Did Nehru reject Baloch ruler’s accession request?

The Baloch state of Kalat wanted to be free or linked to Afghanistan, Iran or India - but never to Pakistan.

 |  6-minute read |   28-03-2015
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To many readers, these words may seem as if they appeared in the Pakistan press this week: "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. It is the Army and arms that rule."

As fresh as it may seem, this statement was made nearly 67 years ago by the first hero of the Baloch uprising against Pakistan, Prince Abdul Karim, while he was in exile in Afghanistan. The Baloch had used these words in a letter to his elder brother - the "King" or Khan of Kalat Mir Ahmadyar Khan - and they were later cited in The Politics of Ethnicity in Pakistan, by Farhan Hanif Siddiqi.

Not many people know that after the British left India, Kalat was independent for nearly seven-and-half months until the Pakistani military occupation of March 27, 1948. There are reports that Kalat was trying to strike a deal with India to avoid Pakistani occupation, but failed. March 27 has great significance for Kalat, and by extension for Balochistan, and perhaps India too. The past Friday was marked by Baloch nationalists as a black day since it is said that it is on this day that Balochistan lost its short-lived independence to Pakistan.

The Baloch resentment against the military occupation is so deep-rooted across the "France-sized" Balochistan that pictures posted on social media on Friday showed many Baloch towns wearing a haunted look.

Historians have, to this day, wondered if India lost Kalat state to Pakistan because of the political myopia of the founding fathers of India? And they may be right in raising the question. Pawan Durani, a journalist and blogger from Srinagar, who now lives in Delhi, tweeted on October 26, 2012: "In 1947, the King of Kalat [ #Balochistan ] acceded 2 #India. Unfortunately Nehru rejected that. Rest is history. Baloch cont 2 suffer." 

London-based think-tank The Foreign Policy Center, FPC, concurs that the Baloch were let down not only by the British but also by the founding fathers of India. The story goes thus. The Baloch sovereign Khan of Kalat Mir Ahmadyar Khan, whose most tragic blunder was to have Muhammad Ali Jinnah as his lawyer in his legal dealings with the British Raj, was said to be very fond of listening to the All India Radio (AIR) broadcast in the evenings. On March 27, 1948, what he had heard left the Khan shell-shocked. The FPC cites an AIR broadcast from that day, which reported a press conference by VP Menon, the secretary in the Ministry of States: "Menon revealed that the Khan of Kalat was pressing India to accept Kalat's accession, but added that India would have nothing to do with it."

Hakim Baloch, a former chief secretary of Balochistan, author and historian, who has written several books on Balochistan, agrees that AIR did indeed broadcast Menon's statement - the very next day, Sardar Patel issued a contradiction that no such request from the Khan of Kalat was ever received by India. Again on March 30, 1948, Nehru went to great lengths to deny what Menon had said. The Khan of Kalat too denied the report, but by this time, the Pakistani guns were at his temple.

While Indian leaders were busy issuing contradictory statements, Pakistan acted swiftly. According to human rights defender Waseem Altaf in Viewpoint: "On orders emanating from Mr Jinnah, Balochistan was forcibly annexed to Pakistan on 28th March 1948 when on 27th March 1948, Lt Colonel Gulzar of the 7th Baluch Regiment under GOC Major General Mohammad Akbar Khan invaded the Khanate of Kalat. General Akbar escorted the Khan of Kalat to Karachi and forced him to sign on the instrument of accession while Pakistan Navy's destroyers reached Pasni and Jiwani."

As India's founding fathers closed their eyes on Kalat, Pakistan was already working overtime to occupy the Baloch territory. For example, on March 22, 1948 Pakistan prime minister Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan presided over a meeting of the three services chief to oversee the military invasion of Kalat and Mekran. "He was briefed by the army, air force and navy chiefs about the steps these armed services have taken in a number of Balochistan cities, such as Turbat, Pasni," says Quetta-based Baloch scholar Surat Khan Marri.

It is a fact that the then Khan of Kalat tried his best to retain the independent status of his state. "The Khan of Kalat had tried for an arrangement with both Iran and Afghanistan as well," said Hakim Baloch. "He had also wanted a deal with London on the lines that the UK had with Oman," he added.

The Khan of Kalat's sending his emissaries to India was a matter of great suspicion in the eyes of the nascent Pakistani defense establishment who were waging a war in Kashmir. Hindustan Times, in a report on the issue, said that the Khan of Kalat in March 1946 deputed Samad Khan - a member of the All India Congress Commitee (AICC) - to plead Kalat's case with the Congress leadership. Other top leaders, including Mir Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo, who later became the governor of Balochistan and went to Delhi in his capacity as president of the Kalat State National Party, met Congress president Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to seek India's support for an independent Balochistan.

Bizenjo confirmed to this scribe many decades later that Azad refused to support a free Balochistan. "Maulana Azad believed that Balochistan would not be a stable state," says Hakim Baloch. Azad ruled out any help to Balochistan as he believed an independent Balochistan, serving as a British base, would undermine the independence of the subcontinent.

In hindsight, the analysis of the issue by Congress leaders, including Azad, was proven to be flawed. Vikram Sood, former Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) chief, points out to the visits of Baloch leaders to India, including the Khan of Kalat. "They wanted to draw attention to the fact that their state was different and wanted to be treated on par with Nepal," Sood wrote in an article in February 2006, when Baloch statesman Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was still alive. The former RAW official regrets that the new rulers in New Delhi were too engrossed with Kashmir and Hyderabad to see the strategic significance of a sovereign Balochistan.

While the Pakistan Army occupied Kalat, according to another Indian scholar Deepak Basu, "India stood by silently. Lord Mountbatten, Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru or Maulana Azad, then the president of India's Congress Party, said nothing about the rape of Balochistan."

Imagine a lawyer one had hired to negotiate the deed of a new house becoming the owner of the house himself. This was exactly the case with the Kalat state and Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who broke all his promises. However, this was made possible due to the miscalculations of the Congress leadership and their lack of statesmanship, particularly, if viewed in the backdrop of their launch of jihad in Kashmir.

Kalat, historical accounts say, was once called Kalat-e-Sewa (Sewa's Fort), after Sewa, a legendary Hindu hero of the Brahui-speaking Baloch people. On August 15, when Jinnah recognised it as a free state, Kalat had a foreign minister named Douglas Yates Fell, while an uncle of this writer was the state's ambassador to Pakistan. The national flag of Kalat flew over the family home in Karachi's Garden district from August 15, 1947 to March 28, 1948.

Writer

Ahmar Mustikhan Ahmar Mustikhan @mustikhan

Ahmar Mustikhan is a senior Balochistan journalist based in Washington DC area.

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