From 1948 – when Kalat, Makran, Kharan and Las Bela became part of Pakistan – until 1951, different departments of the government of Pakistan continued to debate how to best deal with Balochistan. Despite the Quaid-e-Azam’s commitment of personal interest and Liaquat Ali Khan’s reform committee on Balochistan, the government failed to work out a policy towards Balochistan. In March 1952, the Balochistan States Union (BSU) was created. An agreement was signed by the rulers of Kalat, Kharan, Makran and Las Bela accepting the merger. On April 11, 1952, they also signed supplementary instruments of accession for the BSU acceding to Pakistan. Ahmed Yar Khan viewed the establishment of the Balochistan States Union and his appointment as BSU’s head as the restoration of his right to be the legitimate ruler of Balochistan. Unsurprisingly, the BSU experiment failed. In February 1954, during the Sibi darbar, a petition was submitted by a number of Baloch sardars to dissolve the BSU and merge its territories into the chief commissioner’s Balochistan. Using this pretext, BSU was dissolved and merged with Balochistan. At the time, the government of Pakistan was already working on its One Unit scheme. Due to this, a view emerged in some circles that the government might have been already working on it and would have done it with or without this petition. Ahmed Yar Khan’s dreams and hopes were shattered once again and he accused the government of betrayal. The BSU was officially terminated on October 14, 1955 and soon after became a part of the One Unit. According to the article 6 of the Balochistan State Union Merger Agreement, all previous agreements and accession agreements signed between the four states and the government of Pakistan became invalid and obsolete. It resulted in the permanent dissolution of the states. The rulers of the four states were provided hefty pensions, increases in annual allowances and a number of other entitlements. Baloch nationalists, however claim that all this was done without the approval of Ahmed Yar Khan and most of the Baloch sardars.
The manner of his arrest angered the Baloch, regardless of their views about Ahmed Yar Khan
The political instability, increasing gulf between East and West Pakistan and the political ambitions of the President of Pakistan, Iskander Mirza, resulted in a military coup in Pakistan. Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed, a leading expert on the matter, argued that by 1958 there was a widespread resentment and sense of alienation from the Centre among the minority ethnic groups. This resentment and alienation manifested in Ahmed Yar Khan’s alleged attempt to once again secede from Pakistan in 1958. It was alleged that he approached the Shah of Iran for Balochistan’s possible inclusion in Iran, sought Afghanistan’s support in a Baloch armed rebellion and raised the old State of Kalat flag. Shuja Nawaz, one of the most authoritative historians of the Pakistani military, also believed that Ahmed Yar Khan was planning to secede. However, Shuja Nawaz stated that General Ayub Khan believed that President Iskander Mirza instigated Ahmed Yar Khan’s plan to secede. Ahmed Yar Khan in his autobiography stated Iskander Mirza asked for Rs. 500, 000 to allow Kalat to secede from One Unit. A closer look at Ahmed Yar Khan’s political career thus far clearly indicated that he lacked the resolve and determination to directly confront his opponents, in this case the government of Pakistan. He was an expert of drawing room and armchair politics and court intrigues but was not a man of action. Whatever was the case, the Pakistani state took action against Ahmed Yar Khan. Although the alleged force preparing for armed resistance could not be found, Ahmed Yar Khan was arrested and taken to Lahore. The manner of his arrest angered the Baloch, regardless of their views about Ahmed Yar Khan.
It was their dishonouring – perceived or real – which was the main issue for the Baloch tribal leadership. Nauroz Khan of the Zarakzai, the legendary old lion who was a proud symbol of resistance against the British colonisers and twice escaped from British captivity in 1926 and 1927, took up arms. Nauroz Khan and his men took to the hills and started targeting government forces. They demanded the release of Ahmed Yar Khan, dissolution of the One Unit and a guarantee to maintain and respect Baloch honour and traditions.
This is a classical Baloch way of negotiating where all the demands are packaged together to take a strong bargaining or negotiating position. In 1960, the representatives of the Pakistani state forces and Narouz Khan met and discussed the disarming of the guerrillas and restoration of peace. His nephew Sardar Doda Khan Zehri Zarakzai, carrying a Quran, assured Nauroz Khan that the Pakistani authorities have accepted all their demands. On this, Nauroz Khan and his guerrillas returned from the hills. Pakistani security forces, denying that they made any such pledge, proceeded to arrest Nauroz Khan and his guerrillas. They were tried in a military court and were sentenced to death. Later, Nauroz Khan’s death punishment was converted into life imprisonment. Nauroz Khan’s son Batay Khan and five others were hanged in July 1960.
The introduction of Ayub Khan’s ‘Basic Democracy’ system coincided with the construction of cantonments in Balochistan. Although these two developments were not linked, Baloch nationalists viewed both of these developments as encroachment on their rights and power. An important effect of this system’s introduction in Balochistan was that it brought to the fore a new generation of the Baloch leadership. Sardars Khair Bakhsh Marri, Attaullah Mengal and Ahmed Nawaz Bugti were elected to office. Ayub Khan’s attempt to appoint his favourites as sardars backfired and a new wave of violence started with the murders of the government-appointed sardars. This time the violence was carried out by the Parari movement led by ‘General Sheroff’ Sher Muhammad Marri. Parari guerrillas were well-trained, organised and focused on military and governmental targets. Despite this organised violence, the main voice of the Baloch viewpoint remained the political leadership of Balochistan.
The NAP-Balochistan leadership could not rise above the tribal level of politics
General Yayha elevated Balochistan’s status to that of a province. In the 1970 election, out of the National Assembly’s four seats, Bizenjo, Marri and Abdul Hayee Baloch won one each. JUI won the Pashtun seat. In the provincial election, NAP-Balochistan won 8 seats out of the house of 20 and emerged as the majority party. Sardar Attaullah Mengal was sworn in as the chief minister and Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo as the Governor of Balochistan.
A number of decisions taken by the Mengal government created a serious rift between the provincial and federal governments. Prime amongst these were the repatriation of 5,500 civil servants including 2,880 from the Police, the creation of Balochistan Dehi Muhafiz (BDM) and refusal to allow the Coast Guards to patrol the Makran coast. Marri and Mengal tribesmen attacked the Punjabi abadkars (settlers) in the Pat Feeder area. In Quetta, armed Bugti tribesmen besieged the provincial secretariat and demanded that Ahmad Nawaz Bugti resigned from Mengal’s cabinet. On December 26, a tribal war started between the Jamotes and Mengals in which forty-two people were reported killed. The Balochistan government failed to restore law and order. Eventually, the federal government sent in troops to do the job. Bizenjo openly accused the federal interior minister, Qayyum Khan, as the man behind the whole affair.
Another issue adversely effecting centre-province relations was the so-called London Plan. In 1972, a number of Pakistani politicians, mostly from the National Awami Party (NAP), were in London. This coincided with the presence of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. This prompted the Pakistani media – primarily the government owned National Trust Newspapers – to report that these political forces were planning to overthrow the Bhutto government and dismember the state of Pakistan. On 10 February, security forces recovered a cache of Russian-made ammunition from the Iraqi embassy in Islamabad, allegedly destined for the Baloch insurgents. The Bhutto government, using this pretext, dismissed the Mengal government and a thirty-day presidential rule was imposed upon Balochistan. Soon after, Akbar Bugti was appointed as the governor of Balochistan. Bugti asked the center to send on deputation a few officers from the central pool to assist the Balochistan government and sacked a few local officials who he considered too close to the previous provincial government. However, he resigned on 31 October 1973 and was replaced by Ahmad Yar Khan.
Six weeks after the ouster of the Mengal government, Baloch insurgents were targeting government forces and convoys. The most significant attack took place on 18 May 1973 at Tandoori in which the Baloch insurgents targeted a team of Dir Scouts..
The Pararis played a significant role in the Baloch insurgency. The militant presence was particularly strong in Sarawan, Jhalawan and the Marri-Bugti area. They enjoyed support of the Marri sardars and were provided food, support, etc. The prominent commanders of the Baloch insurgents included Mir Hazar Khan, Lauang Khan, Ali Muhammad Mengal, Zafar Khan and Khair Jan Bizenjo, Suliman Khan Ahmadzai and Mir Alsam Khan Gichki.
By July 1974, casualty figures of the security forces were rising and the insurgents managed to control most of the roads and highways and almost cut the province off from the rest of the country, disrupting the rail links too. The insurgents also regularly targeted and almost halted oil and gas exploration and further drilling and surveying.
This changed with the battle at Chamalang. On September 3, 1974, the Pakistan Army aided by Pakistan Air Force attacked a 1,500-strong Baloch insurgent force, killing 125 and capturing 900. The Baloch insurgents never fully recovered and the momentum of the insurgency was lost. More than 5,000 Marri tribesmen surrendered and handed over their arms to the government in exchange for full pardons.
Why did the Baloch leadership fail to perform? A closer look at the dynamics of the Baloch political landscape of the 1970s indicates that the NAP Balochistan government suffered from a few weaknesses and these weaknesses played a paramount role in its downfall. Baloch society is primarily a tribal society and the NAP-Balochistan leadership could not rise above the tribal level. The Pat Feeder incident which made headlines during the NAP government as a conflict between the locals and non-locals was actually a result of longstanding tribal rivalry. What is ironic is that according to reports, it was a Baloch chief, Sardar Ghaus Bakhsh Raisani, who projected it as a conflict between the locals and the non-locals.
The differences between the Mengals and the Zehris and Zarakzais culminated into Doda Khan Zarakzai establishing a parallel government in the Jhalawan area. When Governor Bizenjo accused Nabi Bakhsh Zehri of providing arms and ammunition to Doda Khan and declared that the provincial government would soon take steps against him, Doda Khan responded with the promise of a bloodbath.
NAP-Bugti rivalry contributed to it. Akbar Bugti did not participate in the 1970 elections, yet he was an active member of the NAP Balochistan and not only funded NAP but campaigned for it. The differences spiked when Bugti was asked to leave the NAP’s provincial working committee meeting – as he was not a member – by a junior member and Sardar Mengal and Nawab Khair Bakhsh remained silent.
Bhutto also played an important role in the downfall of the NAP government in Balochistan. His opponents believed that the discovery of weapons from the Iraqi embassy for the Baloch insurgents was masterminded by Bhutto himself to dismiss the NAP-Balochistan government.
In the Pakistani assessment, two out of three possible Soviet invasion routes passed through Balochistan
General Zia adopted a cautious policy towards Balochistan. He released Ataullah Mengal, Khair Bakhash Marri and Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo and almost 6,000 Baloch held captive in Kohlu and Loralei prisons and dissolved the Hyderabad Tribunal. The decade of the 1980s witnessed the gradual decline of the Baloch nationalist movement due to Zia’s policy of accommodation and reconciliation, Pakistan Army presence due to the Soviet threat, internal differences in NAP, the faltering of the Balochistan Peoples’ Liberation Front (BPLF), the arrest of Baloch Students Organization (BSO) activists and the parting of ways of Bizenjo, Marri and Mengal. Khair Bakhsh Marri and Attaullah Mengal saw little logic in continuing political activities and left Pakistan. Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, now heading the Pakistan National Party (PNP), joined the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD). When General Zia appointed Junejo as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Bizenjo’s PNP joined the Junejo government.
During this period, Attaullah Mengal continued to alter his political position: up until 1978, he was ready to accept the Bizenjo formula of a loose federation. By 1980, he argued that the Baloch could only feel secure if the federation adopts parity among its federating units. In 1983, Mengal claimed a crucial turning point had been achieved and issued a ‘declaration of Balochistan’s independence’. What exactly he meant by the crucial turning point or ‘a point of no return’, he did not elaborate.
On 27 December 1979, Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan. Pakistani defence planners’ worst nightmare scenario and long-held fear had materialized: Pakistan was now sandwiched between India and USSR. Islamabad believed that the Soviets wanted to reach the Indian Ocean. According to the Pakistani assessment, two out of three possible routes of an invading Soviet Army passed through Balochistan: from the Khjoak and Bolan passes to Sukkur and Karachi or from Quetta to Karachi via the RCD highway.
Sardar Attaullah Mengal was willing to support and accept a hypothetical Soviet ingress into Pakistan. He postulated: “If the Russians came … They may send their technocrats and their soldiers, but they would not send a whole population to occupy Balochistan as the Punjabis are doing.”
Under Zia, due to Balochistan’s reinforced strategic significance, its economic and developmental share expanded. Gas arrived in Quetta, the airport was upgraded to handle more flights and a TV station was established. Apart from regular five-year plans, in 1980, a Special Development Plan for Balochistan was announced – alluding to the urgent need to uplift the living and social condition of the Baloch. The plan emphasised the construction of new infrastructure and the improvement of existing infrastructure and transportation routes. It did not hide the fact that some of it would be used to strengthen Pakistan’s defence along its Afghanistan border.
While all this economic activity was laudable, it is doubtful as to how much of it could trickle down to the Baloch masses. The Baloch needed the fulfillment of basic human needs, in particular clean drinking water, hospitals and schools, etc. In these sectors, much was left to be desired.
For Balochistan, the beginning of the decade of democracy was marked by a political crisis. On December 15, 1988, on the advice of the chief minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, the Governor of Balochistan Mohammad Musa dissolved the Balochistan assembly as no party or alliance was in a position to form a government. Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) and the Balochistan National Alliance (BNA) eventually reached an understanding and established a coalition government in Balochistan in which Akbar Bugti became the Chief Minister. When the PPP government initiated the developmental projects under the banner of People’s Programme worth Rs 2 billion, to meet basic human needs at the national and provincial levels, the Bugti government considered it an encroachment of provincial autonomy.
During 1990s, Akbar Bugti, Zafar Jamali and Bizenjo emerged as national level politicians and played an important role in national politics. Apart from Bizenjo’s PNP, a number of new political parties emerged in Balochistan. Prime amongst these are BNM and JWP. Dr. Abdul Hayee Baloch’s BNM had a number of inherent advantages: most of its cadre, including the leadership, came from the Balochistan Student Organisation (BSO) that automatically provided it a support based from the current BSO. More so, it secured the support of Akbar Bugti and Ataullah Mengal.
Akbar Bugti was amongst the most prominent Baloch sardars and politicians. He believed that there is a need for a new political party in Pakistan. On 16 August 1990, he announced the establishment of the Jamhuri Watan Party (JWP). Post 1990 elections, after IJI (Islamic Democratic Alliance) decided not to align with JWP in forming the government, JWP became a strong opposition party in the assembly. The biggest flaw with JWP was that Akbar Bugti was the leader, political ideologue and the party worker. The murder of Salal Bugti not only gave rise to tribal infighting between the Bugti sub-tribes, it also resulted in Akbar Bugti’s decision to sequester himself to Dera Bugti. This hindered JWP’s emergence as the third political force in Pakistan.
The dissolution of the USSR and the emergence of the energy-rich but landlocked Central Asian Republics (CARs) prompted Pakistan to reach out to these countries in order to revive and expand the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and project Pakistan via Gwadar as a gateway to Central Asia, initiating a number of projects: including the Gwadar Port and extensive road, railway and pipeline networks linking Gwadar with the rest of the country. However continued political uncertainty in Pakistan, Afghanistan’s unending civil war and competing regional interests continue to threaten the economic and political progress of the whole region.
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