Balochistan Crisis

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  • Topic: Pakistan, Balochistan, Ayub Khan
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Balochistan crisis

Situated in the southwest of the country, and spread over 347,190 sq km, the province of Balochistan comprises 43% of Pakistan’s territory. In the west it has common borders with Iran and in the northwest with Afghanistan. In the south, Balochistan has a long coastline on the Arabian Sea. Greater part of Balochistan is mountainous, although there are some plains and desert areas also. The terrain is generally barren and rugged. The land of Balochistan is rich in mineral resources. Apart from gas, it holds deposits of coal, copper, silver, gold, platinum, aluminum and uranium. It is also said to possess oil in substantial quantities.

Balochistan has an estimated population of 7,000,000, (according to the census of 1998 it was nearly 6,511,000) which comes to about 4½ % of the total population of the country. A little over half of this population is ethnically Baloch. The second largest ethnic group in Balochistan is that of the Pashtuns, which has concentration in the northern part of the province and along its border with Afghanistan. Nearly 70% of the total Balochi population lives in Balochistan and other provinces of Pakistan, whereas about 20% inhabits the southeastern Iran or what is Irani Balochistan. There is a considerable population of the Balochis in Afghanistan also.

The Balochis have preserved their ancient tribal structure. Each tribe or tuman has its chief and consists of several clans. Generally, the attachment to the tumandar i.e., the tribal chief is very strong and the Balochis blindly follow him.

The prominent Balochi tribes in Pakistan are Mengal, Marri, Bugti, Mohammad Hasni, Zehri, Bizenjo and Raisani. Differences between tribes and clans are not uncommon.

Describing the lifestyle of the Balochi people, Encyclopedia Britannica observes:

“The Balochis are traditionally nomads, but settled agricultural existence is becoming more common; every chief has a fixed residence. The villages are collection of mud or stone huts; on the hills, enclosures of rough stone walls are covered with matting to serve as temporary habitations. The Balochis raise camels, cattle, sheep and goats, and engage in carpet making and embroidery. Their agricultural methods are primitive.”

In 1952, the States of Balochistan __ Kalat, Mekran, Kharan and Las Bela __were permitted to form ‘The Balochistan States’ Union’.

In 1955, these States were made a part of the ‘One Unit’ or the single province of West Pakistan to facilitate the framing of a constitution on the basis of the principle of ‘parity’ between the two wings of the country. But by mid 1957 it became apparent that the political system established under the Constitution of 1956 was not likely to survive.

Anticipating the break-up of the ‘One Unit’, it is alleged, the Khan of Kalat organized a rebellion to secede from Pakistan. On 6 October 1958, under the order of President Iskandar Mirza, Pakistan Army took control of the Kalat Palace and arrested the Khan on the charges of sedition. Another version is that it was the result of a plot hatched by Iskandar Mirza who wanted one more justification for imposing martial law.

He had encouraged the Khan to demand restoration of his state, and the Khan fell into the trap. On 7 October, Iskandar Mirza imposed martial law on the country, and on 27 October 1958, the Chief Martial Law Administrator, General Mohammad Ayub Khan, removed Mirza as the president to assume full authority.

The arrest of the Khan led to disturbances in some parts of Balochistan that continued for about a year. It was during these disturbances that the sad episode related to Nauroz Khan, one of the Khan’s Sardars, occurred leaving lasting scars on the Balochi psyche. After fighting for several months, Nauroz Khan agreed to surrender to the government of Pakistan.

It is claimed that his surrender was secured through ‘etabar’ or oath on the Holy Quran. But instead of given amnesty by the government, he...
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