Roots of resentment

Rizwan Zeb offers an account of chaotic conditions in 1947 and the relationship of Kalat to a nascent Pakistan

Roots of resentment
On 10 September 1933, Ahmed Yar Khan was appointed the new Khan of Kalat. The British authorities closely followed Ahmed’s upbringing and played a role in training him for his future duties. He once served as an intelligence officer in the Levy forces. His loyalty to the British was unquestionable, yet a number of British officers considered him unfit for the job. Sir Edward Wakefield, who was the Chief Minister of Kalat at the time of Ahmed Yar’s appointment, described him as fickle and vacillating. Wakefield opined that Ahmed Yar Khan could be easily dominated and swiftly changed his opinion. His loyalty to the British was the only constant factor. The Agent to the Governor-General claimed “… he is of a somewhat vacillating character and liable to be swayed by the last opinion or advice offered to him.”

Regardless of these views, Ahmed Yar Khan was educated and intelligent enough to soon realise the loopholes in the British legal position on Kalat. He understood that the British-Kalat treaties provided him enough space to maneuver and assert his position as the Khan of Kalat. In November 1934, Frederick Squire, Political Agent of Kalat, wrote: “The present Khan after waiting a year to find his feet discovers that he does not know where to put them.”

Mr. Jinnah's letter to the Khan of Kalat
Mr. Jinnah's letter to the Khan of Kalat

Historically, the Khan of Kalat provided the Baloch sardars with financial subsidies in return for their support when required. Since the second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-1880), the British continued this practice, which shifted the Baloch sardars’ loyalty from the Khan to the British authorities. In February 1935, Ahmed Yar Khan wrote a letter to the Agent to the Governor-General, requesting that the power of the political agent be transferred to him. What was particularly surprising for the British authorities in India was his claim that he has the full support of the sardars of Sarawan and Jhalawan. Riccardo Redaelli maintained that the British were willing to transfer certain powers to the Khan, provided he accepted the British Political Agent and the Wazir (Chief Minister) as his advisors in all decisions - but he would not be given the authority to pay financial subsidies to the Baloch sardars. Three years later, in 1938, Ahmed Yar Khan once again raised the issue of transfer of power and announced administrative reforms, creating cabinet and a council of state and making the Wazir answerable to the cabinet.

According to Axamann, by 1939, Ahmed Yar Khan - realising that the British would rebuke his attempts to assert his position as an authoritative Khan of Kalat, demonstrated an interest in the affairs of the Indian federation. The AGG in Quetta, according to Axamann, also stated that Ahmed Yar Khan wanted to be informed whether Kalat would be incorporated in the Indian federation so that he could start participating in Indian affairs. However, the British authorities were divided on the question as to what ought to be done with Kalat and whether Kalat as a state was administratively and politically ready to be incorporated into the Indian federation. The overwhelming view was that, administratively, Kalat could not meet the requirements to join the Indian federation.
Ahmed Yar Khan soon realised the loopholes in the British legal position on Kalat

Another problem was that under the Government of India Act 1935, all heads of states were required to sign instruments of accession to join the Indian federation. Foreign secretary Olaf Caroe is on record that the Khan of Kalat was not in a position to ensure that he was the sole authority in Kalat and that the rulers of Las Bela and Kharan would never accept the Khan’s sovereignty. Caroe maintained that at this point in time, moving forward with making Kalat a part of the Indian federation would result in an interstate and tribal war.

By 1940, it emerged that the British viewed Kalat as an Indian state. The British authorities claimed that Ahmed Yar Khan demonstrated willingness to participate in Indian affairs as ruler of an Indian state, yet Kalat could not be incorporated into the Indian federation at the time because it lacked proper administrative and political institutions.

Mr. Jinnah meets Nawab Bugti, 1948
Mr. Jinnah meets Nawab Bugti, 1948

In 1947, when Partition of the Indian subcontinent was about to take place, after the ensuing discussions, Kalat and Pakistan agreed to a standstill till a final settlement and issued a joint communique. It was a huge achievement for Ahmad Yar Khan as Pakistan accepted Kalat as an independent state in treaty relations with British India. This was a huge mistake of the Pakistani negotiating team, demonstrating their lack of understanding of the dynamics of Kalat-British relations. It was agreed that expert legal opinion would be sought about the leased areas and whether there would be any legal problem in Pakistan inheriting them. The agreement was full of contradictions: the first point was acknowledgment of what Ahmed Yar Khan aspired for, the fourth point acknowledged Pakistan as the constitutional and legal heir of the British in relations with Kalat. Ahmed Yar Khan himself alluded to this fact during a meeting with the Quaid-e-Azam, informing him that because of the standstill agreement, Kalat-Pakistan relation would be administered exactly as between the British and Kalat. More so, he suggested to him that he (Quaid-e-Azam) should order the Agent to Governor-General (AGG) in Balochistan to use his position and influence to convince the sardars in favor of accession.

The Khan of Kalat Mir Ahmed Yar Khan declared independence and promulgated a constitution. Ahmed Yar Khan claimed that Jinnah assured his support to the independence of Kalat. The Khan promulgated a bicameral legislature, comprising the Dur-ul-Umra and Dur-ul-Awam. The Dur-ul-Umra comprised the sardars. Dur-ul-Awam consisted of elected representative of the Baloch. The biggest puzzle was when and where the elections were held in which the people’s representative were elected. In the absence of an administrative apparatus, resources and electoral machinery, how were the elections were conducted? More so, were the elections conducted on adult franchise? Who exactly voted in these elections? Who were the candidates? How and for how long did the candidates campaign for the elections? The fact is that these elections were not conducted in the sense that we understand the term. Local jirgas acted as the local Electoral College. There were no proper candidates. The Khan of Kalat’s representatives went to the local jirgas and the jirga members picked people from their area, who they thought were most suitable for the job.

In the meanwhile, Ahmed Yar Khan had a meeting with Kalat’s prime minister and foreign minister to discuss possible options regarding the future of Kalat. In this meeting, five options were discussed: accede to Pakistan, accede to India, join Afghanistan, join Iran or apply to the UK for protectorate status. However, the meeting ended without any decision.

Ahmed Yar Khan summoned the inaugural session for both houses on 14 December 1947. During his address he highlighted his role and support to Pakistan’s freedom struggle. He said that recently on certain issues between Pakistan and Kalat, the Baloch were getting somewhat concerned and wanted the Khan to resolve the matter. He urged the members to remain peaceful and give Pakistan some time as it was going through a very difficult time and he did not want to create further problems for Pakistan.

During the debate on the issue of accession, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo argued: “Why should we be asked to join Pakistan, merely, because we are Muslims? For that matter, then Iran and Afghanistan, as they are Muslim countries, must also join Pakistan. Under no circumstances would we join Pakistan and sign the death warrant of 1.5 crore (ten and a half million) Baloch of Asia. We have unlimited resources and if we are forced, we will fight back to preserve our independence.”

A number of other members spoke on more or less same lines, resulting in a resolution against the accession of Kalat to Pakistan.

In his meeting with the Quaid-e-Azam at Sibi, Ahmed Yar Khan informed Jinnah that Kalat’s accession to Pakistan was not possible as the people’s representatives disapproved of it. However, instead of ending it at this point, Ahmed Yar Khan made a startling claim. He told Jinnah that “the sardars were totally against accession but I tried hard to convince them and shared with them the advantages of acceding to Pakistan.” He claimed that after his personal effort and reasoning in favor of acceding to Pakistan, the sardars agreed to a conditional accession to Pakistan. In Ahmed Yar Khan’s book, there is no mention of the names of the sardars who he convinced or how and when he discussed these issues with them.

Pakistan, in the meanwhile, revised the draft instrument of accession. According to Ahmed Yar Khan, the revised draft had references to the Government of India Act 1935 and the Independence Act 1947. At the same time, Jinnah handed the negotiations with the Khan of Kalat over to Colonel S.B. Shah, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ahmed Yar Khan continued to give conflicting signals and informed Pakistani authorities that he would sign the accession agreement in three months. In the meanwhile, the rulers of Kharan and Las Bela indicated to Pakistan that they would accede to Pakistan regardless of Kalat’s decision. Moreover, Makran - a district of Kalat - also wanted to join Pakistan. The government of Pakistan, already fed up with what it saw as the double-speak of Ahmed Yar Khan, held an emergency meeting and decided to accept Kharan and Las Bela’s offer of accession. At the same time, Pakistan also accepted Makran’s request for accession. Losing Kharan, Las Bela and Makran limited Ahmed Yar Khan’s ambition to rule an independent state of Kalat. Now Kalat became a landlocked state without any direct access to the outside world. Ahmed Yar Khan threatened to appeal to the United Nations and that if Kalat was forced into accession, this accession would not be a voluntary one. The government of Pakistan, on its part, accused the Khan of plotting against it and seeking British protection, all the while approaching India through an agent. In the midst of all of this, on March 27, 1948, All India Radio in Delhi broadcasted a report that in January 1948, Ahmed Yar Khan approached New Delhi to discuss Kalat’s accession to India. New Delhi rejected the request/ offer. Ahmed Yar Khan strongly denied this and asked for proof. At the same time, he signed the instrument of accession with Pakistan.

Makran was a part of Kalat and was administrated by the nawabs and sardars of Kech, Panjgur, Tump and an official appointed by the Khan of Kalat. When Nawab Bai Khan Gichki applied for accession to Pakistan, Prince Abdul Karim (the younger brother of the Khan of Kalat) was representing Kalat in Makran. He publically refused to accept Makran’s accession to Pakistan and continued to operate from his office. Tension rose between Prince Karim and Nawab Bai Khan. Soon the situation reached an impasse. All the communication lines to Makran were cut. Heavy rainfall added to this difficulty in communications. After Ahmed Yar Khan stopped rations and other supplies to the Makran Levy Corps, the only option left was to conduct an air drop or supply them through Jiwani. Under such circumstances, under the advice of AGG Sir Ambrose Dundas in a high level meeting, it was decided that to ensure that no unpleasant event takes place and to avoid any further disturbances, security forces be sent for securing the key installations and communication lines and roads. It was also decided that the Khan of Kalat would be informed of this decision beforehand. However, before any of this could materialise, Ahmed Yar Khan announced accession to Pakistan.

Prince Karim disapproved and started his armed resistance against Pakistan. Inayatullah Baloch later claimed that Prince Karim’s armed resistance was a national liberation movement. There is hardly any evidence to substantiate this claim. Prince Karim’s armed resistance was a reaction to his sacking from the position of the governor of Makran and what he thought was an unwarranted accession of Kalat to Pakistan. He crossed over to Afghanistan and tried to win the support of Afghanistan against Pakistan. The Afghan government refused to support him.

On May 24, 1948, Ahmed Yar Khan claimed that Prince Karim rebelled against the state of Pakistan against his wishes and issued an order in which he prohibited the Baloch tribesmen from supporting Prince Karim. A number of historians, including a few Baloch historians, dispute this claim.

In June 1948, Prince Karim wrote a letter to Ahmed Yar Khan in which he outlined his reasons for taking up arms against the state of Pakistan. He claimed that the ‘forced and illegal’ accession of Kalat, Kharan, Las Bela and Makran to Pakistan was his reason for taking up arms. If this letter (which is reproduced in Inayatullah Baloch’s book) is genuine, it is perhaps the first ever clear manifestation of a sentiment against the so-called Punjabi fascism: “From whatever angle we look at the present government of Pakistan, we will see nothing but Punjabi Fascism. The people have no say in it. … There is no place for any other community in this government, be it the Baluch, the Sindhis, the Afghans or the Bengalis, unless they make themselves equally powerful.”

It is quite difficult to ascertain the authenticity of this letter. More so, the letter was written on June 28, 1948. From August 1947 to June 1948 when Pakistan was mostly ruled by migrants that included Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, it remains open for debate as to how much Punjabi dominance existed in Pakistan. During Prince Karim’s armed resistance, a certain narrative was developed and used by the propaganda team of the resistance. This narrative persisted beyond Prince Karim’s armed resistance and exists even today. The narrative claimed: “Jinnah and his grand colleagues in whose hand the English have given the government, wish to enslave us, and to have our dear homeland (Balochistan), every inch of which was secured by our forefathers at the cost of blood, inhabited by foreigners. We are not prepared to be unworthy sons of our ancestors. We are to fight for every inch of our home land to maintain its freedom. … Jinnah and other colleagues […] intend to liquidate our Baluch culture, so that we may not be able to call ourselves as Baluch in future, shall not be able to speak our mother tongue and neglecting our modest customs, shall follow their shameful ways. We are determined that we will save our culture and will not give up our mother tongue while living and will defend our honor to the last.”

Prince Karim’s failure to win support from Afghanistan and the USSR, coupled with internal differences - especially on what strategy to follow and Ahmed Yar Khan’s indecisiveness - resulted in his return to Balochistan and his seeking a negotiated settlement with the government of Pakistan. Douglas Fell met him at Harboi to convey to him Ahmed Yar Khan’s message that if he surrendered, he would be pardoned. It is not clear what exactly this message implied. Does this meant that Ahmed Yar Khan would forgive him for taking up arms without his consent or the government of Pakistan assured the Khan of Kalat, Ahmed Yar Khan, that Prince Karim would not be put on trial? Whatever was the case, Prince Karim surrendered unconditionally. He was arrested and a jirga sentenced him to ten years of imprisonment. Baloch nationalists argue that Prince Karim surrendered after he was assured that no harm would come to him. Yet he along with his followers was arrested. This act, according to the Baloch nationalists, was the first act in a series of betrayals and broken promises.

Rizwan Zeb is associate editor of a peer-reviewed quarterly Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs, a research Fellow at the Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad and Associate Professor at Iqra University, Islamabad