The taming of Kalat
A fascinating study of a sub-nationalism in which tragedy and farce are closely intertwined.
KALAT was Pakistan’s Hyderabad. Both princely states refused to accede to the Union of the country to which they properly belonged. Both received Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s legal advice that on the lapse of British paramountcy on August 15, 1947, they become independent sovereign states. There were standstill agreements in both cases. Hyderabad had to be brought into the Indian Union by armed action on September 13, 1948.
The British were dismayed at Jinnah’s legal advice to Kalat. It was never independent, nor was Hyderabad. The Khan of Kalat acceded to Pakistan only on March 20, 1948, when his intrigues with New Delhi and Kabul were exposed. However, in mid-July the Khan’s brother returned from Afghanistan where he had fled with a lashkar (army). Pakistan’s army had to engage them. Unfortunately, successive governments neglected Balochistan and its sensitive part, Kalat, fuelling Baloch nationalism.
The book is an excellently researched study of that early phase until 1955. Policies pursued thereafter were no wiser, especially by Z.A. Bhutto and Zia-ul-Haq. The author is a German political scientist who did laborious field work in Sindh, the North West Frontier Province and the Iran-Pakistan transborder region of Balochistan. He is currently engaged in research on the evolution of Baloch nationalism and the role of the province’s rich natural resources as cause and target of the current conflict in the region. President Asif Ali Zardari, significantly, remarked that Balochistan has the first claim on its resources.
The Baloch ethnic identity’s “transformation” to Baloch national identity is an arresting phrase. It can be used for upsurge in any region. The pioneer in the field was Innayatullah Baloch’s book The Problem of Greater Balochistan: A Study of Baloch Nationalism (1987) published in Germany. The author had worked at the University of Heidelberg. The Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, also wrote his memoirs, Inside Baluchistan, which were published in 1975. Once the States of Kharan, Makran and Las Bolo acceded to Pakistan, his territory was diminished. The ones he considered to be his feudatories acted independently. Worse, he lost the precious seaboard.
The author holds that the roots of the present crisis lie in the period from 1930 to 1955 and portrays the evolution of Baloch national identity as a reaction to the territorial, political and cultural inclusion on the part of the All India Muslim League and the Pakistan movement. He argues that the birth of the Baloch nation was a consequence of the birth of the state of Pakistan in August 1947 and a result of the annexation of the Baloch proto-state of Kalat by that new state in March 1948. “Annexation” is surely a wrong word to use. It reveals the author’s approach, if not, indeed, his pro-Baloch bias.
There was nothing inevitable about the troubles that arose. They were the result of bad policies. The author has delved into the archives of Balochistan extensively. The narrative is written in a lucid style.
In March 1952, the government of Pakistan announced the merger of Kalat and the other three States in a “Balochistan States Union”. After a promising start, the Union was dissolved and all four States were merged with Pakistan. Their rulers were pensioned off.
Unlike the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Khan of Kalat tried desperately to revive his demand for independence. He failed miserably but served as Governor of Balochistan from 1974 until his death in 1977.
Pakistan used high-handed methods most of the time to quell unrest in Balochistan. But the Khan had ceased to be a symbol of popular aspirations. On June 24, 1963, Nawab Khair Bukhsh Narri complained on the floor of the National Assembly of Pakistan that “people working for the Khan of Kalat had gone to the gallows while the Khan himself had returned, was forgiven and had become a patriot”. This is a fascinating study of sub-nationalism in which tragedy and farce were closely intertwined.