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The Problems of Baloch Statehood

After the Kurds, the Baloch is the second greatest stateless nation of West Asia. This article examines the problems or potential of a Baloch state. Similar to the Kurds, they are waging low-intensity war on the waves of an instability of the Middle East and South Asia and in the first decade of the 21 century which have reached to a new stage to develop a nationhood to struggle for an independent state.

History of formation of a nation

The ancestors of the Baloch migrated in three waves from the beginning of 1200 B.C. southwards to Seistan, first from the territory of contemporary Kurdistan, later from the Alburz mountain and in the latest wave from the surrounding territories of Aleppo to the Kerman and Makran region. The Baloch are ethnically close to the nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes of the Zagros mountain (the Kurds, the Loor and Bakhtiar). Their language belongs to the western branch of the Iranian language, related to the Kurdish, Talish and Mazandarani languages.

In 644, the Arab army led by Al-Hakam subjugated the Hindu rulers of Makran and Sindh and spread the Islam. The lands of the Baloch became part of the Omayyad and Abbasid caliphates till the 10. century and later became part of the Afghan Ghaznavid and Ghurid principal states. In the 12. century Mir Jalal Khan organised the confederation of 44 Baloch tribes and their territory is named Baluchistan from that time.[1]

The ethnonym of Baloch has formed between the 12.-15.century[2] and has appeared first in Tuzak-i Babari (1526-1530) of Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India and in Aina-i Akbari(1596/7) of Mughal Shah Akbar. The Baloch ethnolinguistic community and identity have been formed between 1400-1947 as a result of long process. The Balochistan name has been used since the formation of Nasrir Khan’s confederation in the 18. century.

In 1223 Chagatay, son of Genghis won victory over Shah Jalauddin, later the Mongol invaded the area several times. After the decline of the Mongol Empire, in the 14. century, the Brahui established a principal state in Kalat. The structure of Baloch and Brahui tribes retrospects the Turko-Mongol military structure. Between 1485-1512, the Rind-Lashari tribal confederation has unified the Baloch. In 1666, Mir Ahmad established the Kalat Khanate, and a bit later, in the 18. century Nasir Khan unified the smaller principal states. Kalat Khanate was a buffer state between Persia, Afghanistan Sindh and (later) British India, its degree of independence was different time by time. Nasir Khan, the ruler of Kalat, (1750-95) sworn allegiance to the Afghan rulers to counter-balance the Persian threats of annexation.

2. In the trap of agreements

Preparing to the first Anglo-Afghan war, the British sent their agent to Mehrab Khan, Brahui chieftain and pursued him to attack on Kalat. On November 23 of 1839, the British troops entered Kalat. The first British-Kalat Treaty of 1839 ensured the right of the free passing of British troops from India to Afghanistan for their colonial war. Between 1847-1857, Upper Sindh belonged to the supervision of General John Jacob, who contracted with Nasir Khan of Kalat, who was forced to acknowledge the British sovereignty. The Mastung Treaty considered Kalat as an independent state, which is not part of the British-Indian colonial empire, but contracting partner of London. In this treaty, the British obtained the right of permanent stationing of troops in Kalat. The treaty ordered to establish four centrally administered tribal agencies: Bolan, Jalawan, Marri and Bugti agencies. Their political agents reported to the Ministry of Colonies and Overseas of London, not to the viceroy of Delhi. The Baloch nationalists argue that after 99 years these territories should have obtained their original status as Nepal did.[3]

In 1866, Robert Sandoman became deputy high commissioner and mediated successfully between the rival Bugti and Marri tribes. In 1876 he contracted another treaty with the Khan of Kalat, who leased the territories of Quetta, Nasirabad, Nuski, Bolan Jacobabad to the British for 99 years, who organised British-Baluchistan on October 1 1887. These territories for the leasing came under direct colonial administration by the same system as Hongkong was leased. Kalat, Kharran, Makran and Las Bela principalities were independent, the four tribal agencies by the Mastung Treaty were administered from London, British Baluchistan was under colonial rule administered from British India. From the later in 1891 the Province of High Commissioner was organised.

In 1848 in Kerman the Persian army defeated the Baloch tribes and conquered Bampur. In 1871, the British-Persian Boundary Committee decided to the benefit of Persia to buy the Shah’s goodwill against Russia which conquered huge territories in Central Asia. Kuhak, Sistan, Western Makran and Sarhad ordered to become part of Persia by the Goldsmid line, which actually serves as a border between Pakistan and Iran.

In 1882, by a boundary correction, the western boundary of Kalat Khanate became the Helmand river, and Chahansur became part of Afghanistan. In 1983, by the Durand Agreement Nimroz and Helmand became part of Afghanistan.

In 1896, the British-Persian boundaries were finalised without consulting the Khan of Kalat. The boundaries of Sistan, the boundaries of Afghanistan and British-Baluchistan were demarcated by Sir Henry McMahon, Sistan and Registan were attached to Afghanistan, while Jacobabad, Darajat and Sibi were connected to British Baluchistan. This demarcation has been finalised in 1905.

The U-turn in the Baloch policy of the British was manifested in the 1896 and 1905 agreements, which already considered Kalat as a British-Indian dominium opposed to the Goldsmid agreement considered as an independent state, and breached the Mastung (1857) and Sandoman Agreement of 1876.

3. The initial steps of Baloch nationalism

In 1903 in all Baluchistan there were just 22 elementary and high schools.  The first Baloch literal association called Darkhani was formed in the 1880’s. The Aligarh Muslim University was formed in 1912 where the first Baloch could obtain the high education.

The Baloch nationalist movement was inspired by the events of Turkey, Iran, Russia and Afghanistan. In 1920, the illegal movement of the Young Baloch was formed by Yousuf Ali Magsi and Abdul Aziz Kurd. The Anjuman-i Islah-i Baluchistan (The Reform Society of Baluchistan) was formed in 1927 and published the Baluchistan newspaper in Delhi in the same year. The other group were the advocates of constitutionalism, who formed the Anjuman-i Islah-i Kalat (Kalat Reform Society) in 1926, which later was transformed to the Kalat State National Party.

In 1930/31, the Anjuman-i Ittihad-i Baluchistan (Association of Unity of Baluchistan) was formed in Mastung and demanded getting rid of British colonial rule and unity of all Baloch territories. The first literary document of Baloch nationalism was Fariad-i Baluchistan (The Cry of Baluchistan) written by Magsi and published on 27 November 1927 in Hamdard journal in Lahore, and demanded constitutional reforms for Baluchistan.[4]

In the 1930’s in the focus of anti-colonialist Pashtun and Baloch parties was the Kalat principal state as the centre of unified, independent Baluchistan. Iqbal’s vision about the federation of autonomous Muslim states included Baluchistan as well, but the Khan of Kalat did not submit himself to the Punjabi nationalist paradigms. He argued that the status of Kalat had been ensured by special treaties. The Mastung and Durand treaties are considered by the Baloch and Pashtun nationalists similar to the Nepal and Hongkong agreements.[5]

Just some years before of Governance of India Act, the plan of independent Baluchistan had been published on 9 September 1932 in the Zamindar journal, which was near to the Muslim League which demanded that time an independent, united India. Supported by Pashtun national movement, the Baloch nationalists first time gathered on 27 December 1932. In Jacobabad, where they demanded the unification of all Baloch territories, the formation of a unified Baloch government, the abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulations, the establishment of the national education system, industrialisation of Baluchistan.

The first map of Great Baluchistan was published in 1933 by Aziz Kurd. His group struggled for reforming of Kalat principal state, independent, united Baluchistan, elected government and the end of British rule. The Magsi, Rind, Mangal and Bugti tribes joined their movement. In 1933, Ahmad Yar Khan entered to the throne of Kalat principal state, who supported the Anjuman and was beside of independence.

In the same time as the Anjuman in Kalat the Baloch League was formed. Between 1920-37, their members still demanded no more than constitutional reforms. From 1937, this movement demanded the independence of Kalat within a united union of India.

The Kalat State National Party was formed on 5 February 1937 in Sibi. Its first president was A. Aziz Kurd. Their programme was similar of the action plan of Anjuman.

The first newspaper in Baloch language named Istiqlal (Independence) was published between 1936-38.

The Anjuman-i Islah-i Baluchistan (Reform Society of Baluchistan) was formed in 1946.

In the years of the Second World War the National Congress of India and the Muslim League formed their organisations in the territory of Baluchistan. That timed formed the Anjuman-i Watan (Homeland Society) in the Pashtun-populated territories of British Baluchistan, which conducted its activity in the framework of the National Congress of India.

4. The question of Baloch statehood

In 1936, before the publication of Act of Independence of India, Mir Ahmad Yar, Khan of Kalat took an advocate to defend the demands of independence of Baluchistan in post-colonial India. This lawyer was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the later founder of the state of Pakistan, who in 1946 before the Cabinet Mission argued: “Kalat is considered by several British politicians as a sovereign and independent state. In 1872, Sir W. L. Merewether, the British high commissioner of Kalat wrote. “His Royal Highness the Khan is de facto and de jure is the King of Kalat or Baluchistan, and we have a treaty with him. By that treaty, we should avoid to attack on his sovereignty. He is the sole ruler, whom we have such treaty.”

The Baloch nationalists are used to refer to another document as well, in which I. I. Chundrigar, the future Prime Minister of Pakistan alleged: “Kalat is not an Indian state. Because of it has common boundaries with India, it must be considered as an independent state, as well as Afghanistan or India. That state does not intend to establish the federal connection with the future government of India, therefore, I am requesting Your Excellency to declare the independence of Kalat.”[6]

After the Second World War, there were two trends: the autonomists and the supporters of independent Kalat state. The autonomists were represented by the Anjuman-i Islah-i Baluchistan (Baloch Reform Society), Anjuman-i Ittihad-i Baloch (Association of Baloch Unity) and Anjuman-i Islah-i Kalat (Reform Society of Kalat). The supporters of independence formed the Kalat State National Party which demanded full independence, unification of all Baloch lands, including Sistan-Baluchistan of Iran as well. But many of Baloch chieftains called sardars, allied with Muslim League and demanded to organize all Baloch lands under British rule to one province within the new Muslim state to be formed, within Pakistan. This movement was supported mainly in British Baluchistan, especially in Quetta.

The Kalat principal state was neither British protectorate, nor part of the Indian Federation, but a sovereign state which allied by treaties with Great-Britain. But the principal state was considered by the Government of India Act of 1935 as an Indian state. The Khan of Kalat protested against the breach of treaty. He has got the reply from British authorities: “His Excellency (the Representative of the British Crown) recognises that the treaty of 1876 is validy by all aspects and determines the British-Kalat connections.”[7]

The Khan of Kalat and their supporters intended to form from Kalat principal state an independent Baloch state. The members of Kalat State National Party and Ahmad Yar Khan of Kalat called the people to vote on supporters of independence to the local parliament at the elections of March 1946. This plan at the beginning was supported by the British. On 4 August 1946, the Standstill Agreement, the British-Pakistani-Baloch agreement was signed, which recognised the sovereign status of Baluchistan, contradicting to the Government of India Act of 1935, which considered the Baloch principal states, British Baluchistan, and the High Commissioner’s Province as the part of British India (of course, the centrally administered Baloch tribal agencies were excluded). The first article of the Standstill Agreement says: “The government of Pakistan recognises Kalat as a free and independent state, with sovereign bilateral connections with the British government and other states.”[8]

For discussion of future position of Kalat, and re-join the annexed territories, the chief secretary of the principal state was sent to Delhi to the Roundtable Conference of 4 August 1947, where Lord Mountbatten, Jinnah, Liaqat Ali Khan, Sir Sultan Ahmed the Chief Minister of Kalat, and the lawyer of Kalat principal state participated and agreed that “Kalat State on 5 August 1947 gains its independence, the same status it had in 1838, with cordial relations its neighbours and any kind of state is being formed in Kalat, practices its independence, and the British government takes the necessary measures that Kalat should regain its original legal status by the 1839 and 1841 agreements.”[9]

The Standstill Agreement was announced on 11 August 1946, which declared the sovereign status of Balochistan: “The government of Pakistan recognises Kalat as an independent and sovereign state, which has bilateral relations with the British government. The legal status of Kalat is merely different from the other Indian states.”Jinnah added that as the legal consultant of the Khan of Kalat, “fully agrees with independence of Kalat and the re-connection of the annexed territories to Kalat State.”[10]

In Balochistan, first time in history, legislative elections were held. The members Kalat State National Party participated as independent candidates and obtained 39 of 52 seats of local parliament.

But the political game has changed. The new viceroy, Louis Montbatten supported the plan of Muslim League to divide India to Hindu and Muslim states on the base of religion. While in Punjab and Sindh the provincial parliaments decided which state to belong to, this was not possible, neither in the North-West Frontier Province, nor in Baluchistan, where the Pashtun and Baloch nationalists were in the majority in local parliaments. In these provinces referendum was ordered to choose between two options: to join India or Pakistan.[11]

An electoral college was set up to decide about the future of British Baluchistan which decided on 29 June 1947 to join Pakistan.

Ahmad Yar Khan of Kalat refused the plan of Mountbatten. On 12 August 1947, just two days before the declaration of the independence of Pakistan, declared the independence of Kalat with the principal states of Kharran, Makran and Las Bela which were joined to him.On 18 March 1948 the principal states of Kharran, Makran and Las Bela joined Pakistan, in spite of  the Standstill Agreement considered them as the part of Kalat. The independence of Kalat lasted 277 days.

On March 26, 1948, the Pakistani Army attacked on Kalat. After fierce fighting, Ahmad Yar Khan surrendered to Jinnah, his former lawyer on 27 March 1948. On 28 March 1948 the joining of Kalat with Kharran, Makran and Las Bela principal states was announced. On 15 April 1948, all of Baluchistan joined Pakistan. The occupation of Kalat was the breach of the Sandoman system. The Khan of Kalat was obliged to sign the document of joining Pakistan, where was written that “..All parts of Baluchistan have the same status as under British rule.”[12] Jinnah meant the Governance of India Act of 1935, not the above mentioned treaties.

The Anjuman-i Watan (Homeland Society), which sided with the National Congress of India, was banned in June 1948 as well as the Kalat State National Party.

For rejection of their demands at least for autonomy an uprising was unfolded on 16 May 1949 led by the Karim Khan, the younger brother of Ahmad Yar Khan, but after 7 months of heavy fighting, his army was defeated in battle. But the supporters of independence did not give up and infightings were continued till 1950. As a result of their resistance, on 11 March 1950, the Consultative Council of Baluchistan was set up by the authorities of Pakistan to examine the opportunities of provincial autonomy. Between 1952-55 Kalat and the coastal principal states still had a kind of semi-autonomous status.

One chapter of the Baluchistan issue has finished, but many unsolved questions are still open.

Budapest, 21. March 2016.

[1] MOCKLER, E.: “Origin of the Baloch”, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta: 1895.

[2] GANKONSKY, Y.V.: The People of Pakistan, Moscow: Nauka, 176.p.

[3] AITCHISON, Charles Umpherson: A Collection of Treaties, Agreements and Sanads Relating to India and Neighbouring Countries, XI., XII. Calcutta: 1933. 89 .p.

[4] BRESEEG, Taj Mohammad: Baloch Nationalism: its Origin and Development. Karachi: Royal Book Co., 2004, 72-78. p.

[5] BALOCH, Inayatullah:” The Problem of “Greater Baluchistan.” A study of Baloch nationalism.”Beitfrage zur Südasienforschung,Hamburg: Bd. 116, VIII: Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, 1987, 19-23. p.

[6] CHUNDRIGAR,I.I.: Memorandum to Viceroy, 1946, quoted by: BALOCH, Inayatullah: “The Baloch  Question in Pakistan and the Right of Self-Determination”, In: LALLEMENT, ZINGEL (ed.) Pakistan in the 80’s, Lahore: 1985, 35. p.

[7] IOR:LV.P and S/13/1947.

[8] INDEPENDENCE OF KALAT, India Office Record 1948.

[9] Ibid.

[10] DECLARATION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF KALAT, Kalat: Balochistan Press, 1947, 5-6. p.

[11] ROY, Baren: “Baluchistan and the Partition of India.The Forgotten Story.”, Occasional Paper, South Asian Centre for Strategic Studies, New Delhi: 1966.

[12] OPR.L./P. and 5/13/1947


Dr. Katona was born in Budapest, Hungary. A Member of the Commission of Military Sciences, C.Sc., she has served in various diplomatic posts in Afghanistan and the region. Now she is a Research Fellow at the Strategic Center for International Relations and a member of the Editorial Board of its quarterly publication


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