Back to the future (The Khanate of Kalat and the Genesis of Baloch Nationalism 1915-1955)
Writer: – Martin Axmann
Revew by: Asif Baloch
Nation and Nationalism
Nationalists usually themselves representatives of an existing centuries old nation that has national symbols, language, culture, mythology, and in some cases even a national religion. Baloch nationalist in the same sense consider themselves as a centuries old nation having a unique culture, values, national myths and compact geographical boundary. Numerous numbers of Books were written by British Colonizer on Baloch history, its tribal organizations to pave its way to fully colonize the land without any hurdle from the indigenous people residing there. Baloch nationalists with vague perspective have also written numerous books on Baloch history, Baloch land and Baloch political process but there isn’t a book which truly elaborates the Baloch nationalism and its emergence. This book by Martin Axmann is a worth reading piece which elaborates the Baloch nationalism according to the “modernist approach of nationalism”. Modernist Approach of nationalism argues that “nation is somewhat modern and constructed”. Axmann considers 1915-1955 as the tenure for rise of Baloch nationalism. He considers the regional political shift from colonized to decolonize as the main factor for the rise of Baloch nationalism. Due to these circumstances or most importantly political changes transformed “Baloch ethnic identity” into “Baloch national identity”. Axmann elaborately discussed the theories related to nationalism and following these theories he gave an observatory look on genesis of Baloch nationalism. He explained the historical framework of Balochistan and Khanate of Kalat and on factual grounds discussed the rise of Kalat state, its administrative weakness and British policies in Balochistan.
Nationalism in new era is considered as a competitive force in the shaping and reshaping of new world order. In this homogenizing world nationalism is considered as the only and legitimate ideology on which a group of people can survive and can maintain their identity secure. Nationalism and the nation till today have unable to get a standardized definition and so its reluctant to consider when did these political movements rose and what were the reason behind that and why they continue to do so. Some of the intellectual consider nationalism as an ideology and some of them consider this as a doctrine and similarly and yet many considers this a political movement. There are two certain main of thoughts or approaches in this sense “Premordialist and Perrenialist” approaches and “Modernist Approaches”. Primordialists consider that “nation exists not as social construct but as an organic identity and they consider world is naturally divided into nations”. Actually, nationalist claim that approach and the idea is divided mainly into two theoretical assumptions, biological and cultural. Those who argue in the favor of former consider “kinship” as focal point while later considers “cultural givens”. Similarly, parrenialist theory argues that nationalism might be recent but nations must have pre-modern roots and it yet divides into two different perspectives “Continuous Parrenialism” and “Recurrent Parrenialism”. Continuous Parenialism argues that particular and continuous history and while Recurrent Parrenialism argues that nations reappear in every period of the history. This approach is well elaborated by Smith and according to him “nationalism is ideological movement; it draws on the preexisting history and attempts to shape history into a sense of common identity”. According to him nations are cultural groups having shared memories, compact boundary, and shared beliefs and for the preservance of unique identity of a nation he considers nation-state to be must. According to him “When an ethnic group achieves sovereignty in a certain state, it will become a nation”
Modernist rejects both permoderalist and parrenialist approaches and consider nation as “Socially and politically” or national identities occur due to changing circumstances. They consider nationalism as contemporary political movement or ideology which offer security for endangered identity of a distinct group and occurred due economic forces or political intervention considering industrialization as its origin in 18th century. Most influential scholar in this field of study is Ernest Gellner and he defines nation as “a membership in a shared “high culture” and nationalism as a principle that holds the political and national unit should be congruent”. In contradiction to primoderalist and parrenialist he consider nation as not an existing entity but invent of nationalism. He considers “Nation-States” must for societies to develop and ask societies to organize them in such a framework to avoid destruction. A nation without a state is considered as body without a sole and he consider such nations as incomplete. Another scholar John Breuily consider nationalism as a political doctrine built upon three basic assertions: nation with explicit character, interest and values of nation must take priority and nation must be independent as possible. Similarly Benedict considers print-capitalism as an important condition for nationalism and modern means of communications as an important factor for its development. As I explained earlier Axmann also made an observatory look on Baloch nationalism with modernist approach and consider changing political circumstances in the region and throughout the world also stimulated Baloch nationalism. Baloch national identity emerged in these years as a consequent of historical events and political forces. After British exist and Pakistan as new colonizer used policies to disrupt traditionally organized tribal society and changing circumstances forced Baloch to construct a “national identity”.
Historical Framework: Balochistan and the Khanate of Kalat
Lying between the central and South Asia, Balochistan,s geographical importance has never been undermined by regional powers. Till the formation of Kalat state in seventeenth century Balochistan has always been passing point of Mesopotamians or Aryan conquerors in the form of DariusI(522-488 BC), Aexendar the Great 330BC and Changez Khan and his successors(1150- 1370 AD). Emergence of Kalat State in 1666 is considered as a turning for territorially divided and centrally dislocated Baloch people residing there. Though after a prolonged regional instability and facing oppression of several invaders Baloch were able to make a tribal confederacy in mid seventeenth century and eventually Ahmadzai tribe established a dynasty in Kalat and Mir Ahmad Khan (1966-95) became the first ruler of Kalat. After the establishment of confederacy Khan tried to expand Kalat territorial boundaries and fought with Kalhora,s of Sindh to get south-east portion of Kachhi. With the increase in territory and having a large army khan conquested with regional powers of those time Afghani,s and Sindhi rulers and meanwhile traders and shopkeepers dwelled in Kalat and it became an economic hub in short span of time. All tribes were bound to provide number of warriors to Khan but each tribal constituent of the Khanate continued to be internally and territorially autonomous. The selection of Khan was made after voting from Sardars and they were considered as power broker. Until alliance with Persian ruler Nadir Shah in 1740 Kalat was a considered as porous confederacy. Nasir Khan (1749-1795) in his reign added a military contingent, institutionalized and introduced internal hierarchy into sardari ranks. Khan made an alliance with Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Durrani (Abdali) in 1748 and conquered and incorporated Makran,Kharan and Lasbela, Dera Jat(Dera Ghazi) in his confederacy. Several economic and political achievements were made in the reign of Nasir Khan and praising his abilities Henery Pottinger wrote, “As a statesman, he reconciled to his authority in few months an immense kingdom, bestowed upon him by a cruel conqueror; and what proves his address was, that the most distant districts were always equally alert in obeying his orders with those at hand”. After the death of Nasir Khan in 1795 Khanate went into crisis such as inter and intra tribal wars and crisis remained till British occupation but yet Khanate of Kalat was a level of organization more inclusive than a tribe, yet something less than a state.
Until the first decade of nineteenth century British has paid less attention to Balochistan and when the fear of Czarist Russia started looming on British it become the need of British to make Buffer state to protect its interest in India. So, in 1870 British has dispatched Colonial Henry Pottinger to collect information regarding Kalat,s political strength, Central Asian trade and travelling routes, availability of resources. In order to counter Russia, British tried to extends its border to Afghanistan and there erupt an Anglo-Afghan war in (1839-1842) and due to this war Balochistan got attention of British ruler. To establish an afghan puppet government British needed war with Afghani’s and she has to use Baloch land for communication with the Afghans so British made an agreement with Mir Mehrab Khan. While passing through Bolan pass, British army has to face a lot of hurdle while engaging with Marri and Bugti tribes. British got furious of this and at their return from Afghanistan they started an expedition against Kalat. Khan refused to surrender and yield against and he got martyred on November 13, 1939. So, with these events Baloch land was again colonized by foreigner. At first they appointed a member of collateral line instead of Mehrab,s son but soon he submitted to Khan and he became the Khan of Kalat. Until the treaty of 1854, Kalat was considered as vassal of Afghan government and with this agreement Kalat was acknowledged as an independent state.
In subsequent years British applied both “Closed Border Policy” and “Forward Policy” to prevent any foreign invasion. At first they tried apply “Closed Border Policy” and tried to make friendly relations with Khan of Kalat in Balochistan, Rajeet Singh of Sikh Kingdom and Afghans. British applied the policy to support Khan and equipped him with a mercenary force to take measures against hostile tribes attacking British soldiers. British support extended Khans authority over sardar and they several revolts occurred between Khan and Sardars and Khanate became internally unstable. Khan after agreement of 1854 was more accoutable to British than to their own tribes.
Robert Sandeman Policies
After 1872, British adopted the forward policy and disputed Major Robert Sandeman to maintain peace and order in Balochistan. A treaty has been signed with Khanate of Kalat and established permanent military presence which reduced Khanate of Kalat completely dependent upon British administration. British were in dire need of pacified Baloch land to communicate with Afghanistan through Bolan Pass. Instead of providing support to Khan he directly contacted tribal sardars and were brought under British influence. He supported the tribal hierarchy and sardars until they were fulfilling the interests of British. Supreme goal of Sandeman was to pacify the land and safeguard freedom of movement and he achieved this goal quite skillfully by employing three different administrative measures: Using sardars by supporting them financially and decorating them with fine-sounding titles, introducing Jirga system and formation of police and administrative machinery in form of Levies(Baloch levy, yet exist in Dera Jaat). So, hereditary status of sardars has been introduced by Sandeman and British government was the sole entity to secure or diminish that privilege. So, British eradicated their dependence upon their tribes to sustain authority and hence quasi-feudal system started working. So, Sardar became the permanent and hereditary chief of tribe with British backing and role of Khan got diminished with time, sardars were in sense equal with Khan. So, Agent of Governor Generol retained all authorities of khan such as presiding tribal Jirga’s and perseveration of peace. So, Sandeman has Baloch sardars “feudal instead of chief”. Sandeman planned to make a centralized power shift from Kalat near to Bolan Pass and formed British Administrative Balochistan in 1877 and Robert Sandeman became its first Governor General. After Anglo-Afghan war, with “Treaty of Gandamak” districts of Chaman, Pishin, Sibi and Thal Chotiali were ceded to British by Afghan and were included in administrative Balochistan. British made Quetta as the trade and economic hub and created several railway lines from British India to Quetta. Traders from British India migrated and started business there, a cantonment was made and tribal sardars started residing there. So in a short span of time power shift was made from Kalat to Quetta with making Khan,s authorities as minimal as possible. Demographic change has also occurred and urban population of Kalat has declined to 4% and Quetta increasing 120%. So, with Sandeman policies British has colonized overall Baloch land and corrupted Baloch society as possible.