The problem of Baloch nationalism during the last decades, particularly after the military campaign in Afghanistan, has attracted considerable attention among the experts of the field. The Baloch people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, the bordering triangle being their current territory although lacking any political, economic, and cultural homogeneity, seem to be in a situation where regional powers, as well as international players, consider their role as crucial in the ongoing “game”. Under the current conditions of the unresolved conflict situation in the frontier areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, recent activities of the Sunni militant group Jundallah in the Iranian province of Balochistan shared their agendas with people living in Pakistan’s Balochistan.

Discussing the Baloch identity it should be noticed that it’s an ongoing process that has been in constant transition from tribal to ethnic and the aftermath into national status. Moreover, if we trace the history of Balochistan the role of the Kalat proto-state, which emerged in the mid-17th century as a precondition for later development of Baloch ethnic identity into a national one is vital. Through the course of the 19th century the Khanate faced considerable turbulence that shaped during the first Anglo-Afghan war, that the British paid attention to Kalat and its rulers for negotiating a safe passage to Afghanistan, and then the Khanate was involved in the British politics in the Indian subcontinent.

The Khan of Kalat was treated as “the sole authority” and that “was at the cost of the Sardars and the principle of the tribal federation”. By this, the influence of the local tribal chiefs was being reduced, and the role of the centralized state apparatus was increasing. The British interference into the internal affairs of Kalat culminated by deputing Robert Sandeman to Balochistan, who claimed to be the “architecture” of modernisation of Balochistan by institutionalizing the British presence in Kalat and its surroundings.

This policy produced a politically fragmented Balochistan with many centres of power, the Khan of Kalat being just one. Then there was wind of change when Balochistan and Kalat between got involved between the World Wars. This left the people of Balochistan in grave jeopardy and it evoked Baloch sentiments of nationalism.

The efforts of German propaganda via the missions of Oskar von Niedermayer (through Persia to Afghanistan) and Erich Zugmayer (to south-east Persia and Balochistan) to provoke an Islamic uprising against the Allied forces, particularly involving the vast Muslim population in Afghanistan and India, at least with regard to Balochistan, constituted a complete collapse. Although minor uprisings and disturbances occurred in Jhalawan district in Balochistan, the Khanate of Kalat overwhelmingly stayed calm and the “British rule in Balochistan, as well as India, successfully managed the challenges of the First World War”.

Thus, during and after the First World War, the Khanate was nominally ruled by the Khan, who’s authority declined at the hands of the British, but, in fact, the Sardars were the key to controlling the tribes, and thus to controlling the country and its people as a whole, and the Sardari system represented the keystone of the British indirect rule in Balochistan. The second decade of the 20th century was marked with the birth and growth of the first political organisations in Balochistan, and the early 1930s brought a royalist revival on the side of the Khan of Kalat.

The long-lasting political debates and confrontations over the status of British Balochistan and Kalat, both units eventually became part of the newly established state of Pakistan where the Baloch became a “marginal ethnolinguistic minority”. Thus, the emergence of Baloch national movement should be viewed as a phenomenon in intimate linkage with the creation of Pakistan, and its crystallization was accelerated by the situational switching from a people having a “national homeland” into a minority within the state of Pakistan. The striking feature of the crystallization of Baloch nationalist sentiments, as the author points, was the exclusion of Ahmad Yar Khan from the future struggle for national self-determination, which is being fought to date.


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