The Baloch Conflict with Iran and Pakistan: Aspects of a National Liberation Struggle

The Baloch Conflict with Iran and Pakistan: Aspects of a National Liberation Struggle

by Naseer Dashti


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781948288088
Publisher: Black Lacquer Press & Marketing Inc.
Publication date: 11/17/2017
Pages: 330
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

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The political scenario of the world has changed drastically during 20th century because of two great wars. Empires began to crumble and new power equations were developed. The status of Great Britain, Germany, France and Japan changed as the United States and Russia emerged as new great powers. This resulted in an increased momentum for national liberation among the colonised people. Because of devastating wars, the internal socio-economic and political dynamics of the imperial and colonial powers like Spain, Portugal, France and Great Britain also changed. This changing scenario forced them to draw up strategies for decolonization. However, the process of decolonization was not smooth and it was fairly unjust in the majority of cases. During long periods of occupation, colonial powers had developed vital economic and strategic interests in occupied regions and in order to safe guard these interests following withdrawal, they divided nations, and created artificial states by drawing arbitrary boundary lines. These lines drawn by colonial administrators ignored important cultural, historical and national aspects as well as the will of the people. As a result diff erent national entities were forcefully amalgated in various post-colonial independent countries. In the majority of these artificially created countries, dominant nationalities-in the name of national integrity and state sovereignty-often oppress, exploit and treat unjustly those minority national entities who were made part of that state without their consent. The mess created by the self-interested policies of colonial administrators in pursuit of short-term objectives created a situation in which several regions of Asia and Africa became zones of never ending conflicts and turmoil. The unjustly created post-colonial so-called international borders are still the cause of prolonged conflicts which continue to provoke atrocities, human right violations, hatred and bloodshed between various national and religious entities. In many cases, these conflicts not only destabilize a region but also endanger international peace and tranquillity.

The protracted conflict of the Baloch with the Iranian and Pakistani states is only one example of the complexities created by colonial powers in the process of implementing strategies to safeguard their political, economic and strategic interests in the Middle East , Central and South Asia. The Baloch are among many nations in the contemporary world who are still facing the curse of colonialism. They have faced the repression and subjugation of the religious and fanatical states of Iran and Pakistan for a long time. With the incorporation or occupation of their land in Iran and Pakistan, lives of countless millions of Baloch are characterized by oppression and exploitation in numerous ways. The violent confrontation between the Baloch resistance and the security forces of the two religious states has been accompanied by gross human rights violations and massive dislocation of the Baloch population. This has resulted in tremendous human suffering. Many actions of these states come within the definition of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. By implication, the Baloch conflict with Iran and Pakistan is increasingly becoming one of the major threats to regional and international peace and security.

The Baloch are among the largest national entities (only second to Kurds) in the world without a state of their own. Originally, as part of great Aryan migrations 3000 years ago, the Baloch tribes after leaving their abode in Central Asia, settled in the North West Caspian region of Balashagan where they were known as Balaschik and their language which is a member of Indo-Iranic group of languages was known as Balaschuki. Circumstances forced this group of tribes during the last decades of Sassanid rule in Iran to migrate en masse and settle in Kerman and Sistan; here they became known as the Baloch and their language became known as Balochi. During early medieval period, the majority of them were again forced to migrate and they settled in the region what is now called Balochistan. Balochistan (the land of the Baloch), the huge tract of a semi-desert land is stretches West-East from the Great Salt Lake (Dasht-e-Kavir) in north eastern Iran to the south west of Punjab; and North-South from Khorasan to the Indian Ocean. From 1666, Balochistan, was ruled by a loose confederacy of Baloch tribes under the Khanate of Kalat. In 1839, it was occupied by the British and finally divided and incorporated into Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In this book, the part of Balochistan under the control of Iran has been referred to as Western Balochistan and the part controlled by Pakistan is referred to as Eastern Balochistan .

During the 18th and 19th centuries, certain events occurred in remote areas of the world, far away from Balochistan, which adversely affected the Baloch and their state-the Khanate of Kalat. They were caught up in the prolong conflict between the French, Russian and the British empires, all seeking imperial influence in Central Asia, the Middle East and India. A 'great game' of espionage and intrigues was initiated in Central Asia which resulted in the British invasions of Afghanistan in 19th century. As a consequence of the British wars with Afghans, Balochistan was occupied by the British in 1839. Later it was divided by granting half of Balochistan to Persians, and a small portion was incorporated into Afghanistan. The British withdrew from India in 1947 after partitioning it into Pakistan and India. The Khanate of Kalat declared its independence in the wake of the British withdrawal; however, the newly created religious state of Pakistan occupied the Baloch state on the first of April 1948.

The essential function of a national oppression is to maintain and perpetuate the domination of the occupying nation. This domination, as observed by Kendal (1980), is motivated by the economic, political or ideological interests of the occupier. The domination over the subjugated is exercised by means of two complex apparatus; an ideological machine whose task is to systematically destroy or negate the national identity of the subjugated nation and a powerful militant force, tasked to wipe out any resistance against the domination. Pakistan and Iran, historically pursued religious and mono-nationalist ideologies and implemented state policies of repressing the Baloch and other nationalities in their domains. The Baloch for a long time were the victim of dominating policies and strategies of states based on falsified ideologies and religious fundamentalism. They believe that since the occupation, they have been discriminated against as an ethnic entity, their language and cultural values have been suppressed, and they have been forced to live a life under economic exploitation. The cream of their society and a large part of the population have faced physical elimination as a consequence of acts of genocide by the occupying states. Both states have employed numerous socio-cultural, political and militant devices to eliminate everything that might suggest a separate Baloch national identity. In both countries, the Baloch have become the worst example of political, social and cultural exploitation.

The Iranian state uses a mixture of Persian nationalism and Shia fundamentalism as a tool in their endeavours to keep the Baloch and other national entities under the Iranian yoke. In official narratives, they consider the Baloch as a tribal people of larger Persian national identity and Balochi as a dialect of Farsi language. In Persian occupied Balochistan, the form of oppression practised is very brutal. The use of excessive military power has been the only response to the Baloch demands for national rights. As part of an assimilation policy, the Baloch are forced to adopt Persian language and Persian way of life. They are not only denied the right to read and write in Balochi language but also systematically being discouraged to speak in their mother tongue. The Baloch traditional or national dresses are ridiculed by officials and the most demeaning thing of all is that the Baloch have had to choose a name for their new born from an official list of Persian names. This has prevented them from taking traditional Balochi names for their sons and daughters. Thousand years old names of Baloch townships are being replaced with manufactured Persian names. The Baloch in Iran have increasingly found that their own land is becoming alien to them.

The officially constructed national identity of Pakistan is based on the false perception of Muslims being one nation. Pakistan is an ethnically heterogeneous country comprised of Pashtuns, Punjabis, Seraiki, Sindhi and Baloch national entities; it has however, been the alliance of the Punjabi military and religious elite with Urdu speaking immigrants (Muhajirs) from India which has controlled and dominated the political, economic, and military landscape of Pakistan since its creation. Created by the British Empire and sustained and patronized by the United States and its Western allies, the religious state's emphasis has been on an 'Islamic Nation Ideology'. This ideology was manufactured and supported by the colonial administration in India. This was a part of their efforts to stop the Russian thrust towards India by exploiting the religious sentiments of Central Asian Muslims against Russian occupation. It later became a political tool in their strategies to divide India. The Islamic Nation Ideology is being used by Pakistan to justify the domination and subjugation of other national entities politically, socially and economically. To counter the Baloch resistance against subjugation, Pakistan used force with a Jihadist fervour. Economic exploitation is another aspect of subjugation measures. Balochistan provides the Pakistani state with its much needed energy resources. The Baloch wealth and resources drained away (or waiting to be drained away), to the advantage of the occupying state. The Baloch are considered to be the poorest people while their land is amongst the richest in the world.

The Baloch in Iran and Pakistan have been involved in a protracted resistance against the occupation of their land. Although, it has received minimal international attention, nevertheless, the Baloch conflict with Iranian and Pakistani states is amongst the bloodiest and persistent of the many post-colonial conflicts in Asia and Africa. The Baloch as a national entity, have found themselves marginalized, suppressed, and oppressed since the consolidation of the Persian state and the creation of a fundamentalist religious state of Pakistan. They have reacted with political mobilization and armed resistance against the increased encroachments on their political, economic and social life. Their relations with Iran and Pakistan have been characterized by numerous uprisings against the occupation, subjugating measures, acts of repressions and gross human rights violations by the Iranian and Pakistani security establishment. Whilst, the Iranian and Pakistani states term the Baloch resistance as insurgency; for the Baloch, their national resistance against these states is to re-establish the Baloch sovereignty over Balochistan. Tortures of arrested activists, murders, extra-judicial killings of thousands of the Baloch political and social activists, the burning of the Baloch settlements and forceful dislocations of the population are the acts committed by the Iranian and Pakistani state authorities and the proxy organizations created by their secret services in the contemporary conflict.

The case of the Baloch in Afghanistan is quite different from that of Iran and Pakistan. In Afghanistan they are very much involved in the affairs of the state and there has been no voices against any form of discrimination, subjugation, or exploitation from the Baloch against the Afghan state. During 1978-79s, the Balochi along with Pashto, Dari, Uzbek, Turkmen and Nuristani languages, was granted the status of national languages in Afghanistan; a position the Baloch in Iran and Pakistan can only dream of.

A nation is a collection of individuals bound together by the territory, blood, culture and a common historical heritage. Nationalism is the deep commitment of a nation to its homeland and socio-cultural heritage while a national liberation struggle is the manifestation of this commitment. The Baloch are a specifically defined people with a language and culture, having their own historical traditions, and living in a well-defined geographical area. They have resisted the cultural assimilation which the dominant powers sought to impose upon them. In its essence, the Baloch national struggle is aiming to reunite Balochistan as an independent state; nevertheless, with the division of their territory mainly to Iran and Pakistan, which have differing historical, sociopolitical and cultural dimensions, their national struggle has faced different ways of engagement. Although, inspired by each other, the Baloch national struggle was waged by two different national resistances, corresponding to the two different contexts of Iran and Pakistan. The national resistance by the Baloch in Eastern Balochistan was led primarily by the politically conscious and left oriented tribal leaders while in Western Balochistan, it has been purely a tribal affair until the last decades of 20th century. During the 21st century, with drastic changes in the Baloch society, on both sides of the Goldsmid Line which divides Western and Eastern Balochistan, the character of the Baloch national struggle has also changed. The Baloch society is no more tribal; although, some of the tribal figures still enjoy widespread support from the Baloch masses because of their nationalistic credentials. With changing dynamics in the leadership, the participation of the resistance struggle has also been changed. Presently it is being dominated by a rising middle class leadership and activists.

The right of self-determination for colonized nations was declared as an inalienable right by the United Nation. In this context, the Baloch struggle for independence is a genuine exercise of the right sanctioned by international law. However, the international community has ignored the long standing Baloch national question in Pakistan and Iran, together with the narrow interests and short sighted policies of the major international powers which are stifling debates on the Baloch issue in international fora. Nevertheless, the protracted conflict between the Baloch and occupying states will inevitably cause of major destabilization in this strategically important region. This is a conflict in need of resolution sooner or later.

Writing the history of the Baloch national struggle presents a variety of challenges. The Baloch conflict with Iran and Pakistan is a complex one. Often, extreme versions of events were presented by opposing sides in the protracted conflict between the Baloch and the occupying powers. In many instances, reading between the lines has become an imperative in order to achieve a balanced opinion. This work employs a descriptive approach to explore and analyse various aspects of the Baloch struggle for national liberation. No significant effort was made to describe and analyse in detail the Baloch national resistance. Many works on the subject have been based on specific topics and failed to produce a comprehensive analysis and some have also failed to give a balanced picture of the issues. The book is an effort to present a thorough review of nearly all relevant aspects of the contemporary Baloch conflict with Iran and Pakistan in a context of historic relationship between the Baloch and both states. Although, this write up is an attempt to present the Baloch conflict with Iran and Pakistan from a Baloch perspective, every effort has been made to present known facts and figures, setting aside personal or national prejudice in describing and analysing events. It is hoped that the book would provide a useful background information on a long standing national question.


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Copyright © 2017 Naseer Dashti.
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Table of Contents

Foreword, v,
Acknowledgements, vii,
Dedication, ix,
The list of abbreviations, xi,
Chapter 1: Introduction, 1,
Chapter 2: The Baloch and Balochistan in context, 17,
Chapter 3: Perso-Baloch relations in context, 34,
Chapter 4: The Baloch resistance against Qajar dynasty, 48,
Chapter 5: The Baloch national struggle against Pahlavi regime, 59,
Chapter 6: The Baloch resistance after the fall of Pahlavi dynasty, 76,
Chapter 7: Baloch national resistance in 21st century Iran, 85,
Chapter 8: Pakistan in context, 106,
Chapter 9: Independence and fall of the Baloch State, 118,
Chapter 10: The resistance against Pakistan after the occupation, 131,
Chapter 11: The Baloch national struggle from 1958 to 1970, 140,
Chapter 12: The Baloch national resistance during 1970s, 148,
Chapter 13: 1980s and 1990s: The period of political and intellectual confusion, 169,
Chapter 14: 21st century Baloch national struggle in Pakistan, 191,
Chapter 15: Iranian and Pakistani state nationalism and Baloch national aspirations, 239,
Chapter 16: The Baloch national question and the right of self-determination, 255,
Chapter 17: International perspective on the Baloch question, 267,
Chapter 18: The Baloch national struggle: problems and prospects, 287,
References:, 317,
Index, 333,

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