The leadership has said that the move has ended Pakistan’s false narrative that Kashmir was a bilaterally disputed region.
New Delhi: The Baloch leadership—which is fighting for freedom from Pakistan and is seeking to return to the pre-27 March 1948 stage when its independence was taken away at gunpoint—has welcomed India’s abrogation of Article 370 granting special status to Jammu & Kashmir. The leadership has said that the move has ended Pakistan’s false narrative that Kashmir was a bilaterally disputed region.
The Baloch leadership feels that India has now reached a stage, internationally, where it can help the Baloch nationalists in getting independence from Pakistan: the first step towards achieving this, they feel, will be to establish a Baloch government in exile in New Delhi. This way, India, the Baloch leaders feel, will give legitimacy to their demand and pave the way for freedom of Balochistan.
Several Baloch leaders and their representatives, most of whom are underground for fear of being killed, told The Sunday Guardian that they had approached the UPA-II government in early 2014—which resulted in an informal interaction held in a third country—to work out the modalities of the Baloch office or may be a capital-in-exile in India, but the talks ended without any concrete decision as the Indian bureaucrats prevailed over the Indian political leadership of the time and convinced them not to do any such “misadventure” as it would “enrage” Pakistan.
The Indian officials had expressed their worry that if India did something like that, it would lead to an increased aggression from Pakistan on Kashmir.
Khalil Baloch, chairman of the Baloch National Movement (BNM), one of the largest Baloch nationalist political organisations, told The Sunday Guardian that they were prepared on how a government-in-exile would be set up in India if Government of India agreed to it.
“We are a political entity and we will use this opportunity to make the world aware that Balochistan can never be a part of Pakistan; we have nothing in common. We were subjugated by force. It is the moral duty of the Indian government to give us space and opportunity, however limited, to express the atrocities that we are facing in Pakistan-held Balochistan by setting up a government-in-exile in Delhi. We are all prepared, in every way, as to how we will execute this initiative. All depends on the Indian government, how it takes this forward, how it helps us. India being the largest democracy, one of the biggest superpowers in Asia, it is their responsibility to help the Baloch people and give us the permission to establish a government-in-exile. We are already running a government there. We have rank and file, intellectuals, professors, political leadership to keep this movement well directed,” he said.
A close associate of Dr Allah Nazar Baloch, who is seen as the “guardian” of the entire movement and is the most popular figure among the common Baloch, said that recognising Balochistan as a separate country was the minimum that India could do without doing anything substantial for the Baloch cause.
“For more than 70 years, Pakistan maintained that Kashmir was disputed and that it belonged to Pakistan. It even went to the extent of renaming one part as Azad Kashmir and the other as India-occupied Kashmir. India, however, chose to play the role of a saint and never supported us and our genuine demand. The ordinary Baloch population is tired of Pakistan and wants to break the shackles; we are just seeking moral support from India, nothing else. Recognising us as an independent country is the least India should do,” he said.
A source in the Baloch National Movement pointed out that they had experienced leaders such as Khalil Baloch, Allah Nazar Baloch, Rahim Baloch, Meer Abdul Nabi, Karima Baloch, Hammal Haidar, Taj Baloch, Kachkol Ali and Dr Naseem Baloch, and knew how to handle a sensitive issue like a government-in-exile and not take any steps that might trouble India or lead to questions as to why India was helping Balochistan. “We have a mature and experienced leadership which is well-rooted to the ground and knows how to work without endangering its friends,” the source said.
A former chief of one of the intelligence agencies said that if Indian policymakers decided to allow leaders from the Balochistan national movement set up their office in India, it would be a huge but perhaps necessary departure from its foreign policy that it was following.
“Pakistan has made Kashmir a bilateral issue and continues to meddle into our affairs. If we do this (allow the setting up of a Baloch separation office), we will be opening up a new chapter. Balochistan will become an international issue immediately. Some of our policymakers, though, believe that we should not meddle in Pakistan’s internal affairs. The other concern is that whenever something ‘happens’ in Balochistan, Pakistan immediately says that India is behind it. However, my personal view is that we need to take charge of this whole thing (Kashmir issue); for long now, we have been in a ‘reactive’ mode. Balochistan needs to become a part of our diplomacy,” he said.
AT GUNPOINT: HOW BALOCHISTAN BECAME A PART OF PAK
Balochistan is located in the south-west region of Pakistan and shares its borders with Afghanistan, Iran and the Arabian Sea. It accounts for nearly half the total landmass of Pakistan, but has only 3.6% of its total population. It has been endowed with huge reserves of natural resources, including oil, gas and gold, but continues to remain as one of the poorest regions of Pakistan, with a large number of its inhabitants without access to electricity or clean drinking water.
As per an article published in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper in November 2010, Exploitation of mineral wealth, the copper-gold Saindak project situated in Balochistan, which was given to a Chinese company for extraction, produced copper-gold worth $633.573mn between 2004 and 2008. Of this, the Balochistan government received a share of 2%, 48% went to Islamabad, while 50% went to China.
Before the partition of India and Pakistan, Balochistan consisted of four princely states under British rule—Kalat, Lasbela, Kharan and Makran.
Recalling the events that led to Balochistan being subjugated, Baloch leaders told The Sunday Guardian that three months before the formation of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah negotiated the freedom of Balochistan under Kalat from the British, during which a series of meetings were held between the Viceroy, Jinnah and the Khan of Kalat, Mir Sir Ahmad Yar Khan Ahmedzai, as a result of which an agreement was decided upon on 11 August 1947, which stated that:
a. The Government of Pakistan recognises Kalat as an independent sovereign state in treaty relations with the British government with a status different from that of Indian states.
b. Legal opinion will be sought as to whether or not agreements of leases will be inherited by the Pakistan government.
c. Meanwhile, a Standstill Agreement has been made between Pakistan and Kalat.
d. Discussions will take place between Pakistan and Kalat at Karachi at an early date with a view to reaching decisions on Defence, External Affairs and Communications.
On 15 August 1947, the Kalat government made a formal declaration of independence and dispatched a delegation to Karachi to take part in discussions relating to the Standstill Agreement and other outstanding matters.
However, as soon as he reached Karachi, he was asked to expedite the accession of Kalat to Pakistan. Though Mir Sir Ahmad Yar Khan Ahmedzai stated that he did not have the authority or the permission of the Baloch people to sign such an agreement, Pakistan said that he did not have any option but to sign the accession. An upset and scared Ahmedzai, having been warned of the repercussions that Pakistan under Jinnah had warned him of, came back.
Soon enough, Jinnah, to put pressure on Kalat, granted Lasbela and Kharan equal status to Kalat and formalised their individual mergers with Pakistan. The pressure on Kalat to follow suit further intensified and tensions rose markedly.
On 12 December 1947, the inaugural session of the Kalat State Parliament took place where the prominent Baloch leader, Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, also known as “Baba-i-Balochistan” or the Father of Balochistan, who did his graduation from Aligarh Muslim University, made his famous speech in which he argued that accession to Pakistan on the basis of religion (a main reason cited for merging) was not only illogical, but fundamentally flawed. “We have a distinct culture like Afghanistan and Iran and if the mere fact that we are Muslims requires us to amalgamate with Pakistan, then, Iran and Afghanistan should also be made to amalgamate with Pakistan,” Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo said in his speech, warning Pakistan not to force the Baloch to sign the accession as “every Baloch will fight for freedom”.
Despite this warning, in order to put additional pressure on Kalat and to weaken Balochistan, the government of Pakistan recognised Makran as an independent entity and gave it “independence” from Kalat, after which, on 17 March 1948, Makran joined Pakistan.
Under threat to his life and being removed from his position, Khan eventually capitulated and without the consent of the Baloch people and with no mandate whatsoever, he signed the accession of Kalat to Pakistan, in his own personal capacity on 27 March 1948.
Subsequently, the Pakistan army entered Kalat on 14 April 1948, dissolved the Kalat Parliament and imprisoned the members who protested. Khan’s younger brother, Prince Abdul Karim, however, started an armed revolt before he was arrested by the Pakistan army and sent to prison for 10 years.
Thus began the ongoing conflict between Balochistan and Pakistan.
Interestingly, a more than 1,500-year-old Goddess Kali temple is located in Kalat, which experts say has the second tallest idol of the Goddess in entire South Asia.