the Baloch. Still, it will be a great addition to interesting events in the annals of history.
Creation of Pakistan in context
During the 19th century, in the face of the continued advances of Russia in Central Asia and the presumed threat to India from the north, safeguarding Indian possessions became the obsession of policy planners in London and New Delhi. Afghanistan and Persia were vulnerable spots for them, and if they (Russians) successfully gained control of these countries, the next Russian target would undoubtedly be India. A “great game” of espionage and subversion began in regions bordering Russia, the Middle East and British India. To make a physical barrier around the north and west of India was postulated, popularly known as the “Forward Policy”.
It’s Pakistan’s security apparatus alone that has been deciding what happens in Balochistan since 1948, much to the detriment of the Baloch men – and now women too – who keep getting abducted and killed at a whiff of suspicion.
The only time that nationalist Baloch leadership was accorded a chance to govern Balochistan was after the 1971 debacle – and that too grudgingly– as Ataullah Mengal took the reins of the provincial government on May 1, 1972, only to remain in power for nine months.
His government was cut short due to a number of challenges created by the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto-led central government in Islamabad.
Khan Abdul Wali Khan’s National Awami Party (NAP) and Mufti Mahmood’s Jamiat e Ulema e Islam (JUI) had swept the elections in 1970 in Balochistan and Northwest Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), respectively.
At present the Baloch naturally ask the question: an amnesty to what end? They say that they were in amnesty, i.e. not at war, before they started resisting the injustices and if they had opted to remain acquiescent to the injustices there would not have arisen a need to fight and consequently of an amnesty
Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on December 7, opening the projected three-day debate in a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the Senate, demanded an urgent dialogue with the Baloch leadership not represented in parliament or not consulted yet, as well as dissidents who took up arms after granting them what he called a ‘meaningful amnesty’.
During the last seven decades, the Pakistani state committed massacres and extrajudicial killings in Balochistan as a policy matter. Since 2002, these actions have increased exponentially. With the help of their auxiliary militias, death squads and religious outfits, military and civil intelligence agencies are involved in forced disappearances and illegal detentions of Baloch intellectuals, social personalities, and political activists in thousands. Dumping bodies of thousands of Baloch social and political activists with visible marks of inhuman torture has become a routine matter in Balochistan. The verified numbers of extrajudicially killed and missing persons during the last 17 years exceed 15 thousand. Nearly half a million people have been internally displaced. Thousands have fled and sought refuge in various countries, including the UK.
BNM organised an intellectual talk on the occasion of the 11th August, the day when Balochistan got freedom from The Great Britain. Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur veteran Baloch activist and intellectual shed light on the historical details of 11 August 1947. Below is the text of his draft.
Dear and Respected Friends,
The date 11th August 1947 has immense significance for the Baloch Nation and Balochistan and has been the landmark for Baloch history particularly their present-day history. The acceptance of Kalat State’s (Balochistan) Independence by the British colonizers and the leaders of yet to come into being Pakistan on August 4th under the “Standstill Agreement” led to the 11th August declaration of Independence. The British not known for honouring treaties had accepted its 1876 Treaty obligations with Kalat State to render it a special place among the then Princely States and thus agreed to accord Kalat State independence along with India and Pakistan.
A headline in a national daily with the byline of Ghalani (Mohmand Agency) April 23, left me wondering what had prompted such a radical shift in the government’s avowed policy of ‘no compromise’. The headline said: “Tribal system in Fata to be strengthened.” Interestingly the headline itself was within quotation marks. The news item below said, “The traditional tribal system in Federally Administered Tribal Areas is being strengthened and the status of Maliks is being restored.”
The NWFP governor, Khalilur Rahman, who was on a visit to Mohmand Agency, had said these words. The news item further read: “The governor said development was linked to peace and maintenance of peace (and was) dependent on strengthening the tribal system.” This statement is certainly a very interesting development because they seem to be making different ‘social’ experiments in different regions in hope of solving the numerous problems they themselves have created by their shortsightedness and arrogance.
On August 4th 1964 two US destroyers in the Vietnamese waters in the Gulf of Tonkin claimed that they had been attacked by the North Vietnamese gunboats. This alleged attack had never taken place but a furore was created over this and used as an excuse to begin the bombing of North Vietnam. This was the time when slowly US forces were starting to sink in the morass of their own aggression against the Vietnamese people whom they accused of being Communists. The people of Vietnam only wanted their rightful sovereignty which the US was bent upon denying them. What eventually happened to the aggressor is history.
Incidents like these have been staged and at times State managed all through history to use as excuses for aggression and violation of human rights .In the last analysis the aggressor doesn’t really need this fig leaf for its brazen aggression. The aggressor always uses the logic of the wolf of the famous fable about the lamb and wolf ,in which the wolf alleges misdemeanours but is rebutted every time eventually comes out with the stark intent of eating the lamb come what may.
Sardar Ataullah Mengal was wrong in saying that only Akbar Bugti could speak for Sui. Every Baloch has a right in this respect equal to Akbar Bugti. Abandoning this principle will amount to replacing one set of autocrats with another
The recent events in Sui are a manifestation of what afflicts the country’s ruling classes. They are also an expression of a people’s outrage at the rulers’ arrogance and their utter disregard of their rights. The people were outraged not only at the rape of a female doctor who had agreed to serve in the wilderness but also at the continued rape of their rights and resources since the very inception of Pakistan. They indicate what the future is going to be like if the rulers persist in their belief that overwhelming firepower is the panacea for all their problems.
The BLA is certainly not a figment of some fertile imagination. This is apparent from the scale of its activity. Since 2003, 1,529 rockets have been fired and 113 bombs exploded in Balochistan. Despite Baloch leaders’ reluctance to directly answer questions about its existence and the government’s attempt to minimise its significance, it cannot be wished away. Theories about its sponsors abound. The oddest one suggests that it is being helped by the USA which is not happy with China’s role in Balochistan. Fingers have also been pointed at Iran. But does not Iran oppress its own Baloch population? One thing is certain: there are people out there determined enough and having adequate resources to sustain the attacks. The BLA’s activities may not be an adequate expression of the deep and pervasive popular resentment but they are an expression nonetheless.