Encompassing almost half of the geographical area of Pakistan, this resource-rich province has suffered the most, being part of the Islamic nation of Pakistan. Balochistan and turmoil have almost become a synonym.
Despite covering 44% of the total area of Pakistan, Balochistan is home to a mere 7% of the total population of Pakistan. Balochistan, which is abundantly rich in minerals and has large reserves of indigenous gold, iron, zinc, copper, barite, chromite, gypsum, coal, limestone etc., is one of the least populated and least developed provinces of Pakistan.
Inhabited by Balochi people, Balochistan incorporates people of Pashtun and Brahui ethnicity. Balochistan’s population is estimated to be around 1.4 crore, out of which the adult male literacy rate is just 38% and for females is only about 13%. The above data tells the pathetic condition of education in Balochistan.
Pakistan heavily relies on Balochistan for its energy needs. But it sees Balochistan as one of the most vulnerable areas of the Islamic Republic from a security point of view. The Balochs form a unique ethnonational identity and dream of an independent Baloch nation. This has made Balochistan, one of Pakistan’s most restive areas, which suffered nonpareil wrath from the Pakistani establishment and security forces.
Balochis struggle for freedom is long. The Balochs’ struggle for independence started just after the creation of India and Pakistan when Pakistan seized the province of Khan of Kalat and forced him to sign an instrument of accession with Pakistan on 27th March 1948. The Khan of Kalat has mentioned this in his autobiography “Inside Baluchistan: A Political Autobiography of His Highness Baigi: Khan-e-Azam-XIII, Karachi, 1975” and said, “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 Balochis”.
British Balochistan and Kalat were created from the division of Balochistan (including Kharan, Makran and Las Bela). The Kalat State exercised suzerainty over Kharan, Makran, and Las Bela. While Kalat was a subordinate state under the British, British Balochistan was entirely administered by them as their domain. Makuran, Kharan, and Las Bela were admitted into Pakistan on March 18, 1948, as per a press release from the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Khan of Kalat forbade Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Pakistani government from betraying him and the Baloch people.
The Pakistani government used the following arguments to defend its unconstitutional action and aggression:
a) The Khan was offered through an agent for accession to India and was ready to provide facilities for the use of Kalat airfields to India.
b) The Khan offered Afghanistan the use of the seaports on the Makuran coast.
c) The Khan was seeking British protection when the news of the “accession” of the areas of the Khanate reached Kalat.
The forced instrument of accession led to the enslavement of the people of Balochistan by the Pakistani establishment, which was earlier under the rule of British imperialists. The streets of the coastal towns of Pasni and Jiwani mainly attracted the ire of Pakistani forces when they marched into the town on 26th March 1948. The next day, 27th March 1948, marked one of the darkest days of Balochi History, on which the Khan of Kalat forcibly signed the instrument of accession with Pakistan.
It’s been 74 years since the Balochi struggle for independence started, but the Baloch people still mourn due to the systematic and unparalleled suppression by the Pakistani forces. Also, the efforts of many activists from Balochistan who took the plight of Baloch people at the international level went into vain due to the lack of academic attention and support from other countries. Balochi rulers fighting for their independence also came to India seeking help from Nehru. Still, Nehru’s high moral standards and the image of being an internationalist again led him not to pay heed to the plight of the Balochi people. The Baloch people were ignored twice by Nehru in the post-independence days. The first time was in 1946, when Samad Khan, a politician and the founder of Anjuman-i-Watan Balochistan, and Mir Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo, a member of the Kalat State National Party, went to meet Maulana Abul Kalam Azad seeking India’s support for an independent Balochistan. Azad objected, claiming that Balochistan would just act as a British base and not be a stable, independent state. Secondly, the former Chief Secretary of Balochistan, Hakim Baloch, acknowledged it, on the AIR broadcast on March 27, 1948, that when Secretary of State VP Menon informed Nehru that the Khan of Kalat was pressuring India to approve Kalat’s accession to India, the latter held that India would have no part in it. Thus, Nehru’s India ignored Balochistan’s struggle and like many other decisions of Nehru, his take on Balochistan also made it a ceaseless stumbling block.
The popularity of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a global leader has led to the rise in hopes of the Balochi people, and the Balochi people admire Narendra Modi for his penchant for addressing critical issues. The Balochi people look towards Modi’s India with eyes filled with hope and dreams for future generations. The world is also looking keenly at Narendra Modi’s approach towards Balochistan and thus waiting for India’s steps towards freedom of Balochistan. Thus, it is in the womb of time and future that how the Balochi struggle for independence will take shape and what role India has to play in it.