Partition of Balochistan

Partition of Balochistan

Baluch nationalism, since its birth, has faced the problem of “international” frontiers which divide the Baluch among countries – Pakistan, Iran/and Afghanistan. The genesis of the problem pre-dates the Perso-Baluch (1871 and 1895-1905), 4 Seistan (1872- 1896)(and Baluch-Afghan (1895) frontiers. The demarcation of these frontiers made the problem more acute and protracted it so that with the rise of Baluch nationalism in 193O, the Baluch were divided between Iran, Afghanistan and what was then British India. For obvious reasons, Pakistan and Iran had a common interest in suppressing the Baluch claim of self-determination and they have adopted a joint policy for this purpose. Afghanistan did not share the Iranian and Pakistan policies but stated its own claim for Baluchistan, as part of its demand for Pushtunistan. The Baluch-Afghan line as an international border is disputed by the Afghans, who regard the frontier with Pakistan as drawn by the British and agreed to by the Afghans only under duress. To understand the complexity of the issue involved in the division of Baluchistan, it is important to have some understanding of the historical circumstances involved. The strategic position of Baluchistan, Iran, and Afghanistan in terms of commanding the principal trade routes between South-West Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia became important for Britain and Russia in the context of the geopolitical expansion of the two empires in Asia during the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. In 1854, Britain entered into a treaty with the Khan, ruler of Baluchistan, in order to defend its territories against an external invasion from Central Asia and Iran. At the same time the Iranian rulers, who had lost their northern provinces to the Russians, pursued a policy of expansion towards Baluchistan in order to compensate for the lost areas. However, in 187O,the British Government agreed to demarcate the border with the Khanate of Baluchistan. In 1871, the British Government accepted the Iranian proposal and appointed Maj. General Goldsmid as Chief Commissioner of the joint Perso-Baluch Boundary Commission, Iran was represented by Mirza Ibrahim, and the Khanate of Baluchistan was represented by Sardar Faqir Muhammad Bizenjo, the Governor of Makran, The Baluch delegate submitted a claim for Western Baluchistan and Iranians claimed most of Makran including Kohuk. After several months of negotiations, Goldsmid divided Baluchistan into two parts without taking into consideration history, geography, culture or religion, and ignoring the statements of Baluch chiefs who regarded themselves as subjects of the Khan. Goldsmid’s decision was based on political considerations. He aimed to please Iran in order to keep Iran away from Russia. The Kohuk dispute; Kohuk is situated on the Perso-Baluch line. In 1871, General Goldsmid assigned Kohuk to the Khanate of Baluchistan on the following bases:

  1. That the chief of Kohuk stated that he considered himself a feudatory of the Khan.
  2. That the Persian Commissioner, Ibrahim, refused to investigate the merits of the question.

The Iranian government finally agreed to the decision in a letter dated September 4, 1871, but in a separate note to Allison (the British Minister at Tehran) “on the same day requested that, on consideration, a small portion of territory, including Kohuk, Isfunda and Kunabasta, would be made over to Persia.” The question was referred to the Government of British India and General Goldsmid was consulted. Goldsmid changed his view and favoured the transfer to Iran because “it would make a far more compact and better boundary for Persian than for Khelat territory.” At the same time, British India did not deem it necessary to justify declaring that territories which were not legally part of it should belong to Iran.

Consequently, the British Government decided to prepare an amended map and to exclude Kohuk and other villages from the Khan’s territory in order to give Iran the opportunity to occupy the area. An amended note and map were then sent to Tehran. In the amended note the districts of Kohuk, Isfunda,and Kunabasta were excluded from the Khanate of Baluchistan. When the decision to exclude this area from Baluchistan was conveyed to the Khan, he protested against the amended decision. The Khan was informed that the question was not definitely settled, as in April 1873, the Iranian government had refused to accept the note. It does not appear to have been necessary to take any further account of his objections. In the late 19th century, the Iranians practically settled the question of Kohuk by military occupation and continued their policy of expansion in pushing their claim and their raids further and further into the Khanate. In 1896 and 1905, an Anglo-Persian Joint Boundary Commission was appointed to divide Baluchistan between Iran and Britain. During the process of demarcation of the frontier, several areas of the Khanate of Baluchistan were surrendered by the British authorities, who were hoping to please the Iranian government in order to check the Russian influence in Iran. The frontier imposed by two alien powers on the Baluch people was demarcated without the consent of Kalat. The agreement of 1896 was a clear violation of the treaties of (the agreement) 1854 and 1876, declaring the Perso-Baluch line to be the frontier of Iran and India. It is interesting to note that the border demarcated by General Gold-smid was between the independent Khanate and Iran. The agreements of 1896 and 19O5 show a clear shift in British policy towards the Khanate; it was treated now as an Indian state. Under the treaty of 19O5, the Khanate lost the territory of Mir Jawa and in return the Iranian government agreed that this frontier should be regarded as definitely settled in accordance with the agreement of 1896 and that no further claim should be made in respect of it. In 1872, the British government appointed General Goldsmid to settle the dispute over Seistan between Iran and Afghanistan. The dispute, however, was ended with the partition of Seistan between Iran and Afghanistan without the consent of the Baluch people. Ethnically, culturally, and geographically, Seistan is part of Baluchistan. Seistan ruled by Sanjrani chiefs was the vassal of the Khanate until 1882. A secret diary prepared by the British representative at Kalat on April 20, 1872, to the British Government of India suggests that Sardar Ibrahim Khan Sanjrani of Chakansur (Seistan) acted as a vassal of the Khanate. Sir Robert Sandeman, in the letters to Lord Curzon dated November 22, 1891 and January 12, 1892, described the western limits of the Khanate as Hassanabad (Irani-Seistan) and the Halmand river near Rudbar. The final demarcation of Seistan took place in 19O4 by the British Commissioner, Sir McMahon, but the historical right of the Khanate and the principle of the right to self-determination were ignored. Sanjrani, chief of Chakansur, refused to acknowledge the Afghan rule under Amif Abdul Rahman. Nonetheless, the Kabul policy of British India encouraged Abdul Rahman to occupy the country. Nothing is known about the reaction of Mir Khudadad Khan, the ruler of Baluchistan. The Baluch-Afghan or McMahon Line: This covers an area from New Chaman to the Perso- Baluch border. The boundary was demarcated by the Indo-Afghan Boundary Commission headed by Capt. (later Sir) A. Henry McMahon in 1896. The boundary runs through the Baluch country, dividing one family from another and one tribe from another. As in the demarcation of the Perso-Baluch Frontier, the Khan was not consulted by the British, making the validity of the line doubtful, because:

  1. The Goldsmid Line (the southern part of the Perso-Baluch Frontier) was imposed on the Khan by the British Government in 1871.
  2. In 1896, when the rest of the Perso-Baluch Frontier was demarcated, the Khan ate, an independent state, was not consulted.
  3. The partition of Seistan was unjust because Seistan was autonomous and the majority of the population, which was Baluch, recognized the Khan as their suzerain. The Sanjrani chief of Chakansur (Seistan) refused to accept Afghan rule in 1882.
  4. The British reports clearly suggest that the Baluch people resented the rule of Iran and desired to accept, the status of a British protectorate against Iranian rule.
  5. The partition of Baluchistan took place without taking into consideration the 4 factors of geography, culture, history, and the will of the people.

However, the final outcome of the boundary settlements imposed on the Baluch was:                                                                                                                                                            

1.      Seistan and Western Makran, Sarhad, etc. became part of Iran.

2.      Outer Seistan and Registan came under the control of Afghanistan.

3.      Jacobabad, Derajat and Sibi were included in British India.

4.      The Khanate of Baluchistan was recognized as an independent state with status of a protectorate.

Nevertheless, Baluch tribes in the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century showed their hatred of the unnatural and unjust partition through their revolts against British and Persian rule. Gul Khan, a nationalist writer, wrote: “Due to the decisions of (boundary) Commissions more than half of the territory of Baluchistan came under the possession of Iran and less than half of it was given to Afghanistan.

The factor for the division of a lordless Baluchistan was to please and control Iran and Afghanistan governments against Russia” in favour of Britain. In 1932, the Baluch Conference of Jacobabad voiced itself against the Iranian occupation of Western Baluchistan. In 1933, Mir Abdul Aziz Kurd, a prominent national leader of Baluchistan, showed his opposition to the partition and division of Baluchistan by publishing the first map of Greater Baluchistan. In 1934, Magassi, the head of the Baluch national movement, suggested an armed struggle for the liberation and unification of Baluchistan. However, it was a difficult task because of its division into several parts, each part with a different constitutional and political status.

By Inayatullah Baloch 

1987 Heidelberg




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