ACCESSION OR OCCUPATION?

Facts clearly fuel Azizullah’s argument. They also provide ammo to the people who talk about separation of Balochistan from the federation of Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran and forming a new republic. After all, what have the Baloch achieved after they joined Pakistan in 1948? My young friend seized the opportunity to answer this question.

“My brother, please do not buy this notion that we joined Pakistan in 1948. Historically we never were part of British India. Our ruler, the Khan of Kalat, signed several treaties with the British that recognized his sovereignty in exchange of British protection. However, we stayed as a sovereign state outside India,” the medical student touched history once again and the conversation started to flow in that direction.

Dr. Naseer Dashti is a respected Baloch scholar and activist who holds a PhD. on Baloch health-seeking behavior from the University of Greenwich. His two recently published books, ‘The Voice of Reason’ and ‘In a Baloch Perspective’ have been banned by Pakistani authorities. According to the Baloch nationalist, both British and Pakistanis accepted the sovereignty of Kalat state in a June 1947 partition plan. However, the British did not consult the Khan of Kalat over the transfer of leased Balochistan lands under British control. Consequently, British and Pakistani authorities held a controversial referendum in which their favored members took part and declared Balochistan as part of Pakistan.

Baloch Liberation Army fighters posing with their weapons. (Photo: Balochvoice.com)

Just before the creation of Pakistan, State of Kalat declared its independence on 12 August, 1947. However, this announcement was not welcomed by the new rulers of Pakistan and they started to force the Khan of Kalat to join the newly born Islamic republic. After their political advances were refused, Pakistani army marched into the Kalat territory on 26 March 1948 and forced the Khan to surrender his territory. The Khan of Kalat, though having no constitutional powers, agreed to sign the instrument of accession with Pakistan.

“History is not what you read in textbooks Mr. Khawaja,” Azizullah bounced back while I was reading his notes about Baloch history. “The accounts in Pakistani textbooks are all a peaceful and rosy affair when it comes to Balochistan,” he said with a sarcastic smile. “Reality is completely different.”

FRUSTRATION FUELS INSURGENCY

The journey was about to end as I was 5,500 feet above the sea level and entering Quetta valley. The views of the capital from surrounding mountains are just spectacular. It seems like you’re about to enter some saucer that is illuminated by glitter. I bid farewell to my friend and thanked him for such a productive discussion at the bus station. Finding out that I’m a football fan and came here just to watch the clash between Pakistan and India, he promised to join me in the stadium next day.

Spectacular night time view of Quetta from surrounding mountain top. (Photo: Panoramio.com)

That evening I ventured into town and got a glimpse of the metropolis. I was struck by the level of cleanliness in the city. Unlike other Pakistani cities, I found Quetta remarkably clean and tidy. I returned to my hotel and turned on the TV. While flicking through the channels, I found a lively debate going on the TV. The participants were discussing the military operation waged by Pakistani army in Balochistan and some hot words were exchanged in due course.

“The Sardars don’t like Gen. Musharraf’s pro-development policies and have taken up arms to destroy the project. They can’t see the profound impact of these development projects on Balochistan’s economy and fear losing their influence,” shouted one ex-military analyst. The nationalists opposing military presence in Balochistan and so-called ‘mega development projects‘ see it as part of colonizing their land.

“Who are you to give us anything? You give power to these sardars, you give them the government and when these very people don’t play according to your game plan you try to get rid of them,” yelled one Baloch activist in the discussion panel. “We don’t want you, your puppet Sardars (tribal leaders), your mega projects. Nothing. Leave our land and go back to the plains of Punjab,” the diatribe continued. The moderator, sensing the boiling tempers, called for a quick break. The program did not start again for a good 20 minutes. And when it did start, the compere apologized for lack of time and thanked his participants and called it a day.