On August 8, 2016, a horrific suicide attack took place in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s province Balochistan. More than 70 were killed and 100 injured. Even a hospital was not spared and there was gunfire too.
Increasingly, Baluchistan is coming under international focus and its tense relationship with the government of Pakistan. More and more protests are taking place as the Balochi have started protesting all over the world.
Pakistani terror groups, by targeting Pakistan’s largest province, will only make things worse. They will aggravate the violence that is already taking place thanks to Balochi rebels fighting for independence.
But what realistic chance do these rebels have of the independence of Balochistan in the first place? Quite high actually with the way things are going.
But first a bit of history…
In 1933, Choudhry Rahmat Ali presented the Pakistan Declaration at the Round Table conferences where “PAKSTAN” was used for the first time and referred to Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind and Balochistan.
Of course it was Mohammed Ali Jinnah who took that concept forward and became the mastermind behind the country we now call Pakistan. When it was realized that Bengal’s Muslims would also join the party; Jinnah actually imagined two secular countries (one Hindu and one Muslim) of equal size and power.
Since then the concept of Pakistan has been shrinking steadily both in power and size. A look at how the concept of Pakistan was cut down in size before, during and after 1947…
First shock: Jinnah proposed that every princely State be given three choices: Hindustan, Pakistan and independence. While he was sure that all his provinces would join Pakistan (including Kashmir), he figured that many other States would choose independence thereby severely clipping the powers of Hindustan.
When the British agreed, Jinnah was elated. However we refused point blank and no amount of sulking by Jinnah could change that.
Second shock: Jinnah was of the opinion that the very idea of India would cease to exist. It would split into Hindustan and Pakistan. Jinnah was shocked that we decided to go with the name “India”. He realized correctly that while Pakistan would be a new State, India would inherit the entire history and legacy of the old entity including parts of areas that are now Pakistan.
He campaigned with the British to prevent us from using the name India, but of no avail. That was his biggest source of disillusionment in his dying days.
First Shrink—Punjab and Bengal: Jinnah was not only delusional about the above. For some reason he was of the opinion that the British would give him the complete States of Punjab and Bengal.
When the Partition lines were drawn, all the Pakistanis thought they had received a really raw deal indeed. That is when disillusionment started sinking in among all those who thought that India and Pakistan would be equals.
Second Shrink—Jammu & Kashmir: While the above has been totally forgotten by most Pakistanis, this is one blow that the entire Pakistan is yet to recover from even in 2016. They had taken it for granted that J&K would join Pakistan. When it claimed independence, they just couldn’t believe it.
Interestingly India had no interest in J&K at that time. It had decided to stay aloof and the British had left. So in 1947 from August 15 to October 26, it was virtually independent. Had the Pakistanis kept quiet and honoured the wishes of the Kashmiris, three countries would have emerged from this region in 1947 instead of two.
However Pakistan attacked Kashmir and pushed the State in India’s lap. They may have got PoK, but we got the beautiful Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh.
Third Shrink—East Pakistan: West Pakistan unleashed genocide on East Pakistan and the refugee crisis forced India to intervene to create Bangladesh. Bangladesh is close to 1.5 lakh square kilometres and before it was formed Pakistan shared two borders with India. It’s been a huge loss for Pakistan.
Fourth Shrink—North Waziristan, PoK and tribal areas: The process of the shrinking of Pakistan continued even after 1971. The mountainous tribal areas are virtually autonomous and the tribal chiefs have more say than the Pakistan government.
The War in North Waziristan is also a biggie which very few Indians are aware of. Tens of thousands of terrorists have holed up in North-West Pakistan and are fighting with Pakistani troops which are 1.4 lakh in number!
30,000 terrorists and 7000 Pakistani forces have already been killed and the war shows no sign of ending. Even in PoK there is a movement for unification in India and recently the Army was called in to quell riots.
Fifth Shrink (future) —Balochistan: As you can see all the above points are important to understand the case of Balochistan. For one Pakistan has been consistently getting smaller.
Secondly there is no chance of J&K ever joining Pakistan and they have already tried every trick in the book.
To make matters worse, the balkanization of Pakistan has already begun. The Army and government have lost control of many regions. More than 50,000 civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks since 9/11.
Balochistan constitutes more than 40% of the area of Pakistan, so you can understand how huge it is. It is also considered the country’s least developed province by many.
Balochistan never accepted integration in Pakistan in 1947 and brute force was used in 1948. Since then the Balochi people call their land an occupied area. There were various insurgencies against Pakistan in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
They were all crushed by force, but after the destabilization of Pakistan in the 2000s as mentioned above, a more vigorous movement for independence began in 2004. Baloch rebels regularly clash with the Pakistani Army. In 2009, Baloch National Movement President Ghulam Mohammed Baloch and two other prominent leaders were assassinated, allegedly by Pakistani forces.
Now the Khanate of Kalat is a predecessor of Balochistan. As a direct consequence of the above assassinations, Mir Suleiman Dawood, the Khan of Kalat (a title of former rulers), declared himself ruler of Balochistan. He also launched a Council for Independent Balochistan. A Jirga (assembly of tribal chiefs) was called after a record 137 years and it favoured separate path.
This insurgency has proved to be stickier than the ones from the 1950s to the 1970s. Just because there is no major international coverage doesn’t mean the problem isn’t there. Did you know it has already claimed thousands of lives?
A Baloch rebel told Al Jazeera: There is no such thing as a Pakistani. There are Sindhis, Baloch, Pashtuns and Punjabis. He added that if the Baloch rebellion wouldn’t make much headway, then Islamabad would be directly targeted.
For the first time a Pakistani Prime Minister (Nawaz Sharif) was heckled while giving a speech in the United States by a Balochi nationalist. Immediately after that another waved pro-India banners in front of the White House!
Declared India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval publicly, “Pakistan has vulnerabilities many many higher times than that of India. You can do one more Mumbai and you may lose Balochistan.” (He was referring to 26/11)
In fact you know how bad things are when Pakistani channel Geo TV equated Kashmir with Baluchistan and promptly got penalized by being blocked in certain areas.
There is a conspiracy theory that America (aided by India) is planning to snatch away Balochistan to cut Pakistan down to size. Well, most of Pakistan’s fears do come true, as history has shown, so they should be careful with their self-fulfilling prophecies!
Jinnah dreamed of a big united Pakistan and neighbours consisting of Hindustan and many small countries. It is ironic that the reverse may now happen. A united India may be surrounded by many small independent republics that once used to be Pakistan.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here