Rafiullah Kakar


“Quaid we are embarrassed, those terrorists are alive,” young protesters in Lahore chanted at a protest demonstration against recent arson attack on Quaid-e-Azam Residency in Ziarat.  The slogan reflects the nationwide shock over the Ziarat incident, which was followed by two terrorist attacks in Quetta the same day. Confused about the dynamics of ethnic and sectarian violence in Balochistan, many are asking why, after all, a harmless national heritage site was targeted.

Quaid-e-Azam Residency has perhaps been the most popular tourist destination in the restive province. For many Baloch, however, the monument was a symbol of the arbitrary and unfair treatment to which they have been subjected since Pakistan‘s inception.  For the insurgents, it was perhaps a relatively convenient target to hurt the military establishment against whom their anger is primarily aimed. Most importantly, the attack signified Baloch criticism of Jinnah’s role in what they consider forced accession of Kalat state to Pakistan. Because of the conflicting historical accounts on the subject, this claim merits special scrutiny.

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah knew Balochistan better than any other national leader of India. Throughout the constitutional struggle in the 1920s and 1930s, Jinnah pleaded for reforms in Balochistan. He had friendly relations with the Khan of Kalat, who provided significant financial help for the freedom struggle. When in the 1940s the Khan of Kalat accelerated his efforts for an independent Baloch state, Jinnah, as his legal adviser, presented a memorandum to the British to explain the unique constitutional position of Kalat. It was based on the argument that unlike other Indian princely states, Kalat was never a part of India. It was an independent state whose relations with the British government were governed by the treaty of 1876 that recognized the sovereignty of Kalat, argued the Khan. Jinnah supported Khan’s stance and Jawaharlal Nehru opposed it. Having had the option of retaining independence as per the 3rd June plan, Kalat state opted for independence – a status that was recognized in a communiqué signed by Jinnah, Liaqat Ali Khan, Lord Mountbatten and the Khan of Kalat on 11th August, 1947 . Subsequently, Kalat’s bicameral legislature passed a resolution in favour of independence, with Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, the leader of the popular Kalat State National Party (KSNP) in the Darul Awam (House of Commons), emerging as the most ardent advocate of Baloch nationalism and Kalat’s independence.

But in the days that followed, the Quaid – who had earlier accepted Kalat as an independent non-Indian state – kept on advising the Khan to merge Kalat with Pakistan. According to Malik Saeed Dehwar in ‘Contemporary History of Balochistan’, Khan’s response was initially positive but later became “evasive” as he sought time for taking his people into confidence. While Pakistan wanted an unconditional accession of the Kalat state, the Khan and Baloch nationalists represented by the KSNP desired a treaty-based relationship with special cooperation in the areas of foreign affairs, defence, and communication. After having realised Khan’s reluctance to accede, the Pakistani state – exploiting the internal disunity of Baloch sardars and rulers – obtained the separate merger of the principalities of Kharan, Makran, and Lasbela, which until then were claimed as “vassal states” by Kalat. This move annoyed the Baloch nationalists and left the Khan with little choice. He regarded it as the “political castration” of Baloch people. This development coupled with what the Khan called the “mischievous and misleading but suggestive” announcement on All-India Radio on March 27, 1948 about his intentions to accede to India led the Khan to announce “unconditional” accession of Kalat to Pakistan. The Baloch nationalist viewed it as a “forced merger” and criticized the Khan for burying “all the glory and vanity of his line”. The Khan’s younger brother, Prince Abdul Karim Khan, launched what was to become the first of the many insurgencies against Pakistan, allegedly with the Khan’s tacit blessing.

Nevertheless, there are several instances that prove that the Quaid respected the sensitivities of the Baloch people. The leaders that followed him, Khan says in his autobiography, “lacked the requisite experience of handling sensitive matters like the ethnological, historical, and traditional background of Baloch people”. They tried to handle the situation arbitrarily and failed to fulfil the promises the Quaid had made to the people of Balochistan.

Baloch grievances could have been placated in the post-colonial Pakistan, had it not been for the centralized and interventionist policies of the successive governments in the centre. Having inherited a state comprising of multiple ethnic groups bound together loosely by the force of a common religion, Pakistan’s civil-military establishment – which was aware of the vulnerability of this setup – regarded ethnic or any form of identity assertion other than Islam as anathema (especially in case of Baloch insurgency, given its predominantly secular and leftist character) and declared it detrimental to national security and integrity. Using a top-down approach, the state enforced an exclusively-defined religious nationalism to counter various ethno-nationalist, secular and democratic challenges to its authoritarianism. This approach stifled the religious and ethnic minorities. It was especially true in case of Pashtun and Baloch nationalists who, on account of their secular approach, were never enchanted with the Muslim League’s slogan of “Deen in danger” and were, therefore, allied with the Congress.


The recent attack is a shocking reminder of the increasing disillusionment among the Baloch against Pakistan. ‘Patriotic’ Pakistanis must feel embarrassed not because Quaid’s residency was demolished but because all post-Jinnah Pakistani leaders failed to fulfil the lofty promises made by the Quaid to the people of Balochistan. The sad attack must evoke thoughtful revisiting of our policies rather than humiliation. We need to ponder over the question as to why Quaid’s residency was attacked in a province where he used to be accorded gracious welcome and was once even weighed in gold and silver.

The current nationalists-led Balochistan government faces a double-edged sword in the form of Baloch separatists and the religious and sectarian extremists. While the later are bent upon destroying Jinnah’s Pakistan, the former are relatively easier to negotiate with. While the fact that Pashtun and Baloch nationalists have formed government in Balochistan augurs well for the long-term stability and progress of the province, though Baloch separatists and the disappointed Balochistan National Party (Mengal) pose a serious challenge to the representative character of the government. Bringing the angry Baloch nationalist leadership in the mainstream is a test for the new government.


(The writer is an Oxford Rhodes Scholar for 2013. A graduate of G. C. University, he hails from Quetta, Balochistan)

2 Responses

  1. Sadam khan

    I didnt get starting part from ur second last paragraph.The disillusionment part,are u blaming the whole baloch community for this???

    جواب دیں

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