The question of Kalat

History, as they say, is mostly written by the ‘victors’ in any conflict. In the last century, efforts have been made to write history from below: history of the oppressed or the ‘sub-altern’. This initiative has been replicated in many societies including Pakistan. As would be expected, this particular version of history is not encouraged or promoted by the establishment in any country. In recent years however, this approach has come under some scrutiny when facts are distorted in pursuit of a ‘higher objective’. Sacrificing facts at the altar of convenience has been the hallmark of nationalist historians, but it is at this point that subaltern historians have a common ground with the ‘oppressors’.
The history of accession of Kalat State to Pakistan is a difficult topic to broach. The official narrative doesn’t even mention the resistance towards the idea of accession in Kalat State and the opinion of the upper and lower house of Kalat Assembly (non-binding on the Khan of Kalat but still a point to ponder). The Baloch nationalist version paints a wholly different picture and mentions the stand-still agreement, betrayal of Khan’s trust by Mr. Jinnah and ‘military invasion’ in April 1948. It is difficult to find a common ground between these two narratives particularly when both sides consider their versions as gospel truth. There are however significant leaps of faith involved in constructing both these narratives.
A recent piece titled ‘How Balochistan became a part of Pakistan – a historical perspective’ appeared in this paper claiming to unravel the ‘true history of Balochistan’. The writer explained the geographical importance of the province and a brief history under the British. Next to appear in the piece was the communique between representatives of Kalat and Pakistan. It was followed by how Jinnah changed his position on the issue and ultimately Kalat was annexed by Pakistan. The piece ends by mentioning the dismal state of affairs in Balochistan in terms of human development and political atmosphere. My favourite sentence was the closing statement: ‘It is the responsibility of the intellectuals, the teachers and the professors to learn and reveal the real facts according to non-tempered historical documents.’
While I agree with the writer that accession of Kalat is not something that interests our textbooks or national media anymore, scholars and intellectuals from the ‘left’ have always written and talked about these issues, with a similar perspective as the author. In the world of the Internet, it takes a few mouse clicks to look at the ‘alternative’ history of Balochistan. Hundreds of websites, Facebook groups and twitter accounts run by Baloch nationalist groups are active on the cyber space. The need for an honest debate on this issue is necessary and should take place as soon as possible.
‘Context’ is an important concept when dealing with history. The ‘communique’ didn’t take place in a vacuum, nor did the ‘status of Balochistan as a British State’ issue (raised by the author). Dr. Yaqub Bangash in his book ‘A Princely Affair’ writes: “Kalat was the largest princely state to become part of Pakistan in the aftermath of the transfer of power. Having been part of the Mughal Empire only briefly and situated on the periphery of the British Indian Empire, Kalat had few direct links with governments in Delhi [or Calcutta], and so a sense of detachment from ‘Indian’ affairs had gradually developed in the state.” This ‘detachment’ raised the issue of Kalat being an ‘Indian State’ or not. When the Cripps Mission landed in India during 1942, the Khan wrote to them, forwarding the case of an Independent Khanate of Baluchistan. The Government of India reached a decision in June 1942 that Kalat was an Indian state and had never been treated any differently from states of comparative rank. The confusion originally arose due to happenings at the Royal Durbar of 1877, at the beginning of which Khan of Kalat was treated as a non-Indian State representative but during the proceedings, his status was raised to that of an Indian-State representative. As an Indian State, Kalat had to decide between joining India or Pakistan, according to the 3rd June plan.
A major issue regarding the Indian State status was the lease agreements signed by the Indian government with State of Kalat. The Government of India had leased Quetta in 1883, Nushki in 1899, and Nasirabad in 1903 from Kalat. Since paramountcy was to end with British departure, all treaties and agreements between the princes and the Government of India were to be terminated. To quote Dr. Bangash, “the Government of Pakistan had no qualms about recognising Kalat as independent since they were sure that neither Britain nor India would recognise Kalat as a separate country and hence a mere communiqué recognising Kalat’s independence would do little harm. Pakistan’s interest was to keep Quetta and the other leased areas away from Kalat’s hands so that it could consolidate its territory, especially in such a strategic location.” Despite playing midwife to the Kalat-Pakistan communiqué recognising Kalat’s independent status, Mountbatten did not sign the declaration himself. While the Kalat delegation did not make much of Mountbatten’s refusal to pen his name—and hence signal the recognition of the British government—it was this very fact that made the 11 August 1947 Kalat-Pakistan declaration useless.
While negotiations between Kalat state and Pakistan were taking place, the chiefs of Kharan and Las Bela tried their best to get their separate existence recognised by the Government of Pakistan. Mr. Jinnah attended the Sibi Durbar in February 1948 in hopes of reaching an agreement with the Khan, who never showed up. This snubbing led to deterioration of relations between the Khan and Jinnah. As a counter-move, Kharan, Las Bela and Makran were recognised as separate states and allowed to accede separately in March 1948. Nawabs of Kharan and Las Bela didn’t trust the Khan of Kalat and resisted his quest for dominance. Pakistan used this distrust to its advantage.
Immediately after this accession, the Government of Pakistan dispatched troops and levies to take over administration of ports and communications in the aforementioned states. By the end of March 1948, the Khan of Kalat decided to accede to Pakistan. One of his brothers Abdul Karim, married to an Afghan Princess tried to foment insurgency with a base in Afghanistan but his efforts failed to rouse the people of Kalat significantly. While Prince Abdul Karim’s rebellion was short-lived, it attained a mythical status in the Baloch Nationalist perspective as the First ‘War for Freedom’.

The writer is a freelance columnist.


The writer is a freelance columnist. Follow him on Twitter