Balochistan

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."


A.W.Hughes 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."

Dames 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."



The 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
writers 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.


Most 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.

Physically 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
train 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."

Several 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."

Natural 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.

Baluchistan, 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.

In 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."

The 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


The 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.

In 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 pro-Soviet forces.

(Source:
The Problem of Greater Balochistan, written be Innayatullah Baloch)
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