Eye on Pakistan

Why and How Balochs Joined the Union of Pakistan

Posted in Domestic Affairs by onpakistan on December 25, 2009

Looking around for some background on the incorporation of the Balochs into Pakistan in 1947, I came across this succinct account. I am sure that some of it can be questioned, but it is digestible and accessible.


Mehtab Ali Shah, The Foreign Policy Of Pakistan: Ethnic Impacts On Diplomacy, 1971-1994 (1997), pp. 93-95.

It is interesting to probe the question of why the Balochs joined the union of Pakistan in 1947. At the time of Pakistan’s creation, Balochistan was an overwhelmingly Muslim area. Though it was not a formal province of the British Empire in India, under the 1876 treaty the Khan of Kalat had a special relationship with Whitehall in London. Balochs claim that, under the terms of this treaty. Britain recognized Balochistan as a sovereign state (Wilcox, 1963: 76—7). However, for all practical purposes, the viceroy of India controlled it through the chief commissioner based at Quetta.

Before the creation of Pakistan, a patchwork of loose administrative structures held Balochistan together. British or tribal administrators controlled the Pashto-speaking areas of British Balochistan such as the Zhob, Lora Lai and Chaman districts ordering Afghanistan. Tribal chiefs or sardars ruled the Baloch areas in another part of British Balochistan. In 1877, the British introduced a joint type of rule into British Balochistan, named the ‘Sandeman system’ after its initiator Captain Robert Sandeman. The Baloch sardars formally gave their allegiance to the Raj, but for all practical purposes they were free and even ran their own private gaols. The Khanate of Kalat, ruled by the Khan of Kalat, was yet another part of Balochistan. As mentioned earlier, the Khan claimed to be an ally of Britain rather than its subordinate (Baloch, 1987: 173—6) and the princely states of Makran, Kharan and Las Bella were nominally his fiefdoms. The British political agent-general (A-G) was responsible for the overall administration of this conglomeration of territories.

The sparsely populated Baloch territory had no centralized administration and no substantial bureaucracy. People from neighbouring Punjab with a knowledge of Urdu ran both the bureaucracy and the educational system. Unlike Sindh and the Punjab, the Hindu population in Balochistan, which engaged mainly in trade, was very small and held no political or administrative power in the Baloch areas. These Hindus of Balochistan generally adopted the local way of life and there was no communal tension between them and the Balochs.

When nationalist movements proliferated all over India in the 1930s with a view to gaining independence from Britain, the Baloch nationalists organized their own party, the Kalat State Party. Its aim was the unification of all Baloch-speaking areas into a single state and to achieve independence from British rule (Baloch, 1987: 172).

Although Balochistan was a mainly Muslim area, neither the Khan of Kalat, his legal adviser Mr Jinnah, who later became the founder of the Pakistani state, nor the Baloch nationalists apparently had any intention at first of joining the Pakistani state (Baloch, 1987: 172). However, with the transfer of power in 1947, as the ultimate authority in Balochistan, the British decided to hold a referendum to allow the people to choose whether to join India or Pakistan — it offered them no other options. The Pashtun-dominated areas chose Pakistan, as did the Quetta municipality’s Shahi Jirga, a British- nominated consultative body composed mainly of Pashtuns. Most of the Baloch sardars decided to join Pakistan. The nawab of Las Bella, an ethnically Sindhi tribal chief whose principality was adjacent to Karachi, also opted for Pakistan. He was followed by the chiefs of Kharan and Makran.

The Khan of Kalat himself wanted a higher price for acceding to Pakistan. He wanted to retain his special status in Pakistan (Wilcox, 1963: 77) and the Kalat Assembly under the leadership of Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo passed a resolution calling for independence instead of yielding to Pakistan. In 1947, the Khan’s younger brother, Prince Abdul Karim Khan, declared independence and challenged the authority of the Pakistani state over Balochistan. He flew to Afghanistan to wage guerrilla warfare and the Afghan authorities gave him every assistance. In retaliation, the Pakistani authorities attacked the Khan of Kalat’s palaces at Quetta and Khuzdar. They arrested the Khan and took over the state of Kalat by force. By tradition, the House of Kalat is the nucleus of Baloch society and its forcible take over by the Pakistani authorities in 1947 inflicted a deep wound on the Baloch psyche. Thereafter, Baloch nationalists began to regard Pakistan as an occupying power (Wilcox, 1963: 149).

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What Israel Thinks of Pakistan

Posted in Worldwide by onpakistan on December 25, 2009

To understand how Israel sees Pakistan, look at the way Pakistan is referred to in Israeli press articles on Palestinians. In this Israeli’s eyes, the current military offensive in the NWFP, and extremist bombings, are reduced to a war between “Muslim secularists and religious extremists, in which the latter seem to be winning”. “Democracy” versus “jihadism”. He warns:

Without an institutional structure and cultural environment that condemns terrorism, violence and incitement a Palestinian state will become the new Pakistan, and just as dangerous… One Pakistan is enough; the world hardly needs another in Palestine.

This Israeli view of Pakistan is probably close too (yet different I am sure) from the dominant American view of Pakistan. The irony is that many Indian Muslims struggled for a nation-state of their own, independent of India. I think Palestinians would be overjoyed to achieve a similar independence from Israel (though without the bloodshed of partition and subsequent military dictatorships etc.).

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Baloch Liberation Army on Anti-Drug Offensive

Posted in Domestic Affairs by onpakistan on December 22, 2009

The Baloch Liberation Army appears to be taking advantage of pressure on the drug trade business across the Afghan-Pakistan border to neutralise drug sellers in Khuzdar and other Baloch areas. See report of BLA press release (and also this), and very recent news of grenade attack. Accusations that the BLA itself is involved in drug smuggling are long-standing, and I note that this recent BLA initiative does not appear to be aimed at smuggling through Balochistan, rather at local sellers and smuggling for local consumption. The BLA may, ofcourse, ultimately become interested (if it is not so already) in regulating and taxing, but not eliminating, local sales of heroin.

On Quetta’s heroin dens, see this Guardian article. Also, a recent Guardian article on the American turn to Balochistan, and an article in Vice magazine by (Basque?) journalist Karlos Zurutuza on his time with with some Balochi militants. Karlos Zurutuza is one of the few European journalists actively highlighting Balochi nationalist activism – he was awarded the ‘Nawab Bugti Award’ by Hyrbyair Marri in London in October 2009.

Pakistani Government Denies Visa to Leading Indian Kashmiri Politician

Posted in Foreign Affairs by onpakistan on December 21, 2009

You wouldn’t hear about this in the Pakistani press or from Pakistani bloggers. So here it is:

Mehbooba Mufti, leader of the People’s Democratic Party, has had to cancel her participation in a conference here after she was unable to obtain a visa to travel to Pakistan. The organisers of the “South Asia 2060” conference, the Islamabad-based Sustainable Development Policy Initiatives, said Ms. Mehbooba had applied for the visa only four days ago and her papers could not be processed in time for her departure. However, the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi was able to process a visa for the former Jammu University Vice-Chancellor Amitabh Mattoo, another participant at the same conference. He applied at the same time as the Kashmiri leader. A group of 20 other Indians is also participating in the two-day conference.

She, supposidly, is a Pakistani-favoured politician. So why the rejection? Some speculation in the rest of the article, here.

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Newspaper Readership in Pakistan

Posted in media by onpakistan on December 21, 2009

A private market research company, MEMRB, estimates that, in 2007, approximately 14.6 million Pakistanis read a newspaper at least once a week. Within this group, the following  newspapers were the most popular. The % indicates those from the estimated 14.6 million reading the newspaper at least once in the past month:

Jang – 46%

Nawa-e-Waqt – 23%

Express – 20%

Khabrain – 15%

Awaz – 10%

Dawn – 7%

Kawish – 5%

Qaumi Akhbar – 5%

Din – 4%

Mashriq – 4%

Naya Akhbar – 4%

Pakistan – 4%

Ummat – 4%

Aaj – 3%

Ausaf – 3%

Awam – 3%

The News – 3%

Inqilab – 2%

Jinnah – 2%

Jurrat – 2%

The complete survey is available here. Aftab Associates also produce a National Readership Survey, though, to my knowledge, this is not available online.

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The West *hearts* Begum Nawazish

Posted in Culture by onpakistan on December 19, 2009

“Run a story on the Begum” cry the editors. “She subverts the stereotypical picture of Pakistan!”

The Begum says: “I have read the Koran, and Islam is the most liberating, most human of religions.” And The Independent loves it.

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AFP interviews the Curator of Taxila Museum

Posted in Culture by onpakistan on December 15, 2009

AFP have a short interview with the curator of the Taxila Museum. He complains about the lack of foreign visitors, and feels threatened.

Pakistan Remittance Initiative – terrorising the hawala system?

Posted in Political Economy by onpakistan on December 14, 2009

The Pakistani government has been for several years trying to (or at least pretending to try) to increase its influence on and supervision of money movements in and out of Pakistan. According to the National Bank of Pakistan (and the Financial Times), the Pakistan Remittance Initiative is leading to an increase of foreign remittance through government monitored sources such as banks, and a decrease in remittance through the ‘Hawala system’. From the Financial Times:

Pakistan takes grip on money transfer

By Farhan Bokhari in Karachi

Published: December 10 2009 02:00 | Last updated: December 10 2009 02:00

The events of September 9 2001 quickly made legislators and the wider public familiar with the hawala system of informal money transfer between poorer workers in Asia and the Middle East who fall outside the banking system. In March, the Pakistani government, sensitive to the accusation that it was doing too little to monitor funds that could be used to fund terrorism, launched the Pakistan remittance initiative, or PRI. The measures foreseen by the PRI range from requiring Pakistani bankers to visit prospective depositors, no matter how small, even in neighbourhoods in the Middle East, to speeding the pace of the transfers. The central bank says the initiative is beginning to work. In the first four months of the financial year, which runs to the end of June, remittances through the banking system from Pakistanis worldwide rose by nearly a third over the same period last year to $3.1bn. Officials at Pakistan’s finance ministry expect to see a record of more than $9bn in annual remittances through the banking system during the current financial year. In October, Pakistani workers in the United Arab Emirates sent home $175m via the banks – up from about $76m a year ago, according to finance ministry officials. Workers in Saudi Arabia transferred $154m, up from $127.3m. Salim Raza, Pakistan’s central bank governor, says he personally oversees measures aimed at reducing the time taken for transfers from the Middle East to reach bank accounts in Pakistan, “not in terms of days but in terms of minutes”. The speed of transfers has been at the centre of the popularity of the hawala system. Mr Raza says that regular banks’ rising foreign exchange reserves are another sign that the PRI is working. “We are working to provide the best possible environment to speed up transfers and facilitate the customers. They are obviously responding,” Mr Raza says. Syed Ali Raza, president of the government-owned National Bank of Pakistan, says that three years ago, about $4bn was transferred via banks while about $6bn was believed to be coming through hawala . “The trend is changing. Now, at least 75 per cent or even more is coming through official channels and the space taken by hawala is shrinking,” he says. This year the Pakistani authorities shut at least two prominent money changers, who were found to be under-declaring the remittances they received from abroad. While there is acknowledgement of the success of the PRI, some analysts say that the worldwide financial problems of the past year and more are causing Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis to send savings home for fear of their money being caught in a financial crisis somewhere overseas. “This is indeed an important consideration. People are sending back their savings because of such fears,” says Ishrat Hussain, a former Pakistan central bank governor. Western economists warn, however, that it is still too early to say if the trend will be sustained in the medium to long term, as Pakistan not only grapples with a moribund economy but is also gripped by fears of growing internal insecurity. A record rise in suicide and bomb attacks by Taliban militants this year has prompted many domestic and foreign businesses active in Pakistan to consider security, or the lack of it, as their primary challenge. Workers overseas may well develop the same perspective and keep their money under the mattress, says one western economist. “The sense of security in Pakistan is very fragile. If the sense of insecurity grows further, there is a chance that these remittances may begin shrinking,” the economist says.

The West, ofcourse, would like nothing better than to be able to monitor all cash flows in and out of not only Pakistan, but all countries around the world. For Interpol and the United States Department of the Treasury, the Hawala system is nothing more than a conduit for money laundering. The IMF argues that “more should be done to keep an eye on IFT [Informal Fund Transfer] systems to avoid their misuse by illicit groups.” Pakistani intellectual classes agree. For The News, appears to believe that eliminating the informal money transfer system stop the wealthy from taking their wealth out of the country!
For Newsline, banking through Hawala is “Banking on Terror”.
Lets be clear: destroying the Informal Fund Transfer systems that operate in the Middle East and South Asia will NOT stop the transfer of funds to Pakistani and Afghan militant groups, and it will NOT stop the withdrawal of wealth by Pakistani elites. There are deeper reasons for this funding, and for ebbs and flows of elite wealth, which need to be addressed for these things to happen. American attempts to control international monetary flows long predate post-9/11 terror rhetoric. These attempts will continue, under some other pretext, once this rhetoric abates. Bringing the Informal Fund Transfer systems under Pakistani state control will only further enrich Pakistani banks and related industrialists, and give the West more influence over the Pakistani financial system
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