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A leaf from history: Reclaiming Balochistan, peacefully

Published Oct 05, 2014 07:08am


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In May, 1978, Gen Zia took up the issue and began vetting information to paint a more accurate picture of Balochistan’s realities. — Courtesy photo
In May, 1978, Gen Zia took up the issue and began vetting information to paint a more accurate picture of Balochistan’s realities. — Courtesy photo

General Ziaul Haq knew about dynamics in Balochistan well — after all, his counsel as head of the army was sought by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto when he began a military operation in the province. But after assuming power, Gen Zia wanted to gain support and legitimacy from Balochistan. Bhutto, despite having been deposed, had advised Gen Zia in Murree not to withdraw the army from Balochistan. But now, in the midst of a power struggle, the situation posed a challenge to Zia; he wanted to bring an end to the Balochistan unrest.

Gen Zia had been speaking about Balochistan, and had expressed hope that with some objective measures, the issue could be justifiably addressed. The Hyderabad Tribunal, in which some Baloch leaders had also been implicated, had already been wound up. After meeting certain leaders in Abbottabad, on May 3, 1978, Gen Zia intended to take up the Balochistan issue. Without moving to Balochistan, Gen Zia summoned Baloch leaders to Rawalpindi.

On May 8, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo met with the Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA). In his meeting, Bizenjo narrated the political and social problems of the province. He complained of a long military operation that had inflicted a heavy cost of human life and property in Balochistan. Sardar Khair Bakhsh Marri could not meet Gen Zia owing to his sickness, while Sardar Attaullah Mengal was away. Bizenjo told the General that forming a national government at the Centre immediately was not the solution; instead, he argued, an elected government to be put in place after holding general elections. He also opposed accountability as it would only be cosmetic.

General Zia seeks to undo Bhutto’s Balochistan policy. But is it already too little too late?

The grim history of Balochistan is not simply spread over a decade or so. In its present context, it can be traced back to Aug 11, 1947, when the Khan of Kalat, Ahmad Yar Khan, declared Kalat’s independent status. Three days later, when Pakistan emerged as a sovereign state, the government asked Mir Ahmad Yar Khan to join Pakistan.

Khan did what was asked of him but not in a cordial atmosphere: Ahmad Yar Khan signed the instrument of accession only after some army contingents were sent to the Khan. His brother, Prince Abdul Karim Khan, did not agree with what had happened.

After announcing accession to Pakistan, the Khan of Kalat wound up his party, the Kalat State National Party, and joined the Muslim League. On his insistence, Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo and Mir Ajmal Khan joined the Muslim League, hoping that through this forum, they could raise the voice of the Baloch. However, soon after, they felt their move was unsuccessful and quit the Muslim League.

In May, 1978, Gen Zia took up the issue and began vetting information to paint a more accurate picture of Balochistan’s realities. Those he met all argued that Balochistan’s issues were not merely political, but also social, financial and developmental.

After failing to achieve positive results, Ahmad Yar Khan launched a resistance movement on May 16, 1948. When Ayub Khan took over as military ruler in 1958, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo and Gul Khan Nasir were arrested along with a large number of nationalist activists.

Under the yoke of General Ayub’s One Unit too, the province suffered. It was denied its share in jobs, in revenue, and in income from natural resources with no development taking place at all. The Baloch leaders and activists were imprisoned at Quli jail, notorious for torture. Many leaders were maimed. Later, Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Khair Bakhsh Mari and Nawab Akbar Bugti joined the political struggle.

Ironically, every party that came to power branded the Baloch people as seditious, when in reality, the Baloch had genuine complainants of being denied their legitimate rights. Similarly, natural resources were exploited in the name of unity.

Then came the Bhutto government. It was expected that the PPP’s progressive manifesto and liberal outlook would lend itself to Bhutto finally resolving the longstanding issues of Balochistan and its people.

Instead, Bhutto’s tenure also proved to be nightmarish for Balochistan.

It began with the formation of a coalition provincial government formed by the National Awami Party (NAP), the PPP, and some nationalists on May, 1, 1972. With Attaullah Mengal installed as chief minister, the provincial government embarked upon a number of development projects, but since it was a non-PPP government, Bhutto did not feel easy.

The premier thus dismissed the NAP government, and arrested its leaders and 55 activists on trumped up charges of conspiracy. Those arrested included two chief ministers, two governors and 44 members of the national and provincial assemblies. They included Attaullah Mengal, Abdus Samad Achakzai, Nabi Bakhsh Zehri, Jam of Lasbela, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Khair Bakhsh Marri, Gul Khan Nasir and poet Habib Jalib.

Bhutto then sent in the army to Balochistan in an attempt to search for activists of the “Baloch Liberation Army”. The action was taken under the supervision of General Tikka Khan. To give legitimacy to his action, Bhutto obtained an order from the Supreme Court to ban the NAP. Three divisions of the army had been deployed to ‘crush the insurgency’ and restore normalcy; the Baloch resistance was in fact declared as part of the long-trumpeted London Plan aimed at dismembering Pakistan and finally leading to the creation of Greater Balochistan, by carving out a part from Irani Balochistan, Afghanistan and Pakistani Balochistan.

This did not work either. On the contrary, the presence of the army created a sense of subjugation. Bhutto’s policy vis-à-vis Balochistan was quite harmful to established political norms. To resist the atrocities, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri formed the Balochistan People’s Liberation Army, which led many Baloch men into guerrilla war.

In May, 1978, Gen Zia took up the issue and began vetting information to paint a more accurate picture of Balochistan’s realities. Those he met all argued that Balochistan’s issues were not merely political, but also social, financial and developmental. The Baloch had been raising their voice through a meek press, but the press had been gagged and no accurate information was coming out from the province. Gen Zia stopped the army operation and embarked on a plan of economic growth.

Nonetheless, the resentment had sunk so deep that people did not believe any word uttered by any ruler that rose to power. Gen Zia, after studying the situation, disbanded the Hyderabad Tribunal, stopped military operation and announced a general amnesty to all those who had taken up arms against the government. Punishments handed down to some activists were withdrawn, and a situation created in which both parties could resolve outstanding issues.

Conservative estimates suggest that while the armed forces suffered loss of life of upto 3,300 men, Baloch activists lost 5,300 fighters. The gravest cost was to the civilians, who were affected in a different manner and needed much healing. The unrest needed to end.

Next week: Greater Balochistan, myth & reality

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 5th, 2014


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Comments (49) Closed

Abdul Oct 08, 2014 01:07pm

Bhutto's policies in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and Balochistan........what a legacy......but Kashmir still is the jugular vein.

KRana Oct 08, 2014 01:16pm

Genocide by Pak army in Blochistan and they cry about Kashmir

zeek Oct 08, 2014 01:57pm

Bhutto wasn't jealous, he knew NAP had afghan support and wanted to secede from Pakistan, Bhutto saved Baluchistan.

Rashid Sultan Oct 08, 2014 02:17pm

Not very nice when we fight, kill and damage one another. Peace within & without alone will improve our lot and reduce suffering.

anshul Oct 08, 2014 02:26pm

this country lives on history days back somewhere 1947 politically and 1400 years religiously no understanding of present no aspiration for future. good luck enjoy.

Muslim Bortherhood Oct 08, 2014 02:36pm

I would like to appreciate Pakistani media at-least they show the problems of Balochistan , show what you had done wrong in the past and what is the way forward , you even interview and show the news Baloch separatists , unlike India where the media is controlled by govt. or i should say the bjp govt. they never show the news of kashmir and what problems Kashmiris are facing and about the oppression they are facing , similarly they never show the problems of north eastern parts or India, and again the new rising Khalistan movement the resurgence of it there, they never ever shows the point of view of the separatists , Pakistani media is way better than Indian media and have full freedom or i should say Pakistan has true freedom of speech rather than India, and yea i am not a Pakistani, but know the importance of Pakistan for the Islamic world.

Sher khan Oct 08, 2014 02:59pm

One sided article with nefarious designs...

Ramesh Manghirmalani Oct 08, 2014 03:00pm

General Zia looks like a head waiter

jj Oct 08, 2014 03:18pm

Baluchistan is not part of Pakistan it was taken over by Pakistan in 1948. We talk about liberating Kashmir, why not liberate Baluchistan. Let there be referendum and see what happens.

beesh Oct 08, 2014 03:38pm

@Muslim Bortherhood

Any news about POK floods what the people are doing,No news all they brag about Kashmir beyond loc.

Rahmat Oct 08, 2014 04:02pm

@Muslim Bortherhood
Certainly you know very little and care less about facts. You are simply interested in canards of Muslim brotherhood and it's ill advised denigration of anything that is non-Muslim. Why not lift blinders and learn ground realities outside the narrow confines of your Muslim brotherhood world. There is abundance of truths out there waiting to liberate you.

Nameless Oct 08, 2014 04:15pm

@Muslim Bortherhood What is India got to do with this article.

Sunil Oct 08, 2014 04:21pm

According to history, no one can deny, Baluchistan was taken by force by West Pakistan.

Jatin Oct 08, 2014 04:22pm

@Muslim Bortherhood No Pakistani media reported the presence of Osama in the Abotabad....

Malik Oct 08, 2014 04:22pm

@jj Yes, agree with you. All the states and territories annexed forcefully after partition should be restored like, Balochistan in Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir, Hyderabad, Junagarh and Manawader in India.

Jatin Oct 08, 2014 04:23pm

@Muslim Bortherhood There is no mention of 'India' in the entire article but you are writing about 'India'.......... Every discussion/policy in Pakistan is India centric instead of development centric..

joe Oct 08, 2014 04:37pm

Pakistan now in big mess because of General Zia supporter of Afghan Thugs. Zia ruins Pakistan and got killed in plane crash

joe Oct 08, 2014 04:40pm

to all Pakistani's fix your country first before telling others and pointing fingers to others and blaming others for your backwardness and sufferings.

DMDiL Oct 08, 2014 04:50pm

@KRana Wrong!, Genocide by India in Kashmir and still have time post a comment.

Shahid Oct 08, 2014 05:02pm

Allah willing, one day Balochistan would be an independent country!

Shahid Oct 08, 2014 05:03pm

@Nameless Pakistan was created from India. India should also intervene in the just freedom struggle of Baloch people. In fact, India has the responsibility of helping this struggle.

saima Oct 08, 2014 05:03pm

The bitter truth of the hour is that the Baloch people are never considered human beings in this country. They are bullet riddled, massacred and bombarded but who damn cares it is pakistan...........For Baloch, I feel it is only a one way ahead and they have to do it themselves.

P.Mishra Oct 08, 2014 05:11pm

@Muslim Bortherhood my friend if you are not a Pakistani. then you can not understand the problem of Pakistan either? By the way why you drag India into this issue? We have survived as secular democracy and getting stronger every day.

Md Imran Oct 08, 2014 05:38pm

Balochistan was always a part of Islamic south asia which later became Pakistan. So Baloch, Kashmir, UP,WB, East Pakistan were always in the original plan for Pakistan and there are no two qualms about it. Our politicians have thrown away a great cause despite gallant efforts by our military. Inshallah, hopefully the future generation will fullfill the dream of completing Pakistan.

NORI Oct 08, 2014 06:07pm

The rulers of both Kashmir and Balochistan signed the instrument of accession to join India and Pakistan resp'ly. While Pakistanis had no problem with Balochistan even though the above article shows how 'willingly' Baloch leaders signed it, they refuse to accept the Kashmir's decision to join India. Should I call this Double Standards ??

Khan De Khan Oct 08, 2014 06:13pm

@KRana Oh Indians, clearly unemployment is an issue in your nation. You're favorite pass time, hating on Pakistan. Do continue...

usman786 Oct 08, 2014 06:16pm

@Ramesh Manghirmalani this dress is used in British and indian army too. The main fitna for muslims is lust for money (power). If so many indian and american states can live together, why can not Balochs in Balochistan who are not the majority. I know their sardars have been promised to be made governors of their present districts. Someone should bring them in main stream and tell poor tribemen that their miseries are because sardars are taking royalties and no trickle down effect.

In India, they also forced many states to acced to in 1947-8 which includes Hyderabad and Junaghar.

Muslim Brotherhood Oct 08, 2014 06:32pm

@Shahid you have your views but tribal ppl simply can not live in a independent country the only way forward is to be with pakistan and inshaALLAH it will happen , give them freedom next day they start fighting with other tribes to gain control over the newly form state, take the example of libya, south sudan and many other african and cenral asian countries this is how the mentality of tribals works, they need to understand this but insha ALLAH kashmir will get its independence,

Muslim Brotherhood Oct 08, 2014 06:36pm

@Rahmat applies to you as well , i have seen Indian youth most of them are ignorant, arrogant, hypocrites have a tendency to think them selves as superior to others, over confident and very abusive you ppl first need to change yourself. You people see only one side of the coin and you ppl are good in creating gimmicks.

Abdul Hakim Oct 08, 2014 07:08pm

'In its present context, it can be traced back to Aug 11, 1947, when the Khan of Kalat, Ahmad Yar Khan, declared Kalat’s independent status. Three days later, when Pakistan emerged as a sovereign state, the government asked Mir Ahmad Yar Khan to join Pakistan.' Kalat was one princely state out of 4 in Balochistan. The other three were Kharan, Las Bala and Makran all of which willingly acceded to Pakistan. Furthermore, the commissionaire's province of Balochistan also agreed to accede to Pakistan. The Khan of Kalat originally vacillated on joining Pakistan but did so on March 27, 1948 whereas troops did not enter Kalat state until July 1948 when Abdul Karim challegned the Khan for his post.

Muneeb Oct 08, 2014 07:08pm

@KRana, i am from Balochistan and what your army does in IoK would make Balochistan seem like heaven on earth.

rahul1 Oct 08, 2014 07:09pm

@Md Imran Religion cant bind a country together. Respect for humanity and secularism can

Anis Adul Oct 08, 2014 07:35pm

@anshul :: Well said. Accurate observation on your part. Kudos!

Umar Oct 08, 2014 08:31pm


msm Oct 08, 2014 08:47pm

@Ramesh Manghirmalani Not a civilized comment for anyone and it's strange that the moderator has included such a comment on someone's personality.

Though, personally my chemistry never matched with General Zia's.

msm Oct 08, 2014 08:54pm

@Sher khan The writer appears to have given a precise account, neutral and impartial.

Not restraining from self-criticism and avoiding blaming others.

Guru Oct 08, 2014 10:14pm

@Shahid yes

Guru Oct 08, 2014 10:14pm

@Shahid totally agree

Guru Oct 08, 2014 10:17pm

@Muneeb acha...tu bahut duniya dekha hai re...kabhi aya kya Kashmir me?

pathanoo Oct 08, 2014 10:40pm

@zeek Really? Saved Balochistan for who? It is like a doctor performing surgery, botches it completely and the patient goes comatose for the remainder of his life but the doctor claims success saying he saved the life of the patient. WHAT A GREAT LOGIC?

PShailendra Oct 08, 2014 11:16pm

@zeek: So Indian's can save India saved Kashmir from pakistanis?

Lucky Star Oct 08, 2014 11:32pm

Baluchistan is an internal affair of Pakistan while Kashmir is not internal afair of India as India agreed in 1948 in SC of UN.

Hasnain Oct 08, 2014 11:44pm

All Blochistan wants is, it's due share (it will work even if less than due). But THEY refuse because their vote bank is located in more populated provinces.

Akram Oct 08, 2014 11:46pm

@Nameless "What has India got to do with this article". 80% of the readers of this article are Indian.

Lucky Star Oct 08, 2014 11:54pm

Who says Khan of Kalat is legit Khan of Kalat. His great, great father removed the Legit Raja of Baluchistan while serving as a his Commander In-chief.

Mohammad Baig Oct 09, 2014 12:52am

If the allocated budgets were spent for the development of the Baluchistan people they would have the living standard equal to the Kuwait. But all these funds had gone to the Mirs and the Lords of the Baluchistan so as to keep the people the beggars. Should we ask the baluchi leaders to say some thing?

Lalu Oct 09, 2014 04:13am

Pak Army needs to kick out all Indian backed terrorists from Balochistan.

hugo Oct 09, 2014 07:27am

@Mohammad Baig give it rest and stop this nonsensical argument, it belongs in a secondary school. If for the past 67 odd years you could not control the mirs then get out of the way and let others do it

Anwar Amjad Oct 09, 2014 10:29am

The case of Kalat state is always projected to represent the whole of Balochistan province. In fact Kalat is a relatively small landlocked arid area within the province of Balochistan having a total population of a few hundred thousand people. The existing province of Balochistan was formed by merging the four princely states of Kalat, Kharan, Makran and Las Bela with the Chief Commissioner`s province commonly called as the British Balochistan. The port city of Gwadar which Pakistan bought from Oman was also added to it. I hope the author also discusses on what basis the other three princely states and the mainly Pashtun province of British Balochistan became part of Pakistan.