Struggle for Free Balochistan – A Historical Perspective

In the far western part of Bharatiya subcontinent lies a land which has its cultural roots tracing thousands of years back in time. The land, which became part of one of the earliest civilizations and has been nurturing and evolving from the ages, has now became a symbol of struggle against foreign occupation.

Balochistan is a land of diverse geography and diverse history. People of Balochistan have suffered the most in recent years due to colonization and illegal occupation of their land. People of Balochistan, in spite of severe atrocities inflicted upon them, have been fighting for their dignity and sovereignty for well over a century now. And each passing year has only increased their determination and strength to fight for their rights.

In modern times, the story of Baloch struggle against foreign occupation starts from British invasion of Balochistan in 1839. The British after facing immense resistance from Balochs finally conquered their land on 13 November 1839. The British were confronted by Balochs led by Khan Mehrab Khan Baloch. The day is now remembered as ‘National Remembrance Day’ or ‘Martyrs Day’ by the Baloch community throughout the world. Hyrbyair Marri and Dr. Mostafa Baloch came up with idea of ‘National Remembrance Day’ and first such event was held in London. Baloch till date remember the day as the day they lost their freedom to foreign invaders and their fight for their land started.

British divided Balochistan into two parts without Baloch people’s consent by drawing two arbitrary lines namely, Goldsmiths Line and Durand Line. Balochs fought for their freedom just like all other parts of Bharat and they finally got independence as a separate free state on 11 August 1947, 3 days before the state of Pakistan. Kalat State National Party (1937 – 1948) played an indispensable and salient role in it. Kalat and King of Kalat, Mir Ahmedyar Khan (popularly known as Kalat Khan) were paramount in those times.

But their freedom did not last long and just when they thought they are finally free from foreign occupation after struggling for years, they were invaded by the newly formed state of Pakistan on 27th of March 1948. Pakistan Army invaded, killed many people, destroyed structures, abducted women and children and arrested elected representatives of Balochistan ‘House of Commons’ and ‘House of Lords’. Pakistani Army even arrested ruler of Balochs’, Kalat Khan of Kalat.

Source: reckontalk.com

In the same year, the first struggle against Pakistani occupation was started by non-other than ruler-in-exile Kalat Khan’s younger brother Abdul Karim Khan. Abdul Karim Khan took refuge in Afghanistan as staying in Balochistan was impossible, considering Pakistan forces’ occupation and actions against genuine voices. He revolted against Pakistani authorities and forces in Balochistan and waged unconditional attacks on them. Abdul Karim Khan fought bravely with his guerilla warriors against foreign occupation and hegemony. He inspired the next generation to stand up against Pakistan Army’s dictatorship and barbarity on them in their land.

The second major struggle against foreign occupation was of Nawab Nouroz Khan. Nawab Khan took up arms against Pakistan forces in 1958-59 and organized fellow Balochs to fight for their rights. He and his followers started guerilla warfare but they also failed due to lack of any strong political leadership backing them. They were arrested, charged with treason and imprisoned in Hyderabad. Not just him, but 5 of his family members i.e. sons and nephews were reportedly hanged. Nawab Khan later died in Pakistani captivity.

After the second conflict, third conflict gained momentum and became widespread when new constitution bought the ‘One Unit’ policy to politically organize the country. ‘One Unit’ policy threatened the culture of Balochistan and paved way for further exploitation of already backward province. Provincial autonomy and cultural identity of Balochs was direct under threat because of rapid and widespread military bases constructions in the region.

Sher Mohammad Bijrani Marri with fellow balochs took up arms against state’s systematic exploitation and takeover of their culture. They also followed path of their ancestors and resorted to guerilla warfare which lasted from 1963 to 1969. The conflict was omnipresent and ubiquitous spreading well over 72,000 sq km from Mengal tribal area to Marri Bugti tribal area. The baloch fighters bombed railway tracks and ambushed convoys. The struggle ended in 1969, causing an end to ‘One Unit’ policy in 1970 also.   

The third conflict pretty much continued till the 1970s. Pakistani Army launched major operations to counter insurgency and rising Balochs in the early years of 1970s. Bhutto had the government of Balochistan and NWFP dismissed and ‘put the province under governor’s rule’. Increasing autocracy and hegemony of Pakistan in land of Balochs forced them to take up arms against the occupiers. Baloch People’s Liberation Front under the leadership of Khair Baksh Marri took the lead and fought from the front with utmost strength.   

Jamaat-i-Islami, in the light of all the events, called on General Tikka Khan to take over the government. 80,000 of army men were sent to Balochistan over the period of four years to fight the Balochs. The struggle ended in defeat for Balochs but their uprising sent a strong message to authorities that they are willing to give their life to protect their land and culture.

According to an estimate, around 9,000 Balochs were killed in the Pakistani Army conducted genocide, out of which 6,000 were average civilians. With full support from the Shah of Iran, Pakistani Army deliberately killed thousands and caused havoc in the life of common Baloch.

The fifth conflict started from 2005 and is still continuing till date. Baloch fighters again took up arms against Pakistan for atrocities inflicted upon them. The systematic economic oppression and marginalization of Balochs by the Punjabi interest forced thousands of Baloch to raise their voice against authorities of rogue state of Pakistan.

‘Rocket attacks and bomb blast have been a regular feature in the provincial capital’, cites an article. What they lacked till 2005 was public uprising or political unity at the larger level.

The brutal rape of Dr. Shazia Khalid in the Sui gas facility in early 2005 by a captain of Defense Security Guard (DSG) ignited the anger of Balochs. This resulted in huge uprising of angry Balochs under the leadership of 80-year-old Bugti tribal chief Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. Baloch tribesman fired several hundred rockets on gas installations in January 2005.

The turning point came on March 17, 2005, when a clash between troops and Bugti tribesmen resulted in the death of 77 civilians, mostly Hindus. Since then, Bugti tribesmen engaged in a guerrilla war with the security forces.

Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Balach Marri rose up as the leaders of Baloch tribesmen against the evil authoritarian army of Pakistan. Both the leaders gathered their tribesmen to rise up against the oppressors and fight for their rights.The military government has imposed military rule and this has forced the Baluch to defend their land and resources against the might of the armed forces of Pakistan assembled in our area, told Nawab Bugti to New York Times.

Since December 2005, Pakistan Army is using all weaponry, including fighter jets and helicopters, to wage a full-fledged attack on tribesman of Balochistan. Several tribal groups or Baloch freedom fighters are still active, most prominent among them being Balochistan Liberation Front.

The killing of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in August 2006 by Pakistan forces further intensified the anger of Baloch people. Killing of their tallest leader was a symbolic statement from authorities to back down from fighting and to let go the struggle for freedom. But the authorities were not ready for what came after.

On 12th August 2009, Khan of Kalat Mir Suleiman Dawood declared himself the ruler of Balochistan and established a government-in-exile supported by a Council of Independent Balochistan.

The current struggle is very much stronger and more influential than previous ones. It is spread in almost all geographic stretch of Balochistan from mountain regions to inhabitant cities and include active participation of women and children also. This time the struggle reflects much more unity among various Baloch tribes and has attracted more international support through active and regular protest rallies in different parts of the world.

Balochs have been fighting for their freedom and rights for decades. Pakistan has exploited the beautiful land of Balochs for its economic, political and strategic benefits but now the trail seems to be ending. For how long can an authoritarian and hegemonic occupier state hold up to relentless local uprising and intense struggle for freedom?

Baloch struggle has failed all efforts of the occupying state to curb it and now the struggle seems to be near its victory. Independent Balochistan is inevitable and soon will become reality.


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About the Author

Yogendra Thakur
A student and two time state topper in Astrophysics and Art of Lecturing. Primary focus areas are Indology and Economics.