Balochistan Area and Location
Mir Nasir Khan II, Khan of Kalat (1840-75), was questioned about the borders of Baluchistan by the British and Afghan envoys at his court. Replied the Khan: "My ancestor and namesake Nasir Khan Nuri had already replied in geographical terms to a similar question long ago, and I repeat: all those regions where the Baluch are settled are a part and parcel of our state."
Geography has played a very significant role in preserving Baloch identity. Baluchistan which is at present divided politically between three different countries, is, physically, a compact unit. Its total area is approximately 340,000 sq. miles, which is larger than several European states.
Different views are expressed on the national and ethnic borders of Baluchistan. The Encyclopadia of Islam says: "The exact boundaries of Balochistan are undetermined. In general, it occupies the southeastern part of the Iranian Plateau from the Kirman desert of Bam and Bashagird to the western borders of Sind and the Punjab." The Encyclopadia Britanica defines the borders as stretching "from the Gomal River in the northeast to the Arabian Sea in the south and from the borders of Iran and Afghanistan in the west and northwest to the Sulaiman Mountains and Kirthar Hills in the east, including the region of southeastern Iran." Lord Curzon had defined Baluchistan as "the country between the Helmand and the Arabian Sea, and between Kirman and Sind."
asserts that "Baluchistan in the modern acceptance of the term, may be
said in a general sense to include all that tract of country which has
for its northern and northeastern boundry the large kingdom
of Afghanistan, its eastern frontier being limited by the British
province of Sind and its western by the Persian state, while
the Arabian Sea washes its southernbase for a distance of nearly six
hundred miles ....... however,this can only be regarded as a very
general description of the boundaries of Baluchistan."
remarks: "Apart from modern political boundaries, Balochistan includes
Persian Baluchistan, the Khanate of Kalat, and the British districts of
Dera Ghazi Khan (with the adjoining mountains), Jacobabad,
and part of Shikarpur as far as the Indus." Davies defines the ethnic
border between the Pashtuns (or Afghans) and the Baloch in
Pakistan as follows: "The boundry between Baluchistan and the Frontier
Province is political, not ethnic ..... What approximates more nearly to
an ethnic boundry between Pathan and Baluch runs from near
the town of Chaudhwan in the Dera Ismail Khan district, through Thal
Chotiali and Sibi to Chaman." Major
Raverty had referred to
"Sair-ul-Bilad" for the boundaries of Balochistan, saying that "it
extends from the town of Pahar-pur lying at the foot of the Salt Range,
nearly 10 Kuroh north of the derah (Dera) of Ismail Khan, and includes Derha-Jat, to the ocean."
author of Khulasatul-Tawarikh, Sujan Rai Batalwi, describes "River
Chanab as the eastern border between Baluchistan and Mughal India." Mir
Nasir Khan II, Khan of Kalat (1840-75), was questioned about
the borders of Baluchistan by the British and Afghan envoys at his
court. Replied the Khan: "My ancestor and namesake Nasir
Khan Nuri had already replied in geographical terms to a similar
question long ago, and I repeat: all those regions where the Baluch are
settled are a part and parcel of our state," Sir Thornton,
foreign secretary to the Government of India had described the territory
of Baluchistan under the control of the Khanate of Kalat:
"That territory may be described as the mountainous country west of the
Indus Valley, bounded on the north by Afghanistan, on the east by Sind
and the Punjab, on the west by Persia, and on the south by
the Arabian Sea ..... Its (Kalat) area is more than ten times that of
Switzerland ..... and its coastline extends for nearly 600 miles."
Robert Sandeman wrote on April 10, 1872, that the Khanate of
Baluchistan "before we interfered in her affairs, extended in the north
to Shaulkot, or, as called by us, Quetta; to the sea on the
coast of Mekran; from the frontier of Persia beyond Kharan and Panjgur
on the west; to Sind and the Punjab in the east." Iranian
describe Western Baluchistan as bounded by Central Kawir in the north,
by the Sea of Oman in the south and Pakistan in the east, and by the
Kirman province of Iran in the west. Mohammad Sardar Khan
has suggested the map of Baluchistan "be drawn from Sarakhs on the
Russian border to Gunabad, Meshad, thence straight to
Bampur, Ramish and finally to Bander Abbas, the territory to the east of
this line, touching the boundaries to the Baloch territories of
Afghanistan and Mekuran is mainly a Baluch country." Several
other maps published by the nationalists claim more or less the same
territory as described by Sardar Khan. It is interesting to note that most of the maps are based on the information collected by Lord Curzon during his travels in Iran.
of the nationalists forget that Eastern Khorasan is a multi-national
area, consisting of Baluch, Turkmen, and several other ethnic groups.
This also applies to their claim on Farah in Afghanistan.
After careful study we conclude that Balochistan constitutes the
following areas, on the basis of a common territory, history, culture,
and language: the Indus and Hub rivers and the mountain of Kirthar form
a natural border between Balochistan and the Indian subcontinent; in
the northeast, the Sulaiman mountains and the river Gomal
separate Balochistan from the Pashtuns of Pakistan; while western
Balochistan is separated by Dasht-e-Lut and Dasht-e-Kavir
from the bulk of Persian-speaking Iran; in the south, the Gulf of Oman
and the Persian Gulf divide the Arabs and the Baloch; in the northwest,
desert (Registan) and the mountains form the natural boundry between the Afghan and the Baloch.
Balochistan is part of the Central-Asian plateau. This fact is
recognized in the writings of political historians, scholars, and legal
experts. Edward Wakefield, a British political officer,
travelled in Balochistan and made the following observations about the
climate and geography of Balochistan: "From Karachi, we travelled
north by rail. Dawn was breaking as the two engines pulling our
laboured up the Bolan pass. From our carriage windows Lalage and I
looked out on a new world, a world that had nothing in
common with the India we had known before. Here were rugged, barren,
sunbrowned mountains, cleft by deep ravens and gorges.Forbidding
of aspect in the full light of day, the hills were now, in the first
light of dawn, clothed with a gentle effulgence that made them seem
welcoming and friendly. The air, too, was different from
that of India, but of the Central Asian plateau. Simply to breathe such
air in such surroundings was exhilarating."
In 1946, M.A. Jinnah,
the legal advisor of the Khan, submitted a memorandum to the Cabinet
Mission, demanding the separation of Balochistan from British India on geographical
terms: "Geographically Kalat does not fall within the territorial
limits of India. In the north it is separated from India by the massive
barrier of the southern buttresses of the Sulaiman
Mountains. In the south there is the long extension from Kalat of the
inconceivably wild highland country which faces the desert of Sind, the
foot of which forms the Indian frontier. Thid the land of the Baluch,
and the flat wall of its frontier limestone barrier is one of the most
remarkable features in the configuration of the whole line of Indian borderlands."
Pakistani scholars admit that Baluchistan, geographically, is part of
the Central Asian plateau rather than part of the Indo-Pak subcontinent.
Similarly, western Baluchistan is separated from
Persian-speaking Iran. Richard W. Cottam admits the weakness of Iranian
nationalism with regard to geography. Cottam writes that
"the climatic and geographical conditions have hindered the growth of
Iranian nationalism. The impregnable triangle served to isolate from the
plateau areas those sections of Iran that lie outside the
legs of the triangle. Khuzistan, the Caspian coastal area, Khorasan,
Sistan and Iranian Baluchistan -- all located outside the triangle -- could disregard the central government to a considerable degree."
barriers have helped several countries to preserve their independance.
Difficult mountains and climate helped the Afghans, for example, to
protect their independance from British invasion. Saudi Arabia and Mongolia were protected from invasions by their muntains and deserts.
also, was saved from permanent occupation by foreign invaders because
of its difficult mountain and desert terrain. The Persians, Arabs,
Turks, Afghans, and the British failed to incorporate it into their kingdoms and empires.
the 7th century, Caliph Osman was warned about the difficulties of
communications and the harsh climate in Balochistan. This fact can be
noticed, too, from the lament of an Arab Governor, Sinan bin
Salma: "Thou showest me that road to Makran (Balochistan) but what a
difference there is between an order and execution. I will never enter this country, as its name alone terrifies me."
same geographical features which helped to preserve Baluchistan from
foreign occupation and established its separate identity also prevented
the growth of a central government at Kalat to control the
areas over a long distance. Dodai chiefs and the Khan of Kalat tried to
develop the communications system in order to overcome these
natural barriers. It was a result of this lack of communications that
in 1839, when the British army invaded Kalat, the Khan failed to rally
the Baloch tribes in time.
strategic importance of Balochistan has had, and still has, a positive
and negative effect on Baluch nationalism. Because of its strategic
location in the Perso-Oman Gulf, with 700 miles long
seacoast, the area has been important to the trade of the West since the
rise of the imperialism. Its strategic importance provides an opportunity
to the Baluch nationalists to deal with big or superpowers in order to
liberate the country. During the "Great Game", the major reason for the
occupation of Baluchistan by British was to check the
advance of the Russians towards the Baluch coast in the Arabian Sea.
During the two World Wars, Britain did not share the occupation
of Western Baluchistan with the Russians because of the fear of Russian
access to warm waters. In 1928, Britain refuse to recognize the regime
of Mir Dost Mohammad Baranzai in Western Baluchistan. because he was alleged to be in contact with the Soviets.
1944, General Money, after studying the constitutional position of
Baluchistan, favoured its independence. In 1947, Britain opposed the
independence of Baluchistan and urged Pakistan to occupy
Baluchistan in order to crush the nationalists and anti-imperialist or
(Source: The Problem of Greater Balochistan, written be Innayatullah Baloch)