Sunday, October 5, 2008

Boundary Demarcation and Trifurcation of Baloch terrain

Inayatullah Baloch writes in his book, The Problem of Greater Balochistan, that the British ignored all evidence of certain areas coming under the jurisdiction or influence of the Khan of Kalat and gifted them away to either Iran or Afghanistan, in a bid to placate the rulers in these two countries and befriend them in apprehension of an attack from the Russian side. This was the Great Game of those times and the Baloch had to pay dearly for the selfish motives of the colonial rulers. In fact, a secret diary prepared by the British representative at Kalat on April 20,1872, to the British Government of India suggested that Sardar Ibrahim Khan Sanjrani of Chakansur (Outer Seistan) acted as a vassal of the Khanate. Sir Robert Sandeman, in the letters to Lord Curzon dated November 22, 1891 and January 12, 1892, also described the western limits of the Khanate as Hassanabad Q (Irani-Seistan) and the Helmand river near Rudbar in Afghanistan. The final demarcation of Seistan took place in 1904 by the British Commissioner, Sir Henry McMahon, but the historical right of the Khanate and the principle of the right to self-determination were ignored. Sanjrani, chief of Chakansur, refused to acknowledge the Afghan rule under Amir Abdul Rahman. Nonetheless, the Kabul policy of British India encouraged Abdul Rahman to occupy the country. Nothing was known about the reaction of Mir Khudadad Khan, the then ruler of Balochistan.

The Baloch-Afghan or McMahon Line covers an area from New Chaman to the Perso-Baloch border. The boundary was demarcated by the Indo-Afghan Boundary Commission headed by Capt. (later Sir) A. Henry McMahon in 1896. The boundary runs through the Baloch country, dividing one family from another and one tribe from another, according to Inayatullah Baloch. As the Khan was not consulted by the British in the demarcation of the Perso-Baloch Frontier, the validity of the line was seen as doubtful by the Balochis. The partition of Balochistan took place without taking into consideration the 4 factors of geography, culture,history, and the will of the people. The final outcome of the boundary settlements imposed on the Baloch was:

  1. Seistan and Western Makran, Sarhad, etc. became part of Iran.
  2. Outer Seistan and Registan came under the control of Afghanistan.
  3. Jacobabad, Derajat and Sibi were included in British India.
  4. The Khanate of Balochistan was recognised as an independent state with the status of a protectorate.1

During the process of demarcation of the frontier, several areas of the Khanate of Balochistan were surrendered by the British authorities to Iran and Afghanistan. The change in the British approach was visible in the way the Khan was treated during the negotiations. In 1871, the Khan was allowed to participate and the commission was called The Perso-Baloch Boundary Commission, but in 1896, it was called The Anglo-Persian Joint Boundary Commission. The Balochis had for all practical purposes lost their independence and autonomy.

By 1905, the demarcation of the boundary between British India and Iran on the one hand and between British India and Afghanistan on the other had quite effectively and unalterably divided the Balochis among three states British India, Afghanistan and Iran. The Khanate lost its previous glory. Even inside Balochistan, direct British rule was imposed on certain strategic areas like Derajati, Jacobabad and Sibi while the rest of the Balochi territory was under the control of the Khan of Kalat, whose Khanate was a mere protectorate of the British government. In order to further delimit Khans influence, the British encouraged the vassals of the Khanate in Makran and Las Bela to emerge as separate protectorates and thus there was a practical administrative trifurcation of the Khanate even within British India, i.e., the British Balochistan, the Khanate and Independent princely states of Makran, Kharan and Las Bela, and the tribal territories.

Nevertheless, Baloch tribes in the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century showed their hatred of the unnatural and unjust partition through their revolts against British and Persian rule. Gul Khan, a nationalist writer, wrote: Due to the decisions of (boundary) Commissions more than half of the territory of Balochistan came under the possession of Iran and less than half of it was given to Afghanistan.

The factor for the division of a lordless Balochistan was to please and control the Iran and Afghanistan governments against Russia2 in favour of Britain.

In 1932, the Baloch Conference of Jacobabad voiced itself against the Iranian occupation of Western Balochistan. In 1933, Mir Abdul Aziz Kurd, a prominent national leader of Balochistan, showed his opposition to the partition and division of Balochistan by publishing the first map of Greater Balochistan. In 1934, Magsi, the head of the Baloch national movement, suggested an armed struggle for the liberation and unification of Balochistan. However, it was a difficult task because of its division into several parts, each part with a different constitutional and political status.

As a border area, the British were more interested in keeping the area calm and quiet. Through the principalities and the tribal sardars, the British had astutely created a system of collaborative administration of the area and its people, which proved effective. The Khanate of Kalat was completely subdued and with the emasculation of the predominant seat of power in Balochistan, the British had ensured perpetuation of their rule in the entire region. The British system had, in fact, developed a curious sense of centripetality about it too. The moment Pakistan emerged as the heir to the British in 1947, the Shahi Jirga, a remnant of the British system of patronage, consisting of collaborative sardars and feudal overlords, immediately veered around Pakistan and supported Balochistan's accession to Pakistan. The rulers of Kharan and Makran were also too timid to support the Khan.


Baloch people are also known as Balochi, Balochee, Baluchee, Beloochi but they all mean the same. In this paper one or more of these expressions have been used but they all refer to the same Baluchi/Balochi people.

End Notes
  1. See Inayatullah Baloch, The Problem of Greater Balochistan: A Study of Baloch Nationalism, 1987, Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden GMBH, Stuttgart, for South Asian Institute, University of Heidelberg.
  2. Ibid.

1 comment:

Tariq Amir said...

Dear Sir,

Who was controlling the territory of present day Iranian Balochistan in late 19th century? This present day border between Pakistan and Iran was established in 1896? I read somewhere it was established sometime in 1850s.