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The 5th Baloch war
February 02, 2006
The story of Baloch animosity towards Pakistan and their fear of Punjabi domination is as old as Pakistan. And Pakistan's neglect of Balochistan is also as consistent and old.
Unremitting Punjabi arrogance has kept the Baloch backward and poor. The situation in Balochistan, festering for more than a year and half, took a sharp turn for the worse after General Pervez Musharraf's visit to Kohlu on December 14.
Led to believe by his admirers that he was a 21st century Metternich, Musharraf imagined he could sow distrust between the Marris and Bijaranis (another Baloch tribe who have been at war with the Bugtis in the past). Not only that this did not happen, the angered Baloch rebels fired eight rockets at targets close to Musharraf forcing him to leave hurriedly.
Livid at the temerity of the Baloch, Musharraf ordered a vicious military campaign against the Marris in Kohlu. This quickly spread to the Dera Bugti area which has now been under siege for four weeks. Not only that, the helicopter carrying the director general and inspector general of the Frontier Constabulary was fired at and the two military officers narrowly escaped with injuries.
Since then, virtually every day there have been reports of fighting, bomb attacks, mine explosions or gas pipelines destroyed by Baloch nationalists. About 15,000 Pakistan troops have been deployed so far, although the Baloch allege that there are 60,000 troops with military 600 checkpoints.
At one stage, 21 Pakistan Air Force aircraft, 19 military helicopter gun ships and artillery guns have been used to terrorise the Baloch. There has been heavy bombing and strafing in the Dera Bugti area with large numbers of innocent women, children and the old killed –- the young men having taken to the hills.
The 25,000 strong population of Dera Bugti is threatened with artillery and aerial bombings. In addition, about 2,000 people have disappeared, and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is particularly concerned about this. Roads to the Punjab and Sindh have been blocked.
It is important to remember that whatever the provocation for India, in Jammu and Kashmir or in the Northeast, Indian authorities have never used air power or helicopter gun ships against their own people. Messrs Mirwaiz and others please note.
The Baloch always saw themselves as distinct from India and from Pakistan. The Khan of Kalat had demanded in 1946 that the areas taken away from Kalat by the British be returned to Kalat. The Khan himself visited Delhi but to no avail.
The fiery, young and Aligarh-educated Baloch leader Ghaus Bux Bizenjo and the leader of the Kalat State National Party came on a similar mission to Delhi along with Khan Abdus Samad Khan, often referred to as the Baloch Gandhi, to plead the case with Nehru, met Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad but there was no joy for them.
They wanted to draw attention to the fact that their state was different and wanted to be treated on par with Nepal. Unfortunately, the new rulers in New Delhi were too engrossed with Kashmir and Hyderabad to see the strategic significance of a sovereign Balochistan.
A communique of August 11, 1947 between delegation of the Khan of Kalat and officials of the Pakistan States Department (Jinnah and the Khan were present) said that the government of Pakistan recognised Kalat as an independent sovereign state with a status different from that of Indian states. This is despite the fact that Jinnah and the Khan were said to be personal friends.
But as pressure on Kalat to accede to Pakistan mounted and martial law was declared in British Balochistan, Bizenjo, then 29 years old, made his famous speech on December 14, 1947: '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 not ready to merge with Pakistan. We can survive without Pakistan. But the question is can Pakistan survive without us? We want a honourable relationship not a humiliating one. If Pakistan does not agree to do so and if we are forced to accept this fate then every Baloch son will sacrifice his life in defence of his national freedom.'
In reply to a question in the Constituent Assembly in Delhi on March 30, 1948, Jawaharlal Nehru said the Khan of Kalat had informed India that the government of Pakistan had recognised Kalat as an independent sovereign State and wanted the Government of India to make a similar declaration.
The Baloch also sought permission to establish a trade agency of the State in Delhi. Informally, the representative of Kalat State was informed that these requests could not be considered then. Just two days earlier,on March 28, the Khan of Kalat had acceded to Pakistan.
The story told is that V P Menon, in charge of the Ministry of States, in a casual remark at a press conference on March 27 said that the Khan of Kalat had been pressing for acceding to India but India had said no. This was reported on All India Radio that evening. The Khan was an avid listener of AIR news. Angry and hurt, the story goes, the Khan rang Jinnah the next morning and agreed to accede to Pakistan. The Baloch standoff had vanished.
And so it came to pass that, ignored by every one, the Baloch fought long and lonely battles. Ghauz Bux Bizenjo fought hard sometimes together sometimes separately with Khair Bux Marri, Sardar Atuallah Khan Mengal and Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, Sher Mohd Marri.
Bizenjo died many years later, forlorn and angry for he had been let down by his friends in India. The entire game played by Linlithgow, Wavell and Mountbatten in New Delhi, Bevin and Attlee in London, Noel Baker in New York and Strafford Cripps shuttling between Delhi and London was to create Pakistan under a smokescreen.
It was not necessarily anti-Indian in intent but was merely pro-Empire to keep the Russian Bear from descending down the Hindu Kush and to keep the oil lanes from the Persian Gulf under British, later American, control. These were the compulsions of Empire for there were many who believed that the sun would never set on it.
The innuendo, the nuance and the double speak was largely lost on the naïve Indian leadership of the day as it was cajoled and persuaded into accepting a course of action that suited British interests but was made to appear to be the result of Indian decisions. All this would make our scheming ladies of the television soap operas look like amateurs.
Originally, the British had toyed with the idea of having an arrangement where Balochistan would be politically separated from the subcontinent but this was shelved as Pakistan became a reality in their scheme.
A secret letter in September from Whitehall to the British high commissioner advised the Pakistan government not to recognise the Khanate as independent sovereign entity as this would weaken British imperial interests in the Gulf. It was naturally better to have the cake consisting of the North West Frontier Province rather than just the slice of Balochistan.
Narinder Singh Sarila in his book The Untold Truth of Partition -- Under the Shadow of the Great Game and C Dasgupta in his book War and Diplomacy describe how India ended up with the short end of the bargain in Kashmir. Both Sarila and Dasgupta have based their books on British documents.
It is a coincidence that the current onslaught in Balochistan by the Pakistan army began on December 16 the day the Pakistan army surrendered in Dhaka 34 years ago. It is a coincidence that Pakistan was at that time also ruled by a junta although less disguised as today.
The Baloch freedom fighters are today being described as 'miscreants' just like the Mukti Bahini were in East Pakistan. Pakistanis, worried at what is happening today, describe the events as the escalation of the Fifth Baloch war.
Maybe General Musharraf and his advisers should read Dr Abul Maali Syed's book The Twin era of Pakistan: Democracy and Dictatorship. Written in 1992, the book predicts an independent Balochistan in 2006.
Dr Syed begins his book by saying 'Who would have believed that Balochistan, once the least populated and poorest province of Pakistan, would become independent and the third richest oil-producing country after Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.'
This may not be a serious venture, but it should be nevertheless worrying especially if one reads it along with the US National Intelligence Committee that spoke of Pakistan as a failed State in 2015.
Vikram Sood is a former chief of the Research & Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency