Monday, October 6, 2008


The Khan of Kalat, who had expressed his enthusiasm for Pakistan as had Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was the leader of the Muslim League and went on to become the first Governor General of Pakistan, in his payrolls as the legal advisor to the Kalat state, resorted to the legal position that with the lapse of paramountcy, leased out territories around Quetta that would return to Kalat and so also Kharan and Las Bela would be left independent to decide to rejoin Kalat.

The British had a relationship of paramountcy with the Indian states or principalities. The rulers of these states enjoyed substantial measure of internal autonomy in exchange for their loyalty to the British. The Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, emphasized on the special status of the Kalat State and in a memorandum to the Cabinet Mission, in 1946, he had highlighted that the governments succeeding the British could only inherit the states that had treaty relations with the British Indian government and not those states whose treaty relations were with Whitehall. As the Cabinet mission could not find flaws with the legality of the demand, it left the issue unresolved. Ironically, Jinnah, as the legal adviser to the Khan had prepared the case in favor of independence of the Kalat state.

By the time the British began their preparations to leave the Indian subcontinent, the state of Kalat had lost much of its past glory, yet it had a functioning government responsible to a parliament, which comprised of two houses, like the British parliament. Its council of ministers included Douglas Fell, a British, who was functioning as the Foreign Minister. In addition it also had Mohammed Ali Jinnah as its legal adviser. According to Baloch nationalists, Jinnah had agreed that the position of the Kalat State was different from that of other Indian princely states. In addition, at a round table conference held in Delhi on August 4, 1947, and attended by Lord Mountbatten, the Khan of Kalat, chief minister of Kalat and Mohammed Ali Jinnah, in his capacity as the legal advisor of Kalat State, it was decided that Kalat State would become independent on August 5, 1947. Subsequently, the rulers of Kharan and Lesbela were informed by the British that control of their regions had been transferred to Kalat State and the Marri and Bugti tribal regions which were under the British control were also returned into the Kalat fold, thereby bringing the whole of Balochistan under the suzerainty of the Khan of Kalat .

Jinnah as the legal advisor of the Kalat state and Jinnah as the Governor General of Pakistan were two separate characters. Under his leadership as Governor General of Pakistan, the Government of Pakistan the legal heir of the British imperial system followed a policy not too different from the policy adopt

ed by the British in 1839 in Kalat. Through gentle but forceful nudges, the principalities of Kharan, Makran and Lesbela were merged into Pakistan in March 1948.

There were reports that during this period the Khan had sought Indian help but was turned down. However, Nehru later denied the report.1 The rumor was enough for Pakistan to threaten the Khan with preparation for military takeover and on 30 March 1948, in what the Khan construed as a decision taken in the interest of Balochi nation, without obtaining formal sanction from the Balochi Sardars and in opposition to the decision of the Balochi legislature (in October 1947), signed the treaty of merger with Pakistan.2 In April 1948, Pakistan forced status quo ante, i.e., Kalat was to be ruled by an agent of the Pakistani state. The short display of Balochi nationalist defiance under the leadership of Khans brother, Abdul Karim Khan, continued until 1950, when the latter was captured along with his followers and put behind the bars. He spent 16 out of the rest of his 22 years in Pakistani prisons on charges of sedition.

Partition and the Annexation of Balochistan

"We are Muslims but it (this fact) did not mean (it is) necessary to lose our independence and to merge with other (nations) because of the Muslim (faith). If our accession into Pakistan is necessary, being Muslim, then Muslim states of Afghanistan and Iran should also merge with Pakistan."

Mir Ghaus Bux Bizenjo in 1947-48

The legal status of Kalat was different from that of other princely states in the Indian subcontinent. The 560 odd princely states belonged to Category A under the political department. States like Kalat, together with Bhutan; Sikkim etc. were under the External Affairs Department of the Government of India and were in Category B. The 1876 treaty with the British provided for the independence of Kalat in internal jurisdiction and non-interference in domestic affairs. It was on this basis that the Khan never joined the Chamber of Princes in Delhi and always maintained that they were on a separate footing and not part of Britain’s Indian empire. Thus Kalat in 1947 was not really obliged to join either India or Pakistan. When it was decided to partition India, the last ruler of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Khan made it clear that he sought independence.

In a Memorandum submitted to the British Cabinet Mission in March 1946, the Khan made the following points: First, the Government or Governments succeeding the Raj would inherit only the treaty relationships of the colonial government in New Delhi and not those of Whitehall. Second, after the British left, Kalat would retain the independence it had enjoyed prior to 1876. Third, the Baloch principalities that had been tributaries of Kalat and which were later leased to the British under duress would revert to Kalat. As a result, the Memorandum stated, the Kalat will become fully sovereign and independent in respect to both internal and external affairs and will be free to conclude treaties with any other government or state. It added, the Khan, his government and his people can never agree to Kalat being included in any form of Indian Union.2

On August 15, 1947, a day after Pakistan was formally established; the Khan declared Kalats independence but offered to negotiate a special relationship with Pakistan in the spheres of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications. Pakistani leaders rejected this declaration touching off a 9-month diplomatic tug of war that climaxed in the forcible annexation of Kalat.

Pakistan historians have tried to argue that the Khans stand was not representative of Baloch sentiments and point as evidence to the pro-Pakistan Assembly of Baloch leaders (called Shahi Jirga) held in Quetta on June 29, 1947. However, the participants were those who had been appointed by the British and the Assemblys recommendation related only to British Balochistan.

Apart from declaring independence, the Khan also formed the lower and upper houses of the Kalat Assembly. A meeting of the Kalat National Assembly (elections for which had been held a few weeks earlier) held on August 15, 1947 as well as subsequent meetings of the Assembly, decided not to join Pakistan and Affirmed the position that Kalat was an independent state and would only enter into friendly treaty relations with Pakistan. Amongst those who, in these meetings of the Kalat Assembly spoke in clear terms about the justification for an independent Balochistan was Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, who later became a leader of the National Awami Party and also the Governor of Balochistan for a short period.

Bizenjos speech of December 14, 1947, in the Kalat Assembly is noteworthy for the ample warnings that it conveyed to the Pakistani state:

"We have a distinct civilization and a separate culture like that of Iran and Afghanistan. We are Muslims but it is not necessary that by virtue of being Muslims we should lose our freedom and merge with others. If the mere fact that we are Muslims requires us to join Pakistan then Afghanistan and Iran, both Muslim countries, should also amalgamate with Pakistan. We were never a part of India before the British rule. Pakistan’s unpleasant and loathsome desire that our national homeland, Balochistan should merge with it is impossible to consider. We are ready to have friendship with that country on the basis of sovereign equality but by no means ready to merge with Pakistan. We can survive without Pakistan. But the question is what Pakistan would be without us? I do not propose to create hurdles for the newly created Pakistan in the matters of defense and external communication. But we want an honorable relationship not a humiliating one. If Pakistan wants to treat us as a sovereign people, we are ready to extend the hand of friendship and cooperation. If Pakistan does not agree to do so, flying in the face of democratic principles, such an attitude will be totally unacceptable to us, and if we are forced to accept this fate then every Baloch son will sacrifice his life in defense of his national freedom."(Italics by the author)3

On January 4, 1948 the Upper House comprising Sardars discussed the question of a merger with Pakistan and declared This House is not willing to accept a merger with Pakistan which will endanger the separate existence of the Baloch nation.

What was the position of the Muslim League on this issue? The League had, in fact, signed a joint statement with Kalat and repeated the declaration two or three times that the League recognized that Kalat was not an Indian state and constituted an independent entity and the League would recognize and respect this independence. In fact, as late as August 11, 1947 a joint statement was signed in which the League leaders, now as the government of Pakistan,again recognize the independence of Kalat. The operative portions of the communiqué dated August 11, 1947 is worth quoting from:

As a result of a meeting held between a delegation from Kalat and officials of the Pakistan States Department, presided over by the Crown Representative, and a series of meetings between the Crown Representative, HH the Khan of Kalat, and Mr Jinnah, the following was the situation:

  1. The Government of Pakistan recognizes Kalat as an independent sovereign state; in treaty relations with British government, with a status different from that of Indian states.
  2. Legal opinion will be sought as to whether or not agreements of leases made between the British government and Kalat will be inherited by the Pakistan government.

Hence, by 1948 there was a situation where Khan of Kalat had declared independence, both houses of the Kalat Assembly had endorsed this decision and rejected accession with Pakistan, the Muslim League had acknowledged the independence of Kalat as late as in August 1947. Despite all this, and despite the close personal relations that Jinnah had with the Khan of Kalat and despite the Khan having made large financial contributions to the Muslim League, On April 1, 1948 the Pakistan Army invaded Kalat. The Khan surrendered and accepted the merger by signing the instrument of accession and ended the 225 days independence of the Kalat confederacy formed by Mir Ahmad Khans ancestors almost 300 years earlier.

Why this sudden turn-around? It was British advice that led to the forcible accession of Kalat to Pakistan in 1948. Initially, the British favored honoring their commitments under the 1876 treaty regarding Kalat’s independence based upon the prospects of using an independent Balochistan as a base for their activities in the region. Maj. Gen. R C Money in charge of strategic planning in India had formulated a report in 1944 on the post-war scenario. According to this report, in case of any eventual transfer of power, Balochistan, since it was not formally a part of India, could serve as a strategic military base for the defense of the Persian Gulf. However, by 1946 when it was decided to partition India, the British felt that instead of locating a base in a weak Balochistan, such a base could be established in Pakistan which was more than willing to accommodate the British. Hence, it was in British interests to ensure that Balochistan was kept within Pakistan and did not become an independent entity.

Not surprisingly therefore, Secretary of State Lord Listowell advised Mountbatten in September 1947 that because of the location of Kalat, it would be too dangerous and risky to allow it to be independent. The British High Commissioner in Pakistan was accordingly asked to do what he can to guide the Pakistan government away from making any agreement with Kalat which would involve recognition of the state as a separate international entity. The British were keen to use Balochistan (which they did from 1949) against the new nationalistic government of Prime Minister Mossadegh that came into being in Iran and which had nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. It was then that the British bases in Western Balochistan started acting against Eastern Iran.4 Replace the British with the US and the government of Mossadegh with Ahmadinejad and the chilling similarity will not escape anyone's attention.

After the departure of the British, Pakistan adopted the same imperial tactic of divide and rule, of false promises and deception and made it an inalienable part of Pakistan.5 By 1952, the princely states were united to form the Balochistan States Union (BSU). Later the BSU became part of the then West Pakistan as the Kalat Division in 1955. Under the one unit scheme started in 1955, in the face of rising assertion of Bengalis in East Pakistan, the British Balochistan along with the tribal agencies became part of West Pakistan as the Quetta Division in the same year. With the abolition of the One Unit plan on 1 July 1970, the combined divisions of Quetta and Kalat came together as the separate province of Balochistan. The one unit plan sought to subsume all ethno-national aspirations in West Pakistan, but in reality, strengthened the ethno-nationalist sentiments further.

The Indian Position

As soon as the possibility of the British leaving India became apparent, the Khan of Kalat (as most of Balochistan was then known) Mir Ahmed Yar Khan made it clear that he sought independence. His arguments were based on the fact that Kalat had a status different than the 560-odd Indian princely states. It was in direct treaty relations with Whitehall and the 1876 treaty had affirmed that the British would respect the sovereignty and independence of Kalat.

Not only Khan, but the goal of the Kalat State National Party, made up largely of educated and left leaning Baloch, was also an independent and unified Balochistan. As a necessary prelude to independence, the party demanded that the British restore the Baloch principalities of Kharan, Makran and Las Bela to Kalat.

The Khan had argued before the Cabinet Mission in March 1946 that since the Empire was being withdrawn those other areas that the British had taken away from the original Kalat state should be returned to Kalat. The Khan followed this up by sending Samad Khan (a member of the AICC) to plead Kalats case with the Congress leadership. Nehru, however, totally rejected this contention and stated that the Congress would not accept on any account any attempt to bring about such a deal. Presumably, this was due to the Congresss antipathy to the princely states without, however, making a distinction between the state of affairs in Kalat and the other princely states. Subsequently, Ghaus Bux Bizenjo, President of the Kalat State National Party went to Delhi and met Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, President of the Congress. Azad agreed with Bizenjos contention that Balochistan had never been a part of India and had its own independent
status governed by the Treaty of 1876. However, Azad argued that the Baloch would never be able to survive as a sovereign, independent state and would ask for British protection. If the British agreed and remained in Balochistan, the sovereignty of the sub-continent would become meaningless. Hence, though Azad admitted that the demands of the Baloch were genuine that Balochistan had never been part of India, yet he could not help in maintaining Kalats independence.

A third blow to Kalat was the AIR broadcast of March 27, 1948 that reported a press conference in Delhi addressed by V P Menon. According to the report, V P Menon stated that the Khan of Kalat had been pressing India for agreeing to Kalats accession to India instead of Pakistan and that India had not paid any attention to the suggestion and India had nothing to do with it. The Khan who had the habit of listening to the 9 o clock AIR news was extremely upset at the dismissive manner in which he had been treated and is reported to have informed Jinnah to begin negotiations for Kalats treaty relationship with Pakistan.

Significantly, the minutes of a Cabinet meeting held on March 29, 1948 as well as Nehrus reply to a question on March 30, 1948 in the Constituent Assembly19, state that V P Menon had, in fact, made no such comments and that there was an error in reporting by AIR. Despite this attempt at damage control, the damage had already been done.

End Notes

1- For details see Baren Ray, Balochistan and the Partition of India: The Forgotten Story, Occasional Paper, South Asian Centre for Strategic Studies, New Delhi, 1998

2- One can find a detailed discussion on this from the Khans autobiography. Mir Ahmad Yar Khan Baluch, Inside Baluchistan: A Political Autobiography of His Highness Baigi: Khan-e-Azam-XIII, Karachi, 1975

3- For details see Khan of Kalats autobiography cited in end note no 10.

4- Cited in Inayatullah Baloch, The Problem of Greater Balochistan: A Study of Baloch Nationalism, Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden GMBH, Stuttgart, for South Asian Institute, University of Heidelberg, 1987.

5- For detailed discussion see Baren Ray, op. cit.

6- For further discussion on the way the princely states were absorbed into the Pakistani dominion see W.A. Wilcox, Pakistan: The Consolidation of a Nation, Columbia University Press, New York and London, 1963.


Jawwad Baloch said...

a very fine article!! But one question which usually arises in my mind is why thier wasn't any armed struggle for independence througout Balochistan, and why did Mir ghuas baksh Bizenjo became Balochistan's governor, which actually serves the central government, why is thier no voice by the Khan of Kalats who came after Ahmed yar Khan?? These questions make me realy doubful of our leaders intentions!!

Salma Jafar said...

can anyone share a map of the Kalat State Pre-1948?