Most present-day problems have their answers in history and the same holds true for Balochistan. Balochistan, then the Princely State of Kalat, was governed by Britain like other parts of British India. And, when Britain wanted to partition India, the future of Balochistan also came up prominently in the politics governing the Indian sub-continent.
I interview Professor Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed who is in India. Professor Ahmed is a Swedish political scientist of Pakistani descent and has written several world-class research books on the partition of India like Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed; Jinnah: His Successes, Failures and Role in History and many others.
We discuss several pertinent questions about Balochistan, Jinnah and India from Prof. Ahmed’s book Jinnah: His Successes, Failures and Role in History.
Excerpts from the interview:
IN: Do you think the current situation in Pakistan gives impetus to Balochistan’s nationalist forces?
PIA: The nationalist forces have been up in arms for a long time and the current situation in Pakistan only aggravates the Baloch question, especially in the tribal belt which is politically threatening to Pakistan.
IN: Both Allama Iqbal and Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted Balochistan to be included in Pakistan. When they talk about Balochistan does that mean British Balochistan or Balochistan in general? And what were Jinnah’s intentions initially?
PIA: I think they have always thought of Balochistan which was under British tutelage although there were princely states among them, Kalat being the major one with whom the British had a treaty. The British had extended their influence all over Balochistan including the princely state of Kalat. There was a part of Balochistan which had been with the Iranians but they were thinking primarily of Balochistan under British protection. Jinnah intended to take over Balochistan completely which is today a part of Pakistan.
IN: Nawab of Kalat appointed Jinnah as his lawyer to fight Balochistan’s case against the Cabinet Mission and won and got their statehood back to the pre-1876 treaty when Balochistan was ruled independently. It is said that Jinnah and his sister Fatima Jinnah were paid in gold and silver as per their weight in legal fees. How much do you think is true?
PIA: I’ve never heard that. If that were the case, it should have been in some serious book on Jinnah. There’s a lot of gossip and rumours which go around and I at least have no such information that they were paid anything in terms of their weight in gold. That sounds too sensational.
IN: Initially, Lord Wavell’s breakdown of India’s plan included British Balochistan but later British officials included all of Balochistan including parts of Balochistan which were princely states even as Jinnah was fighting an independence case for Balochistan against the British. Do you think both – the British and Jinnah had a tacit understanding on Balochistan?
PIA: What I know is that the British and Jinnah were working together since the 7th of September 1939 after Jinnah went and talked to Lord Linlithgow and since then they were in contact with each other. I have quoted Jinnah saying: “Up until now it was Mr Gandhi but now they are turning to me”.
And on the 7th of September when Jinnah met Linlithgow, he said “Now you should realise the importance of the Muslim League and we will help you during the war, if you at the end of the war, grant us the right of self-determination”. Linlithgow said “I had a personal interest in promoting Jinnah because had the Muslim League and Congress joined hands, perhaps we could not have held onto India”.
From that time onwards it was not tacit anymore, clearly, they were working together. Jinnah’s whole idea was that all of India should be Balkanised and the princely states should be made independent but as soon as the partition plan was announced and partition took place, he changed his approach on this question completely. For Jinnah, as long as India was united, talking about the princely states and their independence was important just to put the Congress on the back foot. But once partition and the transfer of power happened, he wanted the princely states to be part of Pakistan which was the thought process of India. You need to understand Jinnah.
IN: What was the position of the founding fathers of India like Gandhi, Nehru and Patel on the question of Balochistan?
PIA: From what I’ve heard, there was a statement on All India Radio that the Khan of Kalat had acceded to India. But the next day it was withdrawn stating that it was a false signal. I think the British, from what I have heard and seen the evidence, decided that those states which are within the Pakistani periphery should be made part of Pakistan and how could Balochistan be part of India when it was not geographically contiguous to India.
Also, the Congress insisted on all those princely states which were within the grand territory of India to merge with India and they did not encourage the Kalat State. Indian focus was that all those states within the Indian territory should remain in India and merge into India.
IN: Do you think India could have lured Balochistan when Pakistan was flirting with Hyderabad and Kashmir? And Geographically also, do you think India tried to contain itself when the idea of East Pakistan developed in front of their eyes?
PIA: Indians were not so stupid to do that. Maybe they could have encouraged Balochistan to remain independent, but I don’t know if they did, because their position was that the independence of princely states should end and they should merge with India if they are within the Indian territory. And Hyderabad was within Indian territory, not Balochistan. Balochistan was not contiguous to India so what would they gain out of it?
IN: Do you think Jinnah’s overture to include Balochistan in Pakistan was more from a strategic point of view and hunger for land than mere service for Muslims?
PIA: What we know is that before the transfer of power on 12th August 1947 when Balochistan or Kalat State declared its independence, Pakistan recognized it. But as soon as the power was transferred, a lot of pressure began to be exerted on the Khan of Kalat to accede to Pakistan. And the smaller princely states under Kalat like Kharan and Las Bela had already opted for Pakistan. So the Khan of Kalat was all alone and then Jinnah and the Pakistani State exerted so much pressure that in March 1948 he acceded to Pakistan and Pakistan Army marched into the Kalat State, these are the facts.
Did Jinnah do it out of love of the Muslims or because he wanted to expand is a non-question for me. What I know is that until the transfer of power, he was saying princely states should be independent. But once power was transferred, just as India started pressing its princely states to merge with India so did Jinnah on Kalat.