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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